Ponies are amazing and special creatures. They're strong and stocky beasts with hearts of gold. They have flowing manes, lush tails and thick dusty coats of the fluffiest fur.
I've always loved ponies, and like many children, I once dreamed of owning my own pet pony. The closest I could get to realizing this dream was visiting petting zoos and playing with My Little Pony toys. As you can imagine, I was teased mercilessly by many of my friends -- and even their parents -- who said that ponies were only for girls and that I was too old to play with toys like that.
"Whenever I'm down, I can turn to the show or community, and it always puts a smile on my face." -- Albert Wiltfong, Brony
In the years since then, pony-loving men are finally getting a chance to publicly enjoy these toys. A new animated TV show, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, which airs on The Hub, has reignited the passion of pony fans everywhere and created a population of males who call themselves "Bronies"; men who have proudly found joy in these innocent baby horses. The time, effort, and dedication these men have put into their love for this new TV show has surprised everyone -- even the creators of the series.
The Brony phenomenon has become so huge that there are now fan conventions -- like BronyCon, which attracted 4,000 Bronies to the Meadowlands Exposition Center in New Jersey this past summer -- a super-popular website Equestria Daily, and various other related organizations promoting and supporting My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. I was even invited to attend one of the biggest Brony gatherings, "Canterlot Gardens," taking place this month in Ohio.
All photos from Bronycon 2012, at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey.
But publicly declaring one's love for small horses has not come without a price. Not only do some people still not like ponies, but some of these people seem especially upset by the idea of other people liking ponies, especially when those other people are adult men. When I was in elementary school, I had a female friend who liked to play with action figures and toy soldiers. People gave her a really hard time. This seems no different. I think everyone should be able to like ponies. If it brings them joy, what's the harm?
In Ohio, I'll be giving a lecture on the happiness, fun, and party spirit of life, which goes hand in hoof with the themes of Friendship Is Magic, and one of the pony characters in particular, Pinkie Pie. This pony is the most party of all ponies, and I've learned a lot from her and the way she approaches life. Most of all, I'm very happy that society is slowly moving past gender and age restrictions when it comes to entertainment and fun. Boys should be able to play with dolls. Girls should be able to play with toy soldiers. And adults should be able to play in general. Far too often, grown-ups are encouraged to separate themselves from their urge to play and use their imagination. I think this is a crime against the human spirit and slowly rots the adult soul. It's crucial that we all stay close to joy, and if ponies give that joy to people, let them have it. Joy is part of what makes a human being a fully realized person.
It's amazing that a cartoon show about small horses can teach us how to be real men.