As many of you know, I haven’t posted here in a long time because in August of last year I was implanted with a total artificial heart, came home for a bit on a portable pump, then was admitted full time to the hospital in January of this year to await permanent heart transplant, which happened in May. Most of this is chronicled at my other blog – www.newsofmydemise.blogspot.com as well as at my new website – www.davejohnsonstuff.com under the “LIVE” tab. Most of my blogging efforts have gone there, and school has been pretty routine as our travels and adventures have been very limited. I’m recovering now and wanted to share a bit about our first big family outing post-heart transplant.
So about three years ago, Brennan approached me, very sheepishly, to explain that he’d been watching “a girl show.” I didn’t know what this meant, so he told me about My Little Pony. Which of course, I remember from the 80’s. So I start describing to him what I remember of it (I was more of a G.I. Joe kid so not much) which was something like this:
He’s looking at me like I’m nuts. “No, it’s not like that,” he says, and insists that it’s more like this:
“I must investigate this,” I thought. But not for the reason you’re probably thinking. I guess years ago I might have thought, “Oh no! My distinctly male child likes something for girls! It has the color pink in it! That’s not manly! HE MIGHT CATCH THE GAY!!”
Actually, no. Me, the guy who enjoys interior design, Fauvist art, chai tea, and French cooking, didn’t think that. Christie and I long ago abandoned this notion that there are “girl things” and “boy things.” Things are just things, and they aren’t “for” a particular gender just because someone else says so. In high school, I was staying at a friend’s house and had forgotten my deodorant. He handed me a stick of Secret. “That’s for women!” I protested. “Do I ever stink?” he asked. “Well…no,” I had to admit. “It works,” he said. “I don’t care who the commercials are aimed at.” Confession: I’ve been using Secret deodorant ever since, and I’d recommend that any guy out there frustrated with his deodorant convert, because it does work – way better than men’s. I’ve found the same thing to be true of women’s razors.
Point being, I asked Brennan who told him it was a girl’s cartoon. He couldn’t remember, but I quickly disabused him of the notion that he couldn’t like things that people thought of as “girly.” Everyone thinks female mechanics and football players are endearing and gutsy. I refuse to apply a different standard to men. It’s all marketing and I’m not falling for it.
Even had I been worried, it was for no reason. Three episodes in I was hooked. Fantastic artwork, meta-humor, and the writing — holy cow, the writing! What wasn’t to like. The characters were a joy to watch, the jokes and animation were hilarious, and I came away feeling refreshed, peaceful, happy…almost like someone had pushed a reset button on my day. I’ve been watching it with him ever since – we’re on Season 6 now. Rich loves it too.
Turns out we’re in good company. Little did I know at the time that the new My Little Pony was appealing to guys my age all over the world, a phenomenon that’s become known as the “Brony Movement,” a small piece of the larger, “New Sincerity” movement. Just Google “Brony” for a wealth of mainstream articles chronicling and explaining Brony-ism.
When I got out of the hospital, we were looking for something fun to do, close to home, to celebrate and have fun – like a mini-vacation. BronyCon 2016 in Baltimore (or in this case, Baltimare). Done deal.
To really understand Brony-ism and the impact of MLP, you’d have go to the Con. You see things like the Addiction Recovery reunion for people who beat addiction and credit MLP, or a lot of huge guys walked around with “Marine/Veteran Brony” t-shirts on, crowds standing in the open spaces singing Journey, Van Halen, and MLP songs interchangeably, and 8,000 people chanting “FUN FUN FUN FUN,” in unison. If there’s one thing I can say about BronyCon, the attendees are bent on having fun. There was no fighting, yelling, pushing, or conflict – just a community celebrating their love of the show and how it’s brought people together from every walk of life.
Waiting for Opening Ceremonies in the ball room at B’more Convention Center
My camera lens wasn’t wide enough – 8,000+ people. This is just one of nearly 100 BronyCons across the country each summer.
Many costumed fans – these aren’t hired characters, these are all Bronies who tend to show up at a large number of conventions each year. I ate lunch next to two criminal prosecutors the second day, one of them wearing a costume like this.
Legit wheelchair fights in the main lobby
There were seminars, lectures, and panels for three days. Rich went to a lot of gaming design and demo events, while Brennan tended toward writing workshops and critique sessions. I found no shortage of lectures by professors flown in from all over the country to discuss the psychology and sociological implications of the Brony movement, gender studies, and popular entertainment’s impact of self-image and identity. Heady stuff, but fascinating. Christie found arts and crafts workshops and generally walked around in amazement at how happy and nice everyone was.
There are of course a lot of online crossovers with My Little Pony: Star Wars, Team Fortress, Counter-strike, Final Fantasy, and all types of Anime. A bit like Comic-Con in that sense, with entire blocks of times devoted to Costume Play.
In the hotel room before setting off the first day. The hotel was overrun with costumed fans. The Hilton was even hip enough to have BronyCon key cards made, and run MLP episodes marathon style over the weekend in the rooms.
With Andrea Liebman, the voice of Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie
The boys managed to get their commemorative cards signed by the “Mane Six” character’s voice actors. These cards go for hundreds of dollars on eBay and fan sites.
Lots of this type of stuff going on in the convention center public areas
Two of our favorite background characters, Mr. & Mrs. Cake – with all the costumes, these were the only Cake Cosplay folks we met.
With Ashleigh Ball, the voice of Applejack and Rainbow Dash
Christie found another Granny Smith!
PonyPalooza – Pop, Electronic, Metal, Punk, Hip-Hop, and Dubstep, every night from 9pm until…..?
There were also certain notorious Mandalorians lurking about
Closing Ceremonies. Somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000 raised for children’s cancer over the weekend
M.A. Larson hung out a lot with fans. Mitch is probably our favorite writer for MLP. Watch the clip below, for which he wrote the monologue, and no further explanation is needed.
Yeah. I know.
On the way home (after three days), we had our own CrabCon at L.P. Steamers, our favorite little hole-in-the-wall crab place in B-more.