With a Superman tie around his neck, a white button down shirt, black slacks and wire-framed glasses, radio-television-film senior Peter Jiang reaches into his backpack and pulls out two miniature plastic “My Little Pony” figurines.
“My fiance and I tend to use small ponies as placeholders at the table, so I’m always carrying these with me,” Jiang said, smiling as he placed them on the table.
Jiang and his fiance Callie Smith will happily admit they are Bronies: a portmanteau of the words “bro” and “pony” attributed to older fans of “My Little Pony.” When a new episode airs, the two sit down and watch it together. While being a Brony is not the first thing Jiang would bring up in conversation, it’s also not something to hide. Jiang has his car accented with “My Little Pony” decals and has a silhouette of a pony tattooed on his shoulder.
Jiang, like most men, was skeptical about watching “My Little Pony” but started the show at his fiance’s request.
“[The show] draws very heavily on the ideas of femininity, and guys aren’t really taught to embrace these qualities,” Jiang said.
Since he was young and interested in shows such as “Pokemon,” “Dragonball Z” and “Sailor Moon,” Jiang said he has been using fandom shows to teach himself life lessons and forms of expression. Being a Brony is no different than being a part of any other fandom.
“For a lot of geeks now days, we express ourselves in our love for certain franchises,” Jiang said. “For someone who is already part of that kind of mentality, becoming a Brony and expressing yourself through ‘My Little Pony’ stuff feels natural.”
Even with Jiang’s perspective, it is hard to see what makes “My Little Pony” different than every other children’s show. Jiang said the main difference is in the high quality of writing, voice acting, animation and its representation of strong female characters.
“Most children’s TV shows directed towards girls aren’t written very well,” Jiang said. “They usually took up typical tropes and stereotypes, but this one actually had well-written characters and a decently written plot.”
The show’s plot revolves around the adventures of leader and bookworm Twilight Sparkle and her friends, with each pony representing a different trait: magic, honesty, kindness, loyalty, generosity and humor.
Jiang and other Bronies tend to identify with certain ponies. Jiang most admires the character Apple Jack for her loving nature, and he feels he is similar to Pinky Pie since he is a joker. His friends say he is most like Apple Bloom — an innovative leader.
The main message Jiang has gotten out of the show is the importance of friendship. Smith says she can see an increase in Jiang’s patience and friendliness since he started watching the show.
“[‘My Little Pony’] teaches the basics,” Smith said. “It shows the good in people. It also shows that your friends can change for the better, and it only takes one person to help that change.”
As a self-declared loner, Jiang has used the lessons on friendship to help him strive for his ideal self.
“I look up to leadership-type characters — Superman, for example,” Jiang said, pointing to his tie. “I try to aspire to be that kind of character: leadership, noble, honor and all that. It felt a lot easier for me to try and aspire to those goals after watching the show.”
In 2012, Jiang started a comic-con like convention called “Brony Fan Fair.” The gathering had 900 people attend its first year, 1,100 its second year and is expected to reach 1,300 people this year.
The convention brings in minor voice actors from “My Little Pony,” as well as other panelists and vendors.
Jiang has also been active in UT’s My Little Longhorn Brony Club. The group gives him a sense of camaraderie on campus, but Jiang has become less active in the organization because of his busy work schedule. He passed of most of his responsibilities in the club to current-President Kevin Song.
“It allows him to ease off a little bit of his burden from the club, and it started this period of reform that prevented the club from falling through,” Song said. “I like to think that I’ve done a good job because, as of now, we have a very loyal following of around seven or eight members that always attend meetings.”
“My Little Pony” has given Jiang, Song and other Bronies a sense of belonging that outweighs any prejudice outside parties might have toward them.
“You can’t solve everything on your own,” Jiang said. “You need help from other people, and you build off of other people to become your more ideal self. That what I feel is one of the strongest messages of the show.”