About a year ago, the legendary image-board 4Chan, most often recognized for its child-porn problem and for spawning the hacker group Anonymous, gave rise to another strange subset: self-proclaimed "bronies" (as in bro plus pony), young male fans of the remake of the little girl's eighties cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Seriously! Or not. Stinking partly of young men's first attempts at playing with irony, the in-joke has been taken so far — with websites, coast-to-coast meet-ups and conferences, homemade merchandise, and much more — that the media couldn't help but pay attention, garnering the bronies coverage in Wired, the New York Observer, and today, in a straight-faced, mostly context-free article from The Wall Street Journal.
At the recent informal Berkeley gathering, Quinn Johnson, an 18-year-old freshman at the city's University of California campus, showed a Rubik's cube he had customized with homemade "My Little Pony" stickers. Michael Boveda, a 16-year-old high-school junior, proffered a plastic Pony carefully transported in a plastic food container. "I didn't want to ruin the hair," he explained.
Because the show is aimed at "the three- to six-year-old girl and her mom, who has fond memories of 'My Little Pony' from her childhood," and since it's about colorful horses with names like Twilight Sparkle, there are interesting questions at play about gender and sexuality (most bronies identify as straight; female fans are called "pegasisters"). On the other hand, it's just super-advanced trolling.
The guys, of course, seem to love the attention, rarely breaking character, but also the camaraderie, which makes the enthusiasm easier, and therefore they give a level of dedication to the community (however ridiculous it may seem) like only nerdy teenage dudes can. It's funny in the winking sense that they know it to be, but it's also sort of adorable to observers in another sense that the participants might not fully grasp. Remember being 18-years-old and thinking no one was quite on your level, that no one really got it? In a way, it's true.