Trotting Around America Part III - Bronycon 2013

Part III: Equestria or Bust

by Alex Bailey

 edited

Sojourning in the US, Alex Bailey files his final report on the My Little Pony fan-cult gathering, Bronycon. His eyes now opened to the warm and fuzzy world of Bronies, he takes a closer look at this cultural creation, including the experience of Bronypalosa - the biggest all-Brony music gig in the world.

The concert was lively and displayed a range of talent from excellent to terrible. Regardless though I danced along to everything from Heavy Metal to Electro and Dubstep. It was fun to see such a large group of people who varied so greatly in age, race and gender to all be enjoying each others’ company.

On my way out I noticed something. The Baltimore Hilton was hosting two events. First was of course Bronycon, the largest convention for male fans of the unexpected hit TV series My Little Pony, and the second was a major baseball game. There are many comparisons that could be made between the two: both have furry mascots, both have people in outrageous costumes and both have hardcore fans who know everything about the show or game. The comparison though is important because despite the My Little Pony fandom being a little overwhelming and strange to outsiders it is exactly the same as any sport, religion or organisation. It is a place for people to feel accepted and for them to share each others’ company over a common interest.

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And that’s where I would have left this article except for the experience I had walking back to my hotel that night. Late at night I exited the Baltimore convention centre with the electro sounds of Brony musician Alex.S. blaring behind me (his work is worth a listen even if you don’t like ponies) and I meandered towards my hotel. There had been a few warnings about the area of Baltimore (5th in the state for murder) and we had been told to avoid certain neighbourhoods. Thankfully I wasn’t anywhere near the West Side. As I walked though I came across an African American man slumped in the dirt. Concerned, but wary, I ventured over and asked if he was ok or just sleeping off a big night.

What I found was an unconscious man with a head wound.

Immediately I tried to put him into a position where he wasn’t in any danger of choking and reached for my phone. No battery. Thanks Iphone. So seeing a group of Bronies walking past I yelled for them to help. They ignored me. Two minutes later another group walked past and I implored them to help me as well. They continued on. It occurred to me then that I didn’t have a pony t-shirt on or my convention badge on display. All in all at least thirty convention goers walked past. One ironically in Rarity cosplay. The pony that represents charity.

Eventually a group of club goers stopped and helped me to call an ambulance. We all stayed with the man until he was taken to hospital while more Bronies trotted past in their own little world. Shout out has to go to the people who helped: Dan, Simon, Louise and Danniel. This experience left a bitter taste in my mouth and when I told my story to event organisers the next day I was met with rude hostility and essentially asked to keep quiet about the event.

So here’s me being quiet.

I don’t find it weird that Bronies watch a show for kids. I in fact like that it challenges the gender stereotype. I don’t find it weird that they dress up. Lots of people do that. I don’t even dislike that they turn everything into chants. What I dislike is that when put to the test people who claim to be charitable failed to be so. The Bystander Effect is where people in large groups are unwilling to single themselves out in situations like these to help people. And to some extend this psychological principle can excuse the actions of the people who walked past that night. But I still consider it hypocritical that a group of people who claim to be such upstanding members of society wouldn’t even stop to help someone in trouble.

The Brony fandom prides itself on Loyalty, Generosity, Laughter, Honesty, Kindness and the “Magic” of friendship. The main characters of the show are metaphors for these concepts. And in their own little world Bronies display these characteristics. They have raised a great amount of money for charity as well as provided a support network for many in need of friendship. But when truly put to the test, outside of their comfort zone, they prove to be as uncaring as everyone else.

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