There was a time when the term “fandom” was reserved for only the most enormous and far-reaching of enthusiast communities; the Star Trek and the Star Wars groupies of the world.
The digital age has destroyed such barriers. Nowadays, groups of like-minded individuals can convene around even the most unlikely of games, television shows and movies and share their excitement with peers.
Bronies are just one such fandom to erupt from this new era of communication. A brony is an adult fan of the revived My Little Pony series, now in its fourth season. While the brony community is largely online, there are pockets of physical groups that meet up regularly, scattered across the world. Luckily for any bronies at Portland State, there’s just such a group on campus.
The Brony Alliance for Magical Friendship, or BAMF, is a PSU school group that celebrates all things My Little Pony.
“It’s providing a place for people who feel outside of the norm because they enjoy the show,” said William Sanders, the current president of BAMF. Sanders is also the treasurer for the Brony Thank You Fund, a New Hampshire-based nonprofit that helps raise funds and awareness for charitable donations.
Sanders said he originally came across the show on Netflix when he was trying to find something to watch with his children. Once they watched the first season, they were hooked. Sanders began researching the show and learned about the brony fandom. He found out about BAMF after becoming a PSU student and joined up. Now he runs the group.
“Everyone is welcome,” Sanders said. “The only major requirement is that you need to be a student, obviously, but we do open our doors to non-students too.”
Johsua Olmsted, co-founder of BAMF, said the group was established to run fun pony-related events on campus, to help casual fans get more involved with the fandom, and to expose a wider audience to My Little Pony. There are no requirements to join the club.
Olmsted said the group hosts activities such as arts and crafts nights and screenings of the show. Beyond that, BAMF acts as a venue for enthusiasts to converse and debate about the show’s various nuances and plot points, among other things. The BAMF is also an easily accessible place for PSU students to meet and celebrate the fandom.
“A lot of PSU students come from other states, other places, and they might not get out into Portland,” Olmsted said. “We were afraid that they might not reach out to the Portland organization, so we wanted to reach out to students who might not have another place to meet other bronies.”
The Portland organization is Portland Area Bronies, a meetup group comprised of several hundreds of members. Over the years, Portland Area Bronies has grown to such a size that it requires a governing body. The group held elections for positions last week.
Like BAMF, the Portland Area Bronies group hosts weekly events. Unlike BAMF, most of the events are held at game shops in Southeast Portland—not terribly accessible for a student at PSU.
Sanders said one of the goals of BAMF is to make sure PSU bronies with limited transportation options aren’t forgotten.
Sanders said there are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be a brony.
“What everyone thinks a brony is, is a middle-aged, grown adult male who lives in their parents’ basement watching a show about colorful ponies, which is not the case,” Sanders said.
In reality, a brony is simply a fan of the show that falls outside of the target demographic. Despite being derived from the word “bro,” both Sanders and Olmsted were adamant that the term brony is not gender-exclusive. Some adult female fans of the show opt to refer to themselves as “pegasisters.”
Olmsted said the fandom focuses exclusively on the recent reboot of the show and is not concerned with the series in its various past incarnations.
“Nothing in the past is worth watching,” Olmsted said. “We just pretend it doesn’t exist.”
Sanders said there are plans for the group to help at Everfree Northwest, the largest Brony convention on the West Coast. Everfree Northwest is held in Seattle annually. This year, the convention is set to run July 4–6 at the Hilton Seattle Airport and Conference Center.
Sanders said that any member of the brony community interested in volunteering need only sign up through the convention’s website.
Miranda Sanders, William Sanders’ wife, said that she isn’t a brony, but she appreciates the community for its creativity and generosity.
“It’s about getting together and having fun,” Miranda Sanders said. “It’s not just because they like ponies; it’s because they all have fun together.
“And that’s coming from an outsider.”
For more information regarding the Brony Alliance for Magical Friendship, or to subscribe to the group’s newsletter, inquiries can be sent to [email protected]