The Nature of Fandom: The Internet is Magic

Fandom and the internet have had rather tortured relationship. Fandom can get deep, dark and complicated. The internet can become deep and dark similarly but it is not a place know for its complexities and nuances or acceptance of that thereof. The multi-layered levels of fandom do not compute well with the rigid binaries of the internet. There is only absolute fanaticism and absolute hatred. While in the real world everything exists in a state of grey with its own rare extremes. I would like to show this with an example that is also an admittance.

I have seen the TV show “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” and I like the show. Not to the point were I seek it out, I won’t go out and get the DVD or any figures for example, but if its on TV I’ll watch it. How I got on to watching it was just shear intrigue. You see, the way my Freeview channels are organised ends up with me going over the cartoon channels between my two most watched channels. At the top of the channel page there CBSAction (basically CBSUK because “Conan” is on at night but the mainstays are “NCIS”, “Star Trek”, “Walker: Texas Ranger” and the like,) then its the kids channels (two for CBBC and two for the newly freeviewed POP.) The POP channels are owned by CSC Media (Sub of Sony Pictures) who also own True Entertainment (who shows M.A.S.H. and The Avengers when I’m having dinner) and a bunch of music channels like Scuzz of all things. Well, CSC used to be Chart Show Channels before being bought out. Then at the bottom of the list is BBC News. I’ve been watching a lot NCIS and the remastered original Star Trek recently but most of the time the TV is on BBC News (I’m boring like that). So when I was going from CBS to BBC News I saw MLP and thought, the internet has a fascination with this show so might as well see what it’s all about. Turns out it’s pretty good as kids cartoon shows go.

Channel List Fandom

Now, as soon as I said that I enjoy MLP, what did you think of me? Did you think of me as me or as this constructed image of an fantasised fan? This ends up being part of the issue. I’m not saying there aren’t fantasised fans. There will always be fantasised fans of things, like collectors and obsessives, but the vast majority of an audience are sane and reasonable people. Two separate conversations with two different people both had the same response;

“Your not a Brony are you? Those adult ones are weird and creepy.”

The phrase Brony was first used to just denote just adult fans. Then it came to mean adult male fans. Now it comes to mean the sort of adult fan that seeks out each version of the figures obsessively while looping the show. You know, the sort of fan that was once associated with comic books until Marvel made it ‘cool’ with good movies or with video games until esports and Call of Duty took over the market. The show is designed for girly kids so they would have to separate the intended kid audience and the accidental adult audience. The shows creator even said that they acknowledge that side of the audience but the show isn’t deigned for them, understandably, but if adults like the show then they must be on to a winner. Shows like “Spongebob Squarepants” ended up with an adult following, because it’s frigging hilarious with its ‘under the radar’ subtext jokes and drugs, and that show’s getting its 2nd big budget movie. A cartoon having an adult audience can be a money maker. So what makes MLP so different?

This just comes down to it being a show designed for girls. The effeminate ‘Spongebob’ is pretty non-gendered so when compared to the very feminine MLP it’s treated differently rather than just as another cartoon TV show. Even kid boys in the intend age range liking the show gets an odd look so when a man-child like myself comes forward and says ‘I watch it’ there is not just a look but shocked gasps and a sense of fear that I’ll soon join the fantasised. For an adult, especially a male, to say the show is ok just ends up having the sort of reply from people as if they just gave the clarion call of the rapist. And that’s wrong. And it’s not the fans fault. It’s everyone else’s problem.

Like I said before, there will always be the fantasised fans like collectors and obsessives but that don’t mean that everyone is like that. Fan sites like Equestria Daily show this. As fan sites go its pretty standard. Most fan stuff made about the show is regular fan stuff that you’d find for most popular things ranging from Harry Potter to Bleach to Markapliar. But most people concentrate on the more lurid things made. The criticism is certainly noted by the fan base and the show creators. I would think they both consider it ‘bad’ more because the show is for kids after all and having kids running through the wastes of the internet where anything is findable is not great. Even I’d say, please don’t do that.

There is nothing wrong I liking something. Even a show based on My Little Pony. Going back to the opening paragraph, the internet is not the best place to judge a fandom. Just seeing what makes the rounds on Tumbler or what media sites report on isn’t enough. Most of the stuff that does the rounds are usually extremes because normal stuff isn’t interesting. Sharing lurid stuff and going “OMG! WTF? TTFN” is a talking piece. Sharing yet another fan art of Twilight or Dash isn’t. Don’t judge a fandom by what you see online. It’s usually wrong or at least more nuanced than you think. This can also be applied to everything from Game Grumps to Half-Life. Fan art drawers, cosplayers, writers, musicians as well as people who just like a show on TV are normal decent people. The lunatics never run the asylum. If you think so, it’s usually your problem. If you do run into one of the lunatics, they are more the exception that the rule. Just don’t give them the air time otherwise you’ll just be making it worse for the regular fans who have to try and differentiate themselves from the extreme section of the fanbase and only adding to a binary fandom that would fuel your own predetermined prejudices.

To end this on a more positive note, I’d like to say what I like about the show. Maybe it will convince others to give it a watch or at least consider the fandoms nuances. The big draw is that it’s like the shows that I used to watch as a kid. People with female siblings on either end of the age spectrum would of seen shows much like it. I know because of an elder sister. “Cardcaptor Sakura” was a show that did the rounds during Saturday mornings. There both are sort of the same in a way. So, in a way, I nostalgically like the MLP show even though it was only made a few years rather then the 90’s. That’s on top of that there’s the decent writing, nice art style, good voice acting, well rounded characters that don’t lean heavily on catchphrases and an occasional well put together musical number. Exactly like “Phineas and Ferb”. Almost like they copied their show notes verbatim. It’s just designed from the ground up for a more specifically girly audience. You just have to gag the manly voice that’s doing weights in your head and just appreciate that there is a decent kids show for once. Even if you don’t like it yourself its good show for the littlens. That’s really all that matters, adult fandom or not.

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