Q&A: Braden Kessler, cook and Brony

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From the August 23, 2012 edition

An eyebrow raise is the typical reaction to the pronouncement that Braden Kessler, seemingly such a guy’s guy, likes watching a TV show about a make-believe kingdom where cotton candy-colored ponies talk and friendship-fueled rainbows save the world.

But he’s not alone.

Braden Kessler is a Brony. Bronies are adult men — bros — who like ponies from the kids’ cartoon show “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” Bronies are now an international subculture.

“I like the emotional honesty behind it,” said Kessler, who studied theology at Ohio Wesleyan.

Other aspects the keep him, ahem, roped in: The artistically intriguing show cleverly tinges episodes with references to pop culture, comic book culture, Greek mythology and science that viewers must often be sharp to recognize.

I like the classic comedy in it. The first episode I watched had a great Benny Hill routine, which who knows who Benny Hill is anymore. Then there was the episode where Twilight Sparkle is talking about magic, and she pulls aside a box with a bar of soap on it and she gets on her soap box before she starts talking. A lot of the puns and physical comedy are things that are somewhat lost these days. These days it’s all sarcasm and nihilism.

There are a lot of theological undertones, especially when it comes to the nature of forgiveness. That’s a big one. You also have the question of good and evil. In the Season Two finale there are these changelings in Equestria and they feed off of love. It’s like, yes, we have this awesome setup, but evil still exists. How do we deal with this? That question, in theological terms, is if you have a benevolent, all-powerful deity, how can evil still exist and how does that all play out? Because the ponies have to fight their way through to save the day, the show also touches on the myth of redemptive violence.

Most people think I’m either some kind of like child-hunting freak, which is sad, or some deviation of furry, which is also sad because that element of the show does exist — this very creepy, corrupted sexual part. They’re called Cloppers. … But out of the 100 percent of Bronies that are out there, [Cloppers make up] like four percent. We just kind of ignore them.

There is that misunderstanding about Bronies because, at the very core level of it, you’re beginning to deal with gender norms and associations and challenging gender roles. I’m an older guy watching a show ideally meant for little girls. Now, if this were “G.I. Joe” or “Star Wars” or “Star Trek,” most people would be like, “Oh he’s just a nerd; that’s typical.”

The main message of the fan base is love and tolerate. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

Photo by Tessa Berg