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    Thomas Boyer knew he was caught when his wife Jamie looked at his Netflix history. 

    His obsession had started innocently enough. Boyer, a burly 30-year-old UPS warehouse worker and IT student, had simply seen some fan-made videos featuring My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic characters and decided to check out what all these dudes were going on about. He didn’t think he’d last five minutes into the show. He thought, “Too girly.” Thought, “I won’t be able to stand it.” But Boyer immediately watched the second half of a two-part episode. Then he watched “Birdle Gossip,” which had him laughing out loud. “It was at this point it dawned on me: I was a grown man watching a cartoon for young girls,” Boyer says. “I enjoyed their story, I empathized with their dilemmas and, ironically, I saw my wife having a number of character traits as the lead character, Twilight Sparkle.” 

    “Should I leave you and the ponies alone so you can get in touch with your inner little girl?” Jamie teased.

    One day at home in J-town, Boyer put on an episode featuring the unicorn Twilight Sparkle and asked Jamie to watch it with him. One of the ponies was kidnapped, and Twilight Sparkle and friends came to the rescue. 

    “Now here’s where things got interesting,” Boyer says. “Have you ever been to a sports bar or a friend’s house where people get excited and shout at the TV?”

    That’s what Jamie was doing: “Your friend is lost! Use your pony magic! You are a unicorn! You have a horn! Use it!” 

    Jamie now designs My Little Pony T-shirts and sells them on eBay. Her gift to her husband for their five-year wedding anniversary was a set of My Little Pony figurines, including Rarity, Photo Finish and Hoity Toity.

    Boyer is a “Brony” — “bro” plus “pony.” And Boyer is not alone. Last year researchers, including two from Salem State University in Massachusetts, published an 87-page report titled the “Herd Census” (title page: “My Little Pony Statistics Are Magic”) and determined that, at a minimum, several million Bronies live in the United States. Louisville Bronies have a Facebook group with 79 members, mostly young men. The page’s cover photo features the character Pinkie Pie, superimposed over a black silhouette of the Louisville skyline. Pinkie Pie’s fuchsia hooves tower over the Galt House. A sampling of Facebook posts:

    “Told my Momma that I’m a Brony and she surprised me with the Dash plushie I’ve been wanting. <3”

    “Anyone” — some say “anypony” instead — “wanna have a Pony rave just give me a place and ill set one up. You see I’m a dj and I’m really needing to rave out and blow some steam!!”

    “If anyone is interested...check out my Etsy shop. I make cross stitched ponies!”

    The original My Little Pony cartoon aired weekly on the Disney Channel in the early ’90s and featured a cast of anthropomorphized ponies leading blissful lives in Ponyland, where they roller skated, attended school and ate ice cream. The term Brony started gaining traction not long after the show’s reboot in 2010. Since then, there have been nearly 100 episodes, which air on Discovery Family. 

    Louisvillian Aaron Wolff, 19, became an avid fan of the show during his senior year of high school. He says traces of the Brony subculture flecked websites he visited. Curious, he watched a few episodes. He says the multidimensional characters surprised him. “I think you can watch whatever the hell you want to watch, and I love the show,” Wolff says. His voice cracks. “So why not?”

    Now Wolff never misses an episode. Not “Call of the Cutie.” Not “Hearts and Hooves Day.” And definitely not “For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils.” Wolff attends Brony meet-ups, like the one at Mazaj, the hookah bar on Bardstown Road where he works. “It was only a few of us, as in four of us, but it was groovy enough,” he says. “We just smoked hookah and listened to Daniel Ingram,” who’s the Canadian composer and songwriter responsible for the show’s soundtrack and such songs as “Hearts as Strong as Horses” and “Shine Like Rainbows.” “We also talked about fun fan theories and stuff. The fandom has quite a bit of fun with background characters,” Wolff says. “I did try my hand at writing fan fiction, but I am surprisingly bad at it. I wrote like 20 pages, looked it over, hated it and burned it.”

    Wolff’s been to the two big Brony conventions: BronyCon (the one in Baltimore attracted some 10,000 attendees) and Everfree Northwest in Washington. Fans trot around in costume — pastel, shimmery numbers with fur and manes. Some are professionally made onesies with fuzzy heads and eyeholes, like a mascot, while others are DIY. “Think bikini tops with rainbow leg warmers and unicorn horns,” Wolff says. The closest convention to Louisville is TrotCon in Knoxville, Tennessee.

    Wolff would like to see something similar in Louisville. For starters, he’d like to organize a Louisville My Little Pony band or rave. “I do think it’s rather tragic how many people seem to go out of their way to state that Bronies defy masculinity or redefine masculinity or escape masculinity or even that we’re ‘real men,’” he says. “We’re just bros and Janes who like the ‘pones,’ man.”

    This article is courtesy of the June issue of Louisville Magazine, to subscribe to Louisville Magazine, click here. 

    Illustration by Ian Klarer

    Ashlie Danielle Stevens's picture

    About Ashlie Danielle Stevens

    I am a freelance food, arts and culture writer. Among other publications, my work has appeared at The Atlantic’s CityLab, Eater, Slate, Salon, The Guardian, Hyperallergic and National Geographic’s food blog, The Plate.

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