I've said this before, most recently at BronyCon 2014, that Brony fans deserve a big "Thank you" from parents,
our communities and society. Because they are helping to bring forward a much needed discussion about gender stereotypes,
about creating accepting and tolerant places on the internet and about how we decide if internet fan groups are deviant or
of the most important, and unexpected qualities that I found in my research of the Brony fandom is their embracing of the
idea of 'love and tolerance'. This emphasis potentially makes the fandom a safe place for individuals who find themselves
alone, misunderstood, and/or bullied.
This points to something that I believe we need in the world today. For various reasons youth have turned away from
the standard societal institutions (like church, the scouts and family elders) that in the past have serve the function of
providing moral guidance and social support. I believe that
we need to see a rise in new institutions, new groups that can pick up the moral and ethical banner. I believe that the Brony
fandom represents one of these new groups and can be seen as a model for internet groups to follow.
In studying the Brony fandom and coming to an understanding
of the uniqueness of the individual fans and the strength of the fandom as a group, I’ve also tried to understand its
development. Like any group it has evolved and is no longer
what it was at it’s start/inception.
I have talked with Bronies who were there at the beginning, who were part of the great 4chan
pony wars. Some have left the fandom lamenting the fact that
it has changed, that the statement about ‘love and tolerance’ is now embraced and is no longer seen as just an
ironic joke. But I would argue because of this and similar
changes the fandom has grown and expanded. Had it not evolved into something new, I believe it would have been little more
than a back water Internet oddity, something that ‘hip’ individuals would have embraced as a means of shocking
parents, family and friends. Instead it has grown into a movement
that has earned the attention of two movies, the national media, various researchers and the thanks and accolades of many
There's a term
that has been coined for internet groups who at their beginning have little structure, no leadership and no membership rules. They are called ‘Stand Alone Phenomenon’ and are often greeted with
puzzlement and bewilderment or outright hostility. It has been
hypothesized that the Brony fandom in it’s early stages represented just such a ‘stand alone’ group. But I believe, which my study results tend to support, that the Brony fandom
has changed from its 4chan beginnings to now represent a growing structured group that hosts thousands of fans at conventions.
One of the aspects of stand alone
groups is their lack of leadership. I was once asked in an
interview if I believed that the voice actors and writers of the show MLP:FiM were in fact the leaders of the Brony fandom. I answered that I believe they served somewhat of a leadership function. They are the closest that the fans can come to interacting with the cartoon ponies
at the center of the fan’s interests and the writers directly shape the focus and direction of the episodes. The writers speak to the fans through their humor and their story lines. There is however no leadership group that makes decisions for THE FANDOM. I do however believe there is one group of dedicated and involved fans that serves
an important general leadership function.
As a veteran, I experience firsthand how in a combat unit it’s the platoon sergeant who
has the most direct contact with and impact on the troops. They direct the squad to complete their mission and directly impact
on the survival of individuals members and the group as a whole. In
my view, the MEET UP GROUP ADMINS serve the leadership function of platoon sergeants for the fandom.
They have direct contact with the fans and serve an important
function as they shape and guide the Meet Up gatherings. If
the admins are conscientious, hardworking and think not of themselves but of the fans who visit and join their group, the
fandom is strengthened and provides acceptance and social support to it’s members.
The sense of safety and acceptance that a well run Meet Up group provides fans with represents
not just a place to retreat to but a place to find a source of strength with which to face the world.
I have some general ideas for the shape and structure of this
website, but it must in fact take on a life of it’s own. I hope that it is shaped and driven by the Group Admins’
feedback and direction . I hope that it will grow and become
a source of strength, support and guidance for the Meet Up Admins. I hope that they will help me to shape it into a valued
and meaningful source of support!