Part I: Who's a Pretty Pony by Alex Bailey
It was with no small amount of anxiety that I left my hotel room and walked towards the Baltimore convention centre. I wondered how long until I would be before I started seeing Bronies and would I be able to spot them? As I entered the blocks surrounding the centre I soon began to notice them though.
For those of you not in the know a Brony is a fan aged between 14 and 40 (usually male) of the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. A show designed for girls under the age of 12.
I quietly slipped past a group who were in full chorus singing a song called "Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing on Rainbows", past the registration line and sidled up to the media check-in desk.
See, my anxiety was not from the thought of interviewing people or being around large groups. It was that I was about to meet another fan of the show for the first time. In fact I was about to meet 8000 of them! Up until now I had only really seen Bronies online and in the media. This would be my first real interaction with people who liked the show.
"Mr. Bailey?" a girl asked. She was sporting a bright rainbow wig that fell across her face, as well as wings. Not a reassuring start. "Your badge! Have a swell day!" I mumbled my thanks and beat a hasty retreat away from a guy in a trench coat, vest, fedora and socks with sandals who was standing nearby staring intently at me.
I needed a steak.
My first event was the Brony Bar Trot. A My Little Pony themed bar crawl. So feeling a little out of my comfort zone, I retreated to something I knew well and was good at. The locals looked on with suspicion as around a hundred flag-waving Bronies occupied the bars near the Dog Trot Inn. I immediately wandered up to a bunch of people in My Little Pony t-shirts and announced who I was and started trying to get to know them. I was met with social awkwardness on a scale I had not yet experienced. I moved on to a different group. Then the next and the next. Eventually disheartened I sat down next to some people at one of the bars and started talking. Turns out they were there for the same reason I was and were equally overwhelmed at the sheer fervour shown by some of the attendees. My new friends were both Air Force Bronies and talked with me extensively about how many Bronies there are in the armed forces. Turns out there are a few!
The evening continued and before I knew it very normal people from all walks of life surrounded me. It seemed that none of us owned Brony t-shirts and as such did not attract the attention of the locals or the other Bronies. This allowed us to slip from bar to bar unnoticed and very soon we found ourselves at the closest strip club!
Well now… If everyone was going to be this much fun how could I go wrong?
The next morning I reported to the pressroom for a scheduled meeting. As I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and considered ritualistic suicide the high-pitched drone of one of the organisers managed to intrude on my own thoughts.
“So please be respectful when taking photos and remember that sometimes people will get a little shy… Fluttershy”
Laughter ensued. What was he on about? Oh that’s right. Ponies.
So turning to one of my fellow reporters I struck up conversation. He asked me which Brony network I worked for. When I responded that I didn’t work for any of the Brony networks I was immediately surrounded by most of the reporters in the room. Viewed a bit like a large stray wolf, with a mixture of distrust and wonder, they asked me who I was and where I was from. Then they asked me, in some attempt at self reassurance, if I was going to write a nice article.
I replied that I hadn’t decided yet. Every sphincter in the room tightened and the temperature dropped. I was now the outcast.
Once again I beat a hasty retreat, and headed over to the main hall for the opening ceremony.
As the attendees filed in I couldn't help but think that a lot of parents’ basements would be empty this weekend. I also wondered what was happening in the World of Warcraft? Probably not much, as all its players were here.
Despite my cynicism though, the level of effort put into costumes stunned me. Brightly coloured individuals in Cosplay were everywhere throughout the hall and the atmosphere was electric. Chanting began at any mention of the word ‘fun’ and there was the real feeling that something big was happening.
So after a particularly awkward opening ceremony in which the crowning glory of gawkiness was some terrible beat-matching from a ‘DJ’ and some particularly self aware dancing from a group of people with hula hoops, the opening ceremony drew to a close.