Even in the world of niche online communities, few fandoms are as stigmatized as bronies.
Their negative reputation is largely undeserved. Sure, it might be hard for a lot of people to wrap their minds around why a group comprised mainly of adult men would focus their time, energy, and passion on a children's cartoon about cute ponies. But not understanding someone else's hobby isn't a particularly good reason to judge them. People like what they like, and groups of adults bonding over cartoon ponies is no different in practice than other groups of adults bonding over beefy dudes hitting balls with sticks.
For whatever reason, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has appealed to a diverse group of fans for many years, its reach far surpassing its intended demographics. And yet, at least according to some bronies, the fandom is drying up. Part of this might have to do with the ever-present disdain bronies face almost everywhere online. It's likely much easier to move onto different fandoms––of which there are many––than to remain a brony. But the biggest reason the brony fandom seems to be slowing down is pretty par for the fandom course: After 9 seasons, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is concluding.
Now, in a community long-plagued by external judgment, the series' impending end has led to a new rash of internal drama, characterized by outrage and death threats from a vocal minority. Meanwhile, the larger community's attempts to combat the negativity speak to the core aspects of bronydom that have always held bronies together, even in spite of overwhelming odds.
Reddit user u/-Chinchillax- broke the entire situation down on the HobbyDrama subreddit, a community dedicated to detailing interesting disputes within niche hobby groups. The entire post is definitely worth reading in its detailed entirety, but in brief:
Midway through My Little Pony season 9's on-air run, the entire rest of the season (to the tune of over nine full episodes, including the finale) got leaked on a Dutch streaming site. As a result, and partially due to a lack of a proper English translation, bronies were hit with a slew of major spoilers, sans context.
"Imagine if the chapter '19 Years Later' in the last Harry Potter book was suddenly the first thing Harry Potter fans heard about how the book ended. That's a bit of what's happening to the MLP fandom right now," wrote Chinchillax.
Outrage over the show's conclusion led a number of particularly maladjusted bronies to attack and harass various creators behind the show, particularly series director, "Big Jim" Miller, who subsequently locked his Twitter account. This, in turn, caused a counter-active rally of support to drown out the hate, with the larger community of bronies using #ThankYouBigJim to share messages of love and appreciation for a show many of them had spent years watching.
While no fandom is immune to raging a**holes (seriously, creators get so many death threats), how a fandom deals with the negative elements of their community can say a lot about them. For example, many niche gaming communities receive flack for being hateful not because of isolated incidents but because the larger community defends that behavior.
Bronies, on the other hand, nipped the bad seeds in the bud. Through messages of love and support, they overwhelmingly drowned out the haters. Moreover, they made it clear that anyone who sends hatred or death threats to the creators will not be welcome in their community.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a wholesome kids' show that lives up to its title by promoting friendship, unity, and kindness. For the most part, bronies have taken these lessons to heart.
Ultimately, the manner in which the brony community's final season drama has played out proves a point that should have been made a long time ago: By-and-large, the Internet has been particularly unfair to bronies.