Bros filling the void — with 'My Little Pony'

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Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass discusses what a brony is and how it relates to being a fan of other fictional characters. (Posted on: August 8, 2013)

The last thing I want to do is enrage thousands of young men across America who like to dress up in purple pony costumes.

But I didn't know about the Bronies.

"Don't you know about Bronies?" asked a friend. "It seems like every time I talk to you, you give up a little piece of your soul. You really want to know about Bronies?"

OK, yeah, go on, tell me about Bronies.

That was a profoundly stupid thing to say. And the second I said it, I could feel the fear creeping up my neck. Then he told me about Bronies.

Later, when I regained consciousness, he told me again.

Bros. Ponies. Bronies.

Bronies are young men and not-so-young men who are devoted to the "My Little Pony" lifestyle associated with the tiny toy pony dolls once exclusive to little girls. I am not on drugs. This is really happening. Lord have mercy.

Bronies are inspired by the "My Little Pony" cartoon series that has legions of fans. The stories are simple. The cute little ponies with the big eyes and great pony hair trot out of their castle and have adventures and fight evil and care for their friends.

The ponies have names like "Twilight Sparkle," "Princess Celestia" and "Applejack."

Even the hipster Mecca AV Club, an online alternative entertainment site, gives the series glowing reviews.

"In its own way," wrote Todd VanDerWerf "it reminds me of a movie like 'Singing in the Rain,' in that both properties aim to overwhelm any cynicism directed at them via sheer and utter joyfulness."

So these are the competing vibes of today:

Reality tempered by despair, peculiar to those with mortgages and with kids to educate in a terrible economy ruled by political leaders who mock the people through the false sincerity of the teleprompter.

And the ostentatiously perky optimism of the Bronies, who gain strength through cartoons and simply refuse to take that turn to Negativity Town.

Bronies hold conventions. Many dress up in pony gear, which includes the long flowing manes, unicorn accoutrement and hooves.

"People who log on to this show have been looking for something to fill this void," self-described Brony Calder Putnam, 20, a math and computer science major at State University of New York, said in an interview Thursday.

"All TV now is just … goes from one dark, cynical anti-hero to another dark, cynical anti-hero. And all that's different is the outfit."

The ponies, however, offer "that simplicity that I think draws a lot of people," he added.

He's correct about the darkness in the comic book world. It's violent, and the heroes are troubled, obsessive, overwhelmed by inner demons. You may see this for yourself this weekend in Rosemont at the Wizard World convention.

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