How did a colorful cartoon for children become linked to white supremacy?
The “My Little Pony” franchise, which began in 1981 with an animated series that aimed to teach youngsters the joys of kindness and love, has since inspired books, toys, movies, board games and, more recently, a cadre of adult-male fans who call themselves “Bronies” and cosplay as colorful anthropomorphic horses.
The irreverent subculture arose about a decade ago, with the now-notoriously problematic 4Chan platform as the site of Bronies’ inception. By 2012, the conclave created a channel all their own, a website called Derpibooru. The term is an amalgamation of the “My Little Pony” character “Derpy Hooves” and “booru,” which is jargon for an online imageboard, according to a recent report in the Atlantic. The creators had intended it to be a place to share fan art — which commonly depicts sexual, violent and overtly racist themes — without fear of being judged or silenced for their edgy obsession.
But Derpibooru is far from a “safe space” where Bronies promote the tenets Equestria, the fictional country where magical, sapient ponies roam. And where a hands-off approach to moderation and censorship prevails, so, too, do the Nazis.
“This is a fan community that has prided itself on a permissiveness and pushing boundaries and cloaking themselves in irony and the idea that they can make the mainstream uncomfortable,” Anne Gilbert, an instructor of media studies at University of Georgia and expert on the “My Little Pony” fandom, tells the Atlantic. “That has been a source of pride.”
Emboldened by a perversion of the First Amendment, Derpibooru is now host to over 900 pieces of Brony fan art that have been filed under the “racist” tag — an apparently acceptable genre of content on their site.
Certainly, not all Bronies are white supremacists. The best of them have gone on to form organizations that fund-raise and advocate for various charitable interests, including Bronies for Good and the Brony Thank You Fund.
But a majority of their peers have been complicit to hate speech populating their once fun-loving forum. Thought leader of the “alt-Brony” movement, one Buttercup Dew, once stated that the beloved cartoon is “as implicitly white as NASCAR, country music and the Republican party” on the My Nationalist Pony blog. It’s worth noting that, in an interview with Counter-Currents.com in 2014, the anonymous Buttercup Dew claimed to be a “guy” from South London — not the US, where the aforementioned “white” industries are most prevalent. There was no indication as to why the gendered term was in quotation marks.
The association between Nazis and Hasbro-owned “My Little Pony” became so linked that petitions were created to label the brand logo a hate symbol, in the same way that the Anti-Defamation League had done to Pepe the Frog. Counter-petitions to “protect” the logo ran concurrently.
Now, those who identify with the “alt-right,” a white nationalist movement, have mobilized to a point where, for example, art in support of Black Lives Matter is met with hundreds of downvotes — a coordinated attack. The problem had become too big to ignore: On June 4, the group’s moderators made the seemingly unprecedented decision to remove images that mock BLM protests, or any other created with an intent to trigger or instigate a row.
“Derpibooru’s administration fully supports the Black Lives Matter movement and are abhorred by the onslaught of police brutality across the United States,” they tweeted. In a text attachment, they continued, “Moving forward, our new policy is that images that appear to have been created to incite controversy or antagonize others in relation to current events will not be welcome on the site.”
The owners of the message board, also anonymous, called the rise of white nationalism on their site “unfortunate,” and admitted to the Atlantic, “We have not always been as strict as we would have liked to be.” They also clarified that flagged art will not be removed in perpetuity, due to the archival site’s mission to preserve “artifact[s] of the moment.”
Unfortunately, toxic Brony culture isn’t likely to shift anytime soon, as a glut of their community tends to be politically apathetic with a wildly uncalibrated moral compass. Within their ranks, canon characters such as Rosedust are glorified to the same degree as the fan-fictional Aryanne — a pink pony that sports a swastika.
A 25-year-old fan named Sam, whose last name was withheld at their request, told the Atlantic, “I love Aryanne. It’s just cute, funny, sexy art,” then added, “Black Lives Matter art is great. I welcome it.”
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