dinsdag 28 februari 2012

The brony issue

So I recently joined a Dutch brony forum after some Dutch bronies were featured on a tv show. I don't really consider myself a brony - I absolutely love FiM and the gen4 toy line, but I would have loved it without the wholy brony hype anyway. I've been a MLP collector for 20 years, and I don't suddenly label myself differently just because My Little Pony is the hot thing right now. However, I think it's absolutely amazing that my little pony has gathered so many new fans in such a short time - and from a completely different audience no less! It's great to be able to say I love my little pony without being considered completely insane right away, and my non-collecting friends also like the series, so that's absolutely fun!
However, this new fanbase seems to exist almost separately from the more traditional my little pony fans. They have their own sites, their own fora. Now this isn't all that weird considering that the bronies are completely different people than the original collectors (young men vs. women in their early 30's, generally speaking) and because they are interested in different parts of the MLP universe. Bronies focus almost solely on the TV show, while collectors seem to be more into the collectibles and consider the show only a part of the gen4 franchise and gen4 only a part of a larger MLP legacy.
None of this is weird. Or eye-opening. And there's nothing wrong with it. What does amaze me, however, is the animosity I feel between bronies and collectors sometimes. Bronies bash the older gens (just look up some clips of the older tv show on youtube) and collectors feel like bronies are taking over their hobby.
To illustrate, let's look at the recent New York toy fair. A group of toys based on characters from the tv show were announced, together with a castle playset with the first boy MLP in over 10 years. These ponies were quickly dubbed the brony-set because it is widely believed that Hasbro created these ponies to cater to the brony fanbase. This in turn upset some collectors who felt that Hasbro was only listening to bronies now.
In my opinion, the problem isn't that there will soon be a "brony set". In fact, I think it's great that Hasbro is considering other demographics than just their target audience of little girls - and to be honest, I can see this set being very popular with girls as well! I don't believe for one moment that girls only want pink and princesses. The problem, however, is that bronies aren't the first who ever asked for less pink, more variety and boy ponies. Collectors have been asking for this for over a decade (ever since the gen3 launch) and Hasbro didn't listen even once. In fact, they did the exact opposite thing from what was asked; they released the core 7 which meant more pink and less variety.
So, of course collectors are annoyed. I know I am. Not because of the bronies; I think they're great. But because Hasbro never once listened to people who have been a fan of this line for over 20 years, who have young daughters themselves, who buy their products and have done so for a very long time, who have seen this line change and evolve all the time and who know what works and what doesn't, and yet a new but vocal group comes along and they have more success than the collectors in only a year.
Judging by the response online to this new set, it's bound to be a success. So why did Hasbro wait this long to release a set like this? Why do they seem to listen to bronies more than they did to collectors? Is it because bronies are simply a lot more vocal than collectors are? After all, collectors generally keep to their own fora and websites, while bronies seem to spam My Little Pony all over the internet. Maybe collectors have been too timid and polite all this time, and Hasbro never considered them a group large enough to make profit of to warrant a large release like the brony-set.
Or is it a gender thing, like some female collectors seem to fear? I have heard the argument that bronies are trying to make MLP less girly because they don't want to be seen as girly men who like pink toys, and are upset that bronies can't accept that MLP is a strong female brand. Personally, I think this isn't true for most bronies; they like FiM for what it is right now, a girl show with a lot of universal appeal. I think it's also a bit silly considering collectors have been asking for less-girly toys for ages as well. Why would it be okay for women to ask for less pink but not for men? My Little Pony is a brand for girls and will always be. That's not going to change because of some hype, and if it did I am pretty sure the hype will die out soon enough. It's a show and a toy line for girls that appeals to both genders at the moment; this is great! When a show for boys appeals to both genders, you don't hear any complaints about there being some more girly aspects, so I don't see why it should be a problem the other way around.
Or maybe Hasbro just needed proof that there was a different demographic for their line and simply couldn't believe that My Little Pony could have such a universal appeal until they saw it happen. Whatever the case, it's bound to be an exiting year with these upcoming MLP toys. I just really hope that Hasbro will also reconsider some other ideas collectors have had for a while; for example, release collector edition sets, make the fair pony a gen1 pony, more variety in the line with for example sea ponies or maybe a gen4 release of other gen1 ponies like Applejack? I'm exited to see what Hasbro comes up with and I think it's amazing that they seem to hear the voice of fans more nowadays!

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