Stranger in a Strange Land: A My Little Pony Virgin Goes to a Brony Convention

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Confession: I have not watched My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. To be fair, I’m pretty sure I watched the original series as a child, but I have no recollection of the show itself. I do, however, have vivid memories of my Brush ‘N Grow Pony doll. It was a pony with a tail that you could make “grow” by pulling on it, and then retract by twisting the pony’s head from side to side. Essentially, as a child, I was taught that you could make a horse’s tail longer by yanking on it, or shorter by snapping its neck repeatedly. The neck mechanism even made a horrific ratcheting noise that sounded eerily like bones shattering. I was pretty twisted as a kid, so this was naturally my favorite thing ever. I wore the thing out until the ratchet mechanism finally broke and I was left with a long-tailed pony with an odd bend in its neck.

I digress. The point is, if anything, I’ve been indifferent toward My Little Pony as an adult. Then I heard there was a convention in town called DerpyCon South. That name is magical. I needed DerpyCon South to be something awesome; something worthy of a name that brilliant. Lucky for me, DerpyCon South turned out the be a brony convention, and I immediately decided that trial by fire was clearly the most logical way to introduce myself to the fandom. I honestly did not know what to expect, but my hopes were high that it would at least be interesting.

Derpy Con Badge

Their press pass was freakin’ adorable!

The first thing I noticed was how brightly colored everything seemed to be. The prevailing colors throughout were pink and purple (not my favorites, I must admit). Things were sparkly and pastel. The dealer’s room looked a bit like something a 4 year old’s birthday party might throw up if it had a tummy ache. Since my personal fandom leans more toward Batman and Doctor Who, it took me a moment to take in all the pink and sparkle.

Now, I was under the impression that (despite the show being clearly marketed toward young girls) a “brony” was a “bro” who was into My Little Pony, so I was half expecting to find rooms full of grown men in tight pony t-shirts lifting weights and chest-bumping over a shared love of Pinky Pie. Instead, the crowd was delightfully diverse and rather friendly. Most of the attendees were teenagers and adults (with a few kids here and there), and there was a pretty good ratio of men and women. (It was explained to me later that “brony” has come to be a more unisex term describing anyone in the fandom.)

Cosplay Group

Group of cosplayers at the costume contest

The prevailing mindset seemed to be: “You be you.” I guess I should have expected the fandom of a show based on the power of friendship to be a pretty cordial bunch, but I really was shocked. I didn’t see or hear of a single instance of harassment or general douchey behavior from the crowd all weekend. Everypony behaved themselves. It’s certainly possible that this is because the con was pretty small, but I have to imagine that the majority of this fandom is made up of genuinely kind people. It came as no surprise, then, that the con held a charity auction to benefit STOMP Out Bullying. The auction raised over $2200 with one winner, Lance Trahan, ponying up $525 for a Maud Pie poster signed and personalized by the character’s voice actor (and con Guest of Honor) Ingrid Nilson.

Lance and Ingrid

One generous brony, Lance, poses with Ingrid Nilson.

The poster was accidentally overlooked during the official auction, so it was sold at an impromptu auction during Nilson’s second panel. Having worked with the body image charity Project True back in Canada, Nilson seemed excited to help raise funds for STOMP Out Bullying and was taken aback at how much her personalized autograph was able to raise. She told me that DerpyCon South was her first con appearance but certainly won’t be her last. I’d bet good money that if she can hold onto her laid back demeanor and warm connection with her fans, she’ll become a favorite at cons for years to come.

ingrid nilson

Ingrid Nilson showing off her mad yoga skills and fab leggings!

In addition to the charity auction, dealer’s room, and gaming room, there was a dance party, costume contest, brony-themed stand-up comedy, a game of “Whooves Line is it Anypony?” (i.e. Who’s Line is it Anyway?, but with ponies), and panels galore. The panels ranged from discussions about animation, art, and fan fiction to “Ponies Against Bullying” and “FOB Equestria” (a panel about bronies in the military, and one of the highlights of the con for me).

Derpy Con FOB

Military bronies shined at the FOB Equestria panel at DerpyCon South.

Unfortunately, one of the last panels I ventured into, Jade Ring’s “Fanfiction is Magic” panel, took a pretty ugly turn at the end. The author had several panels at the con and was apparently unhappy with the turn out. For the last 20 minutes of his fanfiction panel he lamented the lack of respect that he believes fanfiction receives, complained about there only being ten people at his panel, complained about how much coming to the con had cost him, talked a bit of smack against authors Anne Rice and George R.R. Martin (yes, by name) because they openly dislike fanfiction, and said that he would not be returning to DerpyCon South next year.

Now, I’m not going to begrudge him his feelings about a subject that he is clearly passionate about, and were he to have said any of these things under different circumstances, I wouldn’t have cared. He said them, however, on stage, holding a microphone, in front of an audience, at a convention he was invited to as a guest. It was one of the most unprofessional things I’ve seen at a panel in a long time and the only down point at an otherwise flawless convention. Thankfully, Ring’s audience remained good natured and polite during his rant, further proving that bronies are, by and large, a delightful group of fans more interested in celebrating their shared love of My Little Pony than the usual con drama.

I’m not sure what it was that I expected from DerpyCon South, but I certainly didn’t expect to find a group of well-rounded, accepting, kind, and diverse bunch of people. I had more fun at a con for a fandom about a children’s show featuring brightly colored, magical, cartoon ponies than I ever imagined. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a brony convert, I’ve now added My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic to my watch list on Netflix and will totally be at DerpyCon South next year.

But as for this year: Here’s some of the cosplay I saw, plus goodies from the show floor. Can’t wait for DerpyCon South 2015!

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Eris Walsh (@SheGeeksBlog) is obsessed with Batman, Neil Gaiman, chemistry, Doctor Who, and baseball.She also enjoys scouring conventions for fantastic examples of cosplay craftsmanship and discussing role-playing games (both table top and LARP), comics, movies, etc. with other enthusiasts. Eris can also be found on her blog She-Geeks, where she writes about geek stuff; local New Orleans radio show Week in Geek, where she talks about science stuff; and on the Krewe du Who community webpage, where she posts weekly reviews of current Doctor Who episodes.

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