Children’s cartoons have long been considered niche programming but My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (FiM) is itself aimed at a very particular niche in children’s television, little girls aged between two and eight. Despite the creative team’s careful targeting FiM has developed a cult following among adults, in particular men in their twenties and thirties, who are called ‘brother ponies’, or ‘bronies’. The bronies say that the appeal of the show is down to the great storytelling, quality character designs, and the involvement of Lauren Faust, who worked on The Powerpuff Girls.
Due to their age, stronger written articulacy, and internet presence the bronies effectively represent a very vocal niche audience for FiM. Their desires do not align with either the show’s target audience of little girls, or those of the producer Hasbro. The bronies’ interest in FiM is clearly transgressive. It is considered odd by many for grown men to like a cartoon made for little girls and this is reflected in the numerous news stories about bronies, including this one. However much the bronies argue that the programme is a high quality product that can be enjoyed by a large audience, there are insinuations that their fandom is a perversion. This is particularly the case when non-fans encounter activities such as ‘shipping’ between ponies because it inserts sexual activity into what were perceived as innocent children’s narratives. Although few bronies engage in shipping, those that do, confirm an unspoken suspicion.
Despite this, the bronies are being actively courted by the writers of the show and the channel, The Hub who air FiM. For example this promotional trailer by the Hub, parodies Katy Perry’s California Gurls. It states that the ‘bronies hang out too, because we’re awesome fillies’. Although fun, this isn’t really aimed at the little girls who are supposed to be watching the show. Fan creations like Derpy, the clumsy cross-eyed pony who delivers mail, have been adopted by the show as canon and incorporated into episodes after becoming popular among the Internet forums. This suggests that these niche fans have more power over FiM than the show’s main audience. In addition the Bronies have demanded specific merchandising aimed at adults such as complete seasons on Blu-Ray DVDs and collector figures of popular ponies.