Princess-obsessed children everywhere will be thrilled to learn that Twilight Sparkle — the purple unicorn at the center of The Hub’s My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic — is going to earn a pair of royal wings and a spiffy tiara in the cartoon’s upcoming season finale. But there’s one group that’s feeling less than excited at the prospect of Twilight becoming a princess: Bronies, the adolescent and adult fans of the show whose equine passion has become its very own subculture.
Shortly after EW broke the news of Twilight’s transformation this Tuesday, the fan community exploded into a flurry of commentary — most of it negative. “If this true they may have very well jumped the shark on this once awesome series. Such a shame,” one commenter wrote on our original post. Others were a little more vehement: “Hasbro what R U doing?!…Hasbro….STOP!!!”; “Noooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”; “Oh god..why??? WHY????” The backlash has been even worse on fan sites like Equestria Daily (where the original post about Twilight’s princessification has drawn over 2,500 comments) and Reddit’s pony-centric message board (where hundreds of fans have expressed fervent hopes that the royal metamorphosis isn’t permanent.)
So why, exactly, are bronies getting their bridles in a twist? “It’s just your typical overreaction to something changing in your favorite series,” Equestria Daily founder Sethisto (real name: Shaun Scotellaro) tells EW. There is, however, a little more to this specific outcry: “I think the main thing is that it’s happening to a character so many people connect to. Twilight Sparkle, she’s more of a nerd. She’s like all of us, that geeky nerd who reads books and gets all excited about stupid stuff.” The prospect of the show’s audience surrogate getting all gussied up, then, sort of feels like a slap in the face to MLP‘s grown-up fans. (A slap delivered by a hoof, no less.)
Then there’s the commercial angle. “A lot of people think [the princess transformation] was mainly Hasbro’s fault, just to get more toys out,” Sethisto says, noting that a similar backlash erupted before the show’s second season-ending “Royal Wedding” episode — “Cadance was a pretty pink alicorn princess. That’s, like, the exact opposite of what we wanted.”
But in the end, fans ended up loving season 2′s conclusion — “They did it in a way that made it perfect, and I’m sure Hasbro sold a bunch of toys, so win-win for everyone,” laughs Sethisto — and the mane brony is confident that Twilight’s coronation won’t actually ruin the show he loves. “I like the idea of progressing to something new,” he says. “I think the show would get stale if it didn’t.”
And even if the princess thing ends up causing bronies to abandon My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, they’ll have no reason to stop making fan videos, writing fan fiction, and composing MLP-inspired music. “We create so much on our own — like, all the background characters on the show have names and histories. They’re just like, Incidental Pony #1, and we give them a full storyline,” Sethisto says. College student Zachary Rich has even written and animated an entire “episode” of the series that looks nearly identical to The Hub’s cartoon. At this point, then, Friendship Is Magic itself may actually be incidental to the fan culture it has inspired.
Or maybe not. “I think [the fandom] could sustain itself for a while, but eventually people would get bored just because we don’t have any new canon to play with,” admits Sethisto. Perhaps better than anyone else, a brony knows not to look a gift horse in the mouth.