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“All The Pretty Little Ponies: An Examination of the Erogenous Dimensions of Cuteness as Found in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Erotic Fan-Art”

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 All The Pretty Little Ponies: An Examination of the Erogenous Dimensions of Cuteness as Found in “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Erotic Fan-Art”

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 The Rise of Brony Fandom
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (2010–Present), the latest incarnation of the 1980s My Little Pony franchise, is a toy line of pastel colored pony figures and various accessories created by American toy and game company Hasbro Inc. with an accompanying animated series produced to help sell the toys. The cartoon is set in the land of Equestria and centered on a bookish unicorn named Twilight Sparkle tasked with learning about “the magic of friendship” with the help of her four pony friends who embark on adventures ranging from the mild-mannered – i.e. organizing a birthday party – to the epic; stopping the evil chaos-dragon Discord from taking over Equestria.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Developed for television by Lauren Faust, whose prior credits include the acclaimed Cartoon Network series The Powerpuff Girls (1998-2005) and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends (2004-2009), 1 with the goal of creating a cartoon “for girls” that wasn’t saccharin and simplistic but instead featured “real conflict,” “complex plots,” and even scary elements since “girls aren’t as easily frightened as everyone seems to think.” 2 Being a recognizable creator, Faust’s involvement with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic quickly attracted the attention of animation fans. Some, like Amid Amidi, editor-in-chief of the website Cartoon Brew, were highly critical of the show seeing it as a return to the crass commercialism of 1980s TV animation 3

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Amidi’s cynical take on the Friendship is Magic series garnered the attention of members of the infamous online English-language image board community 4chan.org, specifically the /co/ sub-forum dedicated to discussing cartoons and comics 4 Modeled after the popular Japanese image board 2chan.net, much of 4chan.org’s content revolves around Japanese pop-culture, but the site’s main attraction, and source of over 30% of its internet traffic, is the infamous /b/ sub-forum, based on 2chan.net’s own Nijiura sub-forum, in which users post random images in an attempt to “shock, entertain, and coax free porn from each other.” 5

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Brony Nanashi Tanaka was a 4chan.org /co/ member who recalls when Amidi’s article broke: “It was pretty alarmist, but it also got a lot of us going over to watch the show. We were going to make fun of it, but instead everybody got hooked. And then the first pony threads exploded.” 6 It was on 4chan.org where the term Brony/Bronies originated as a catch-all term for adult male fans of the show; the most popular etymology being that the name is a portmanteau of “bro” and “pony.” 7 However Mike Bernstein, program director for the Brony-centric online radio channel Everfree Radio, maintains that the term’s true origin was a play on the word “pony” with the “/b/” denoting the aforementioned 4chan.org sub-forum where the Brony phenomena first began 8

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Brony fandom is a phenomenon born on the internet, getting its start on image boards like 4chan.org and later fan sites like Equestria Daily 9 During my interviews with Bronies I repeatedly asked fans how they were watching the show and in every instance the answer was the same: online. Usually illegally be it via illegal streaming sites, unlisted YouTube channels, or pirating the show via illegal downloads. And while Hasbro has largely been willing to turn a blind eye to such activities so long as the revenue from merchandise keeps flowing, others have been less appreciative 10 Former Star Trek actor John de Lancie, who voices the villain Discord on Friendship is Magic complained that Bronies’ tendency to pirate media hurt the profitability of his 2012 documentary about the fandom, Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony (Dir. Laurent Malaquaid),: “The unfortunate thing about all this is we were sending it out to one of the most savvy Internet generations ever. And within a half-hour [of the film’s release]… some person… started posting it on YouTube, Pirate Bay, all that… I think we’ve sold 4,000 copies, but we know of at least 10,000 that have been [illegally] downloaded… we’re not too happy about it.” 11

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 This fact also brings to light another important aspect of Brony fandom: demographics. While many may assume that groups like Bronies are made up of societal outsiders, an assumption the mainstream media tends to help support in their coverage of the fandom, according to the statistical data of South Carolina based psychologists Patrick Edwards and Marsha Redden – who bill themselves as “the nation’s premiere bronyologists” 12 – self-described Bronies are in fact 86% male, 84% heterosexual, with 62% being either college students or having completed college. Bronies surveyed by Edwards and Redden ranged in age from 14 to 57 with the median age being around 21 13 What this means is that far from being outsiders, Bronies are actually the most inclusive of insiders boasting the highly privileged status of being white, heterosexual, middle-class adult males; most of who have a college education 14

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Taking these facts into consideration I am adopting the insights of scholar Lawrence Eng who has argued that such fans be understood as “reluctant insiders;” individuals who despite being “part of the majority, mainstream, and middle class” nevertheless “feel alienated by their very inclusion in that larger group” 15 and who attempt to remove themselves from the mainstream – by engaging in the consumption and appropriation of “unanticipated media and technology to actively become a minority” – a description which certainly fits the Bronies 16 Eng’s findings corroborate those of sociologist Amy C. Wilkins who has argued that such youth subcultures exist exactly because straight, white middle-class kids find being straight, white and middle-class so boring and wish to stand out by adopting practices which exist in opposition to perceived norms 17

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 To be clear, Eng and Wilkins are not suggesting that “reluctant insiders” intentionally engage in such practices simply as a means of getting attention, but rather that such behavior is a byproduct of such individuals’ status within society. The fact being that such fannish activities as those under consideration here are really only a reality for certain members of society who possess the privileged commodities of free time and regular disposable income; commodities which are generally only available in our society to white, middle-class, heterosexual adult men.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: My Little Pony, the Media, and Edification
Though a fascinating phenomenon in the history of pop-culture fandoms in and of itself, what makes Bronies truly remarkable is the astounding amount of sustained media coverage which they have received over the past six years from outlets as diverse as The Washington Post, Wired magazine, The Huffington Post, Slate magazine, The Jerry Springer Show, The Colbert Report, Fox News, New York Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, the L.A. Times, The Guardian, PBS, TV Guide, Cosmopolitan, and The Howard Stern Show 18 Such widespread coverage has thrust the Brony fandom into the public eye transforming them, as Emily Manuel of the Global Comment put it, into “figures of fascination and derision in equal measures.” 19 Amongst such commentators the most popular assertion, made by both supporters and detractors, is that these adult male fan’s affection for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is an indication of shifting and generally more egalitarian attitudes amongst young American men with regards to the gendering of pop-culture media.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 Media commentators note that amongst the most common reasons cited by Bronies for their enjoyment of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, outside of its high production values, is its positive outlook devoid of cynicism 20 Brony Ted Anderson, an English major and former NPR intern, described the show in an on-air interview as “…authentic. It’s sincere. It is exactly what it appears to be… This is a show where, really, they want to teach us good lessons about friendship and how to treat each other right and, you know, how to help every pony get along.” 21

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 This emphasis on a lack of cynicism and a positive message has become the key component in psychologists Edwards and Redden’s attempt to explain the Brony fandom, likening Bronies to the “hippies” of the 1960s who espoused messages of peace, love, and understanding in the wake of the Vietnam War. Redden contends that for Bronies, Friendship is Magic “serves a guidance function because cartoons are little parables” and that like hippies Bronies are an oppositional response to 9/11 and the ongoing American War on Terror 22

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 The supposition that Bronies actually look to Friendship is Magic for moral guidance and moreover actually live by the morals taught in the show is, however, problematic on a theoretical basis. As John C. Lyden has pointed out “there is really no reason to assume that those who utilize the stories of popular cultural texts are any less or more likely to be ‘responsible’ to the values within them than are ‘traditional’ religious believers. Not all Christians live by the Sermon on the Mount or the Ten Commandments, just as not all fans of Star Trek follow the Prime Directive in their daily lives.” 23 Following Lyden I see no reason to assume that all, or even most, Bronies live their lives by the virtues taught in Friendship is Magic or even seriously consider the show a source of edification.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 In addition, Edwards and Redden’s study of Bronies neglects what I contend is a major aspect of the fandom. Specifically the practice of “clopping” which is Brony “slang for masturbation” to eroticized images of the show’s female pony characters 24 Such images depict the Friendship Is Magic pony characters engaged in every manner of erotic and sexual act imaginable while being depicted in a range of styles including as they appear on the show to those featuring a higher degree of anthropomorphism to ones where the characters have been reimagined as anime-style girls with hairstyles modeled on the pony’s manes.

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Brony Sexuality and the Male Colonization of a “Girl’s Show”
Edwards and Redden have acknowledged that “sexual fan-fiction and fan-art are a large part of the Brony community.” 25 Nevertheless in spite of this both researchers have declined to explore this aspect of the fandom claiming that it has proven “too sensitive” and that if brought up would often cause their interviewees to completely shut down on them thus necessitating that all questions regarding sex and sexuality be left out completely, especially questions such as “whether fans have sexual feelings toward the show’s equine characters.” 26

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 I have encountered no difficulty getting Bronies to talk openly about the existence of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fan produced cartoon pornography and erotica. The Bronies I’ve spoken with readily admit to knowing about such material and some even acknowledge having created it and used it for its intended purpose. Even those who denied partaking in it were all too eager to tell me where to find it; naming websites specifically setup to host such content 27 Mark, a 29-year-old Brony who lives with his wife in Austin, Texas and works in the comic book industry, was very open with me when I asked him if he had ever partook of any erotic My Little Pony fan-art or fan-fiction:

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 “I mean everybody, everybody watches porn, everybody reads porn. It’s not a secret. If you say you don’t then you’re either a liar or a liar… So some of the stuff I have seen and I do kind of like it. Um… there was a dōjinshi [a Japanese term for a fan-produced comic book, often of an erotic nature] that like a year or two ago, that had some REALLY SPECTACULAR art in it. And it is one of those things were you’ll be looking at something and you’ll kind of think to yourself ‘I don’t know if I should be turned on by this?’”

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 Another interviewee, a 22-year-old Brony named Jeff who works as a waiter in Charlotte, NC, was more hesitant but also acknowledged the existence of My Little Pony erotic fan-art telling me: “I… I… I either tend to ignore or I, I’m not like ‘Oh my god, that’s nasty.’ But for me I either ignore it or… I mean every once in a while I would look at it… just one! That’s it! But I’m not a big perv of that kind of thing but uh… I just tend to let the other people enjoy what they enjoy and like when it comes to that sort of stuff.”

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 In Chicago I put the same questions to John, a 25-year-old “filmmaker, theater technician, and part time illustrator,” asking if he had ever produced and/or read any erotic My Little Pony fan-art or fan-fiction:

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 “I’ve never done any Clop-fic. There was a comic I was sent at one point, by someone who does pursue it, which was kind of adorable, I’m not going to lie. But yeah… I’ve seen some erotica. I’ve read the one or two comics… because it really was kind of adorable and the writing was really kind of adorable and it happened to be erotica. And I liked the stylization because they weren’t like ponies fucking, they were more like humans. And the art was well done, I’ll use that phrase. There was no clopping involved, but it was well rendered. But at some point… you will see some My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic erotica.”

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 That last sentiment was also echoed by Paul, a bespectacled 30-year-old screenwriter who lives in Atlanta, GA: “The visual stuff you will see at some point. You’re on a forum and you’ll scroll past some stuff. So yeah at a certain point you really can’t escape it.”

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 While Bronies may indeed be much more reluctant to speak to Edwards and Redden about such topics then they were to someone much closer to their own demographic, such as myself, the other reason this topic may have proven problematic for the two psychologists is that it apparently bothers them. In an interview with The Daily Dot, Edwards referred to the sexual aspect of Brony fandom as “the dark” and “seedier side of the community.” 28 Redden also downplays the issue since “every fan community” has a sexual component to it 29 And while the ubiquity of fans having sexual fantasies about fictional characters will be discussed later on; it is still not grounds for dismissal of the topic. In this case it should actually intensify our interest in it, especially considering the widespread claim that Brony fandom represents a progressive shift in how young men are viewing concepts of gender and sexuality.

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 In addition some media commentators wishing to preserve the image of Bronies as some sort of admittedly geeky wing of the feminist movement, have attempted to assert that those who produce pornographic My Little Pony fan-art and get sexual gratification from it are either a “subgroup” within the larger Brony community or even don’t exist at all 30 However all such claims are simply classic examples of using disavowal to acknowledging something by denying it 31 The reality of the situation is that erotic fan-art is so pervasive in this fandom that the New York based Brony convention Ponycon recently had to implement “strict rules against” fan-artists bringing “adult content” to the show since they were billing themselves as a family friendly venue 32

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 The irony of the entire Brony phenomena and the overwhelmingly positive reception it has received from the media is that it has taken a show originally designed to shine a spotlight on the diverse ways in which young girls can express femininity and instead been colonized by adult men as a way of demonstrating an alternative means of masculinity.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 This fact was recognized early on by feminist writer Emily Manuel in an August 2011 article for the Global Comment:

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 “…The bronies’ own behavior en masse in the fandom reinforces the same old male-center/female-margin dynamic, as does much of the media coverage. Female fans are squeezed from the frame as objects worthy of consideration of their own. Some have proposed the male-centric term “brony” be applied to all adult MLP fans, an un-reflexive marking of the male as universal. This is indicative of a broader claiming of the text as normatively the domain of men, a far from unique dynamic in fandom – just one of a million reasons why a feminist narrative like MLP:FiM is still so sorely needed by girls and women.”

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27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 As Manuel notes, the media’s love affair with Brony fandom betrays an obvious double standard. For girls of any age to be interested in boy’s toys, like Transformers, is neither remarkable, worthy of repeated coverage and defense, nor a sign of the progressive redefining of traditional gender roles 34 This is because guys who like My Little Pony are special not simply because they like a show targeted at children but because they like a show targeted at girls, who western cultural assumptions state are naturally inferior to boys in every way including their sense of taste in toys and cartoons. Thus by liking a girl’s show, Bronies are seen as rejecting their superior male status in favor of an inferior female one, while girls who embrace men’s entertainment are simply showing a more cultivated sense of taste 35

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 Of Otaku and Bronies
How then are we to think about the sexual aspect of Brony fandom, an element which many find particularly troublesome? I would suggest taking a cue from the Bronies themselves and begin by considering the common interest in Japanese pop-culture the majority of Bronies seem to have. Brony fandom’s origins, history, and practices draw heavily from Japanese fan culture including its origins on Japanese-style image boards, the use Japanese terminology like dōjinshi to refer to erotic fan-produced comics, and the fact that all my interviewees described themselves as being fans of anime.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 The Bronies I spoke with were very knowledgeable about anime and readily compared scenes from My Little Pony to those from popular anime series. In fact, several of my interviewees told me that their first encounter with Brony fandom was at an anime convention. This included Sarah, an 18-year-old, bisexual, college freshman, who told me that she first learned about the fandom at a regional North Carolina anime convention, Animazment, where she saw people “cosplaying as Ponies.” 36

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 Japanese pop-culture enthusiasts are often referred to as “otaku;” a term that psychoanalyst Tamaki Saitō, says is most often “used to indicate adult fans of anime, but can obviously be expanded to include fans of manga and video games, those who collect scale model figures of characters from these media, aficionados of monster movies and other special effects genres, and so forth.” In other words, the term otaku can be applied generally to anyone who has an obsessive hobby or interest and is roughly correspondent to the English terms “geek” or “fan” and could easily accommodate Bronies as well.

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 Like Bronies, otaku are mostly men in their late teens or early twenties, primarily heterosexual, and attend college. In addition, like Bronies, adult male otaku are active fans of shōjo manga and anime series whose target audience is actually elementary school aged girls. Many of these shōjo (which literally means “young girl”) titles fall into the superhero genre known as Mahou Shoujo or “Magical Girl” such as the internationally recognized series Sailor Moon (1992-1997).

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 Like the Bronies many otaku men claim that they enjoy these ‘girl’s shows’ because of their high production values, though cultural anthropologists Patrick W. Galbraith and Anne Allison note that another reason is that “Magical Girl” shows like Sailor Moon also share some of their DNA with popular Japanese boy’s shows like Power Rangers; known as Super Sentai (1975–Present) in Japan 37 Such parallels are entirely intentional as both Sailor Moon and Power Rangers have the same parent companies in the form of anime studio Toei Co. and toy company Bandai who designed Sailor Moon to intentionally mimic Power Rangers’ winning formula of “a group of superheroes who morph from ordinary teenagers, fight alien enemies, and diversify by season (adding new characters, costumes, tools, and powers),” story tropes which, as many Bronies pointed out to me, are also present in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic 38 One interviewee even adamantly insisted that creator Lauren Faust must have “watched herself some Sailor Moon” while formulating her My Little Pony reboot; a conclusion that’s not hard to come to since Faust, as previously mentioned, also worked on Powerpuff Girls which is essentially an American take on the “Magical Girl” genre and was created by Faust’s future husband Craig McCracken who has never been shy about discussing his anime and tokusatsu influences 39

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 Whatever the case, many otaku also openly acknowledge that they think the female protagonists of these series are sexually attractive and enjoy producing, collecting, and “getting off” to explicitly eecchi (erotic) or hentai (pornographic) images and comics of said characters created by fans and posted online or sold at conventions like the popular Tokyo based dōjinshi fair Comiket 40

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 This has resulted in otaku, like Bronies here, occupying a rather tumultuous position in Japanese culture, being constantly seen as a source of public sexual anxiety and aspiration. For example, though disagreements remain about the exact origin of the term otaku – which is etymologically speaking simply “a polite second-person pronoun literally meaning ‘your home’” 41 – all acknowledge that one of the earliest and most significant uses of the label occurred within a pair of snarky editorials titled “Otaku Research” by essayist Nakamori Akio for two 1983 issues of a short-lived “weekly soft-core porno comic magazine called Manga Burikko.” 42 In the second of his two articles Nakamori presents otaku as perverted individuals who instead of being sexually attracted to real women instead prefer to “leer over cutouts of [female anime characters] they’ve got stuffed into their commuter-pass holders — you could call it a 2D complex, or something… A nude photo of a normal young woman does absolutely nothing for guys like this.” 43 Nakamori’s use of the phrase “2D complex (nijigen konpurekkusu)” marks him as an insider amongst those he is criticizing since this phrase was often used by readers of Manga Burikko as a means of accounting for their preference for erotic manga over more traditional pornography 44

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 It is not surprising then that those researchers who specialize in the study of otaku subculture, have made the subject of otaku sexuality key to their understanding of the fandom. Drawing primarily on the work of French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, Tamaki Saitō argues that because our experiences with reality are always mediated and thus inherently fictional, what makes otaku – and fans in general – unique from other more passive media consumers is their ability to effortlessly shift their orientation from one mediated reality to another, to be “multiply oriented” as Saitō calls it, thus allowing themselves to become fully invested in the alternate realities depicted in various media. Saitō is quick to stress that this does not mean otaku – and again we can apply this more broadly to all fans – cannot distinguish between “reality” and “fantasy” but rather that they simply do not privilege the de facto reality of their daily lives to such an extent that it interferes with their ability to become completely immersed in a different reality such as that encountered in manga or anime or even a cartoon about a magical land populated by talking pastel ponies 45

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 While Saitō’s contention that otaku can effortlessly – or at least more effortlessly than others – shift between alternate realities may sound radical it finds a parallel in American anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann’s theory of “interpretive drift” developed in the 1980s while studying British wiccans and neo-pagans, individuals who Luhrmann contended had developed an ability to slowly shift their way of viewing the world over time thereby allowing themselves to engage in an alternative worldview in which the imagined aspects of a fantastic reality make as much sense as the mundane reality of such individual’s daily lives 46

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 With this understanding of fans and fandom, Saitō argues that the ability of male otaku to achieve sexually gratification from an animated character proves his contention that fans truly can and do become immersed in fictional worlds and because the animated characters seen in such works are real for the otaku it makes just as much sense for them to be sexually aroused by them as a non-otaku would be by “real life” women 47

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 In Japan, otaku who develop feelings for fictional characters refer to this sensation as moé (萌え), with “moé culture” becoming a source of great academic interest in Japan since the early 2000s. In his book The Moé Manifesto, Patrick W. Galbraith provides the following definition of moé:

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 “In this contemporary usage, moé means an affectionate response to fictional characters. There are three things to note about this definition. First, moé is a response, a verb, something that is done. Second, as a response, moé is situated in those responding to a character, not the character itself. Third, the response is triggered by fictional characters. The characters that trigger a moé response, sometimes called moé characters (moé kyara), are most often from manga, anime, and games. Material representations of characters – figurines, body pillows with the character image on them – can trigger moé. Sounds and voices are described as moé when associated with characters. A human can trigger moéwhen dressed in character costume, just as an object can be anthropomorphized into a moé character. What is important here is that the response isn’t to the material object, sound, costume or person, but rather to the character.”

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40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 This last point in Galbraith’s definition is worth emphasizing, as it is not the material existence of the character which induces the sensation of moé in viewers but rather the character itself. Fans are not falling in love with animation cells, plastic toys, real women in costumes, or pixels on a screen but rather with the abstract character that such material represents.

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 Cultural critic Azuma Hiroki has argued that in the postmodern era fans no long “approach a work just as a narrative; they also break the work down and focus on its elements. These can be elements of the production such as characters and settings, or aspects of the design, or the artwork in a key frame.” 49 Azuma calls this fixation with the elements of a work at the expense of an actual narrative the “database theory” of media consumption and argues, in an almost behaviorist mode, that fans are naturally drawn to products which possess such elements. With regards to female character design, Azuma identifies a series of key elements which are most likely to eliciting feelings of moé including: unnaturally colored hair, animal ears and tails, large reflective eyes, and loose fitting gloves and socks which obscure the shape of the hands and feet 50 Many of these characteristics are present in Faust’s “animesque” pony designs leading one to wonder if part of the reason Bronies feel sexually drawn to these equestrian characters is a result of being part of a generation that was brought up on anime, many of them ogling the cute female characters that appeared in these shows.

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 Returning to Galbraith’s definition of moé, we see that within moé culture such fictional characters don’t have to be strictly human either, but rather simply anthropomorphic as explained by moé-advocate Honda Toru:

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 “In moé culture, anything can take the shape of a cute girl. Machines. Utensils. World nations. As long as it is female, and human in shape, a moécharacter does not have to be based on a human. You can get a lot of pleasure from anthropomorphizing objects into cute characters. You can’t have a relationship with an object, but if it is in the shape of a girl then there are more possibilities. A cat, for example, can be represented by a cute girl with cat ears and tail. It’s obvious that the cat-ear phenomena began with someone thinking ‘I wonder what a cat would look like if it was a human?’ Then all sorts of desires get wrapped up in that image.”

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44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 The cute anthropomorphic cat-girls to which Honda alludes are a staple, almost a cliché, in Japanese pop-culture with the predilection for erotic anthropomorphism in Japanese manga and anime going all the way back to the medium’s founding father, Tezuka Osamu (1928-1989), as evident by the recent discovery of a secret stash of sexy mice girl drawings uncovered by the late “God of Manga’s” daughter in early 2014 52 Tezuka’s artistic style was hugely influential on the world of manga and anime, including erotic and pornographic works as noted by manga critic Itō Gō 53

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 Animation historian Fred Patten also draws attention to the fact that while anthropomorphized animals are by no means unique to Japan, these characters usually show up in Western pop-culture under the guise of the “Funny Animal” – think Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny – a comedic figure whose ability to “walk and talk just like humans” makes them a source of humor rather than drama, much less eroticism, which is the norm in Japan where this sub-genre is known as kemono 54 Patten writes that these characters “first appeared in… mid-1980s direct-to-video erotic anime as fantasy sex kittens and Playboy-type bunny-girls” and later migrated to mainstream fantasy and sci-fi anime, even crossing over into the ‘Magical Girl’ genre with series like Tokyo Mew Mew (2002-2003) which proved popular both domestically and abroad 55

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 Saitō argues that what otaku find so sexually appealing about these cute female characters is their inherently fictional nature. In an interview with Galbraith, Saitō stated: “When I wrote my book [Beautiful Fighting Girl] in 2000, it was assumed that drawings of cute girls were a substitute for real girls. The thinking was that those who could not make it with women in reality projected their desires into fantasy. But with otaku that was never the case. The desire for the three-dimensional and the two-dimensional are separate.” 56 Setsu Shigematsu, thinking alongside fellow scholar Akagi Akira, agrees with Saitō, arguing that while the desire for fictional girls is indeed a “substitute,” what it is substituting is not a real girl but rather “a lack of desire for the ‘real thing’ – a lack of desire that young men are ‘naturally’ supposed to possess for real young women.” 57

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 Furthermore Saitō contends that the admittedly offbeat desires of otaku cannot be accurately labeled as “perverse (tōsaku)” because the objects of their affection do not exist in reality but are fantasy characters – often super-humans or anthropomorphized animals – incapable of existing apart from their fictionalized contexts. Likewise Bronies should not be labeled as closet zoophiles either since the objects of their sexual fantasies are not real ponies – which they seem to have no interest in – but rather cute anthropomorphic stylizations of such animals, with such anthropomorphization notably increased in the context of erotic or pornographic fan-art 58 This line of argumentation should also be consider in relation to Galbraith’s observation that the sexual appeal ofanime characters in general, whose physical appearance “does not resemble a human one, but takes on its own internal realism within manga/anime,” and is not rooted in the “desire [for] a human with such a face” but rather is wholly “separate from [the appeal of] a human face.” 59

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 Saitō concludes that what moé otaku want is not to see their fantasies’ brought to life but instead to be transported to “an utterly imagined space with no correspondent in the everyday world, a space of perfect fictionality” where they can live out their fantasies, including sexual ones in a way that sociologist Volker Grassmuck has characterized as “pure, abstract sex, the simulation of stimulation.” 60 Such a space can best be found in the worlds of comics and cartoons, especially Japanese manga and anime, which Saitō, thinking alongside avant-garde Japanese artist and pop-culture historian Murakami Takashi, maintains adheres to a style called “Superflat (sūpaafuratto)” which, as Azuma Hiroki explains, “indicates an imagery space without depth or thickness, where even the eye of the camera does not exist.” And because this imagined space “escapes the regulation of the camera’s eye, [it] appears structureless,” when in fact, postulates Saitō, “the control exerted by various contexts supersedes everything else and establishes an order distinct from structure” thus creating, in the process, an environment of “sexual intersubjectivity” in which the limitless “imaginative power” of “otaku sexuality” can assert itself 61

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 Such work on otaku culture and sexuality is important because it helps to show, on the one hand, that the sexual component of Brony fandom is a normal byproduct of a group of male fans becoming heavily invested in a given fictional universe and that this aspect of the fandom need not be ignored, neglected, or shunned. However while Saitō maintains that the desire for fictional characters is not perverse he also acknowledges that it is not natural either, insofar as one is not born desiring relationships, be they amicable or erotic, with fictional characters and that such desires must instead result from “training or study” and be developed over time 62 Or as Azuma, in a less charitable fashion, puts it:

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 Many of the otaku today who consume adult comics and ‘girl games’ probably… simply and animalistically grew accustomed to being stimulated by perverted images. Since they were teenagers, they had been exposed to innumerable otaku sexual expressions: at some point, they were trained to sexually stimulate by looking at illustrations of girls, cat ears, and maid outfits. However, anyone can grasp that kind of stimulation if they are similarly trained, since it is essentially a matter of nerves.

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51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 But why should one wish to cultivate such desires? The common sense answer would be that such individuals are lonely and desire partners. Indeed, Edwards and Redden report that the overwhelming majority of Bronies, 96%, are single 64 But even if such is the case why turn to fiction? What is motivating these young men’s “lack of desire for the ‘real thing’” as Shigematsu puts it?

52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 Equestrian Economics
One explanation for why young men would turn to relationships with cute fictional women over those with real women is that they simply don’t believe they can ‘afford’ to date real ones in the most literal sense of the term. In the late 90s/early 2000s Japan suffered a major economic downturn which it has failed to recover from with wages stagnant for nearly 20-years.

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 In such an economy, many men are unable to obtain the financial status needed to successfully attract romantic partners or even “be eligible to fraternize with young women” at all 65 Honda Toru calls this system “love capitalism (ren’ai shihonshugi)” and with it paints a cynical worldview “of commoditized romance that forces people onto expensive dates to fashionable places” which are “not only out of reach for most men, but also entirely unappealing” and which reduces “women’s motives for dating and marriage… to economic ones.” 66 Given such a worldview “many young men” instead chose to “opt out of this competition and… invest in… two-dimensional images of cuteness” instead 67 Sociologist Masahiro Yamada corroborates this in a general way noting that young people in Japan today have learned to cope with their distressed economy by “escaping to virtual worlds of games, animation and costume play.” 68

54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 If a bad economy is the catalyst for the birth of moé culture then there is no reason to believe that such a phenomenon is relegated only to Japan. Economist Morinaga Takuro predicts “that the pressures contributing to the [moé] phenomenon are shared globally, and that moé will become a big market in other countries too as more and more men end up on the losing side of the economy.” 69 America was itself in the grips of an economic ‘Great Recession’ between December 2007 and June 2009, the summer before My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic debut, and continues to struggle to climb out of the financial pit it found itself in during those 19 months with “the unemployment rate for men and women 20 to 24 years old,” the median age of most Bronies, being just “11.4 percent, versus a low of 7.2 percent in 2007.” 70 According to Edwards and Redden only 32% of Bronies are employed either part-time or full-time 71

55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 Economist James Pethokoukis writes that America is currently in a cultural climate very similar to Japan’s own in which young college educated adults find themselves “living with their parents” while working dead-end jobs as “baristas and bartenders with Bachelor’s degrees” and trying to deal with the depressing reality of it all by periodically escaping to worlds of fantasy 72

56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 If more and more American young adults are following the trend first set-forth in Japan of “escaping to virtual worlds of games, animation and costume play” to deal with the existential uncertainties of life and love in a bad economy it only makes sense that these same young men would begin turning to fictional women as “a low-cost, low-stress solution to this problem,” as Honda terms it 73 It is my contention that Bronies are a manifestation of moé culture within the United States, a contention which, while arrived at independently of, is also shared by Patrick W. Galbraith 74

57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 If Brony fandom can best be understood as an American takeoff on moé culture then the practices of Bronies creating, trading, and consuming My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic erotic and pornographic fan-art and fan-fiction can best be understood as a reaction to the perceived sexual cynicism of dating in a depressed economy. As noted earlier Bronies often maintain that one of the most attractive aspects of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic for them is its lack of cynicism and its focus on sincerity and I see no reason why this same mindset would not extend to their views on dating and sexual relations as well.

58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 But as Galbraith points out, the adoption of what Saitō calls “drawn sexuality” opens up its own host of problems as men engaged in moé culture “still seem to maintain goals for success, namely getting paid and laid, that are recognizable to hegemonic masculinity” and rather than abandoning these goals or reevaluating their means of obtaining them simply “want things on their terms, which can come off as somewhat entitled.” 75 More than entitled, as art critic Shibusawa Tatsuhiko’s observed moé is in essence a “one-way street (ippō tsūkō)” in which the fictional female “most perfectly satisfies the essential sexual urges of the male… because both socially and sexually” such a character “is utterly ignorant. And being ignorant [are] like little birds and dogs [and we might want to add ponies] – symboliz[ing] the total object, the object of play, and one that cannot express itself of its own accord.” Shibusawa’s comments recall feminist scholar M. Gigi Durham’s observation that what a patriarchal society most desires of its women is “compliant, docile sexuality.” 76 And what kind of woman is more docile then a fictional one? In fostering relationships with fictional characters, Bronies are creating what Galbraith calls “a space of autonomous sexuality” which can only be maintained through the active rejection of real women, thus marking it as an inherently “sexist position.” 77

59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 Conclusions
Contrary to popular assertion then, Bronies do not represent a significant shift in young men’s understanding of gender politics, what it means to be masculine, how they view women’s entertainment, or even women themselves – a stance that was only made possible because its pundits chose, for whatever reason, to ignore and/or dismiss the sexual aspects of Brony fandom. When such aspects are taken into account however the picture changes dramatically and claims that Bronies constitute a progressive movement in gender politics crumbles. The creation and “use” of pornographic fan-art featuring the Friendship is Magic characters is a complicated phenomenon since it not only demonstrates the Bronies’ own genuine immersion into the world of the show, but also serves as a means for young men, frustrated with what they perceive to be a romantic market of increasingly diminishing returns, to express themselves sexually. At the same time however such practices also serve as a means for said fans to impose their male superiority onto a show expressly made to entertain and empower little girls via sexual exploitation which in turn further belittles and alienates actual female fans who find such works objectionable.

60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 This essay is not an attempt to pass judgment on the Brony fandom however, or an attempt to say that Bronies are not truly transgressive. Genuinely liking a work of commercial art which was not expressly made for you is a transgressive act, as is being open about alternative forms of sexual expression such as “moé” and “clopping.” However as media studies scholar Joanne Hollows reminds us “in every act of transgression there is always something, or someone, that is transgressed” and that often such acts of transgression are “only sustained by processes of ‘othering’ and it is always important to remain aware of who, and what, is being ‘othered’” often unintentionally. It is in this same vein that I have argued that the rise of Brony fandom, whether knowingly or not, has contributed to the “othering” of women and women’s entertainment in society so as to further promote the masculine as normative and superior.

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62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 What Kind of Otaku Are You?

63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0
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64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 Notes:

  1. 65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0
  2. Joe Strike, “Of Ponies and Bronies” Animation World Network (05 July 2011) http://www.awn.com/blogs/miscweant/ponies-and-bronies.
  3. Lauren Faust, “My Little NON-Homophobic, NON-Racist, NON-Smart-Shaming Pony: A Rebuttal” Ms. Magazine Blog (24 Dec. 2010) http://msmagazine.com/blog/2010/12/24/my-little-non-homophobic-non-racist-non-smart-shaming-pony-a-rebuttal/.
  4. Amid Amidi, “The End of the Creator-Driven Era in TV Animation” Cartoon Brew (19 Oct. 2010) http://www.cartoonbrew.com/ideas-commentary/the-end-of-the-creator-driven-era-29614.html and Amid Amidi, “How Cartoon Brew Spawned Bronies” Cartoon Brew (16 Jan. 2012).
  5. 4chan.org’s infamous status is based on the fact that it is both the birthplace of “wildly popular memes such as Lolcats” as well as the source of such unsavory activities as the 2014 celebrity photo leak scandal in which dozens of stolen nude selfies of hundreds of actresses, most notably The Hunger Games starlet Jennifer Lawrence, were released onto the internet for public viewing. Terrence McCoy, “4chan: The ‘shock post’ site that hosted the private Jennifer Lawrence photos” The Washington Post (02 Sept. 2014) http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/09/02/the-shadowy-world-of-4chan-the-shock-post-site-that-hosted-the-private-jennifer-lawrence-photos/.
  6. Nick Douglas, “What The Hell Are 4chan, ED, Something Awful, And “b”?” Gwaker (18 Jan. 2008) http://gawker.com/346385/what-the-hell-are-4chan-ed-something-awful-and-b.
  7. Una LaMarche, “Pony Up Haters: How 4chan Gave Birth to the Bronies” Beta Beat (03 Aug. 2011) http://betabeat.com/2011/08/pony-up-haters-how-4chan-gave-birth-to-the-bronies/.
  8. Daniel Nye Griffiths, “Colt success: My Little Pony’s reboot, Friendship is Magic” Weird.co.uk (15 Aug. 2011) http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2011/09/play/colt-success.
  9. A Brony Tale (Dir. Brent Hodge, 2014).
  10. Created by then 23-year-old college student Shaun Scotellaro in January of 2011, Equestria Daily is the largest and most popular Brony fansite, receiving between 175,000 to 300,000 hits daily, and serves as a portal site for all things related to Friendship Is Magic including news, episode reviews, and interviews with the cast and crew. It was also through Equestria Daily that Hasbro officially recognized the Brony community on May 27th 2011 when The Hub released a promotional video for the series called “Equestria Girls!” done in the style of a music video parodying pop-artist Katy Perry’s then hit song “California Girls!” The song features the lyrics; “Our Bronies, Hang out too, ‘Cause they know we’re awesome fillies.” The premier of this video was given to Equestria Daily, a day before the promo would air on TV. According to Scotellaro the e-mail he received from The Hub claimed that the reference to Bronies was done explicitly as a “tribute to our favorite Pony fans.” Scotellaro’s closing remarks on the original post featuring the debut of the video sums up the Brony fandom’s collective feelings of elation in reaction to this acknowledgement: “FAVORITE pony fans. Thats [sic] right guys, Hub knows about us!” See Shaun Scotellaro, “Premiere: Extended Equestria Girls” Equestria Daily (27 May 2011) http://www.equestriadaily.com/2011/05/extended-equestria-girls.html.
  11. Daniel Nye Griffith, “SOPA, Skyrim and My Little Pony – Infringement is Magic?” Forbes (19 Jan. 2012) http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielnyegriffiths/2012/01/19/skyrim-ponies-sopa/.
  12. Jeff McGinnis, “New film examines the adult fans of ‘My Little Pony’” Toledo Free Press (12 Feb. 2013) http://www.toledofreepress.com/2013/02/12/new-film-examines-the-adult-fans-of-%E2%80%98my-little-pony%E2%80%99/.
  13. Lauren Rae Orsini, “Researchers strive to understand brony culture” The Daily Dot (21 Feb. 2012) http://www.dailydot.com/society/bronies-brony-my-little-pony-study/.
  14. Patrick Edwards and Marsha Redden, “BRONY STUDY (Research Project) Study Results” Brony Study (21 Nov. 2013) http://www.bronystudy.com/.
  15. Melody Wilson, “D.C. ‘bronies’ feel the love and friendship of ‘My Little Pony’” The Washington Post (06 April 2012) http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/dc-bronies-feel-the-love-and-friendship-of-my-little-pony/2012/04/06/gIQAajwc0S_story.html.
  16. Melody Wilson, “D.C. ‘bronies’ feel the love and friendship of ‘My Little Pony’” The Washington Post (06 April 2012) http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/dc-bronies-feel-the-love-and-friendship-of-my-little-pony/2012/04/06/gIQAajwc0S_story.html.
  17. Matt Alt, “An Interview with Patrick W. Galbraith on Otaku Culture – Part One.” Neojaponisme. (22 May 2012) http://neojaponisme.com/2012/05/22/an-interview-with-patrick-w-galbraith-on-otaku-culture-part-one/.
  18. Amy C. Wilkins, Wannabes, Goths, and Christians: The Boundaries of Sex, Style, and Status (University of Chicago Press, 2008), 87.
  19. Articles from each of these outlets can be found in either the footnotes or bibliography of this essay respectively.
  20. Emily Manuel, “Welcome to the Herd: A Feminist Watches My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” Global Comment (25, Aug. 2011).
  21. T.L. Stanley, “A Brony gathering: SoCal men let their ‘My Little Pony’ flag fly” Los Angeles Times (19 April 2012) http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/showtracker/2012/04/bronies-let-their-my-little-pony-flag-fly.html.
  22. Interview with a Brony” NPR (25 Jun. 2011) http://www.npr.org/2011/06/25/137406751/interview-with-a-bronie.
  23. Hilary Stohs-Krause, “’Brony’ fandom carves out space for young men to enjoy friendship … and cartoon ponies” net: Nebraska’s NPR & PBS Stations (14, May 2013).
  24. John C. Lyden, “Whose Film Is It, Anyway? Canonicity and Authority in Star Wars Fandom.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 80, no. 3 (Sept. 2012): 781.
  25. Alex Alvarez, “Film Highlights Male My Little Pony Fans, but Draws Criticism” Fusion.net (6 Feb. 2013) http://fusion.net/culture/story/brony-documentary-draws-criticism-male-female-fans-7687.
  26. Lauren Rae Orsini, “Researchers strive to understand brony culture” The Daily Dot (21 Feb. 2012) http://www.dailydot.com/society/bronies-brony-my-little-pony-study.
  27. Ibid.
  28. The most notable examples of which are the websites Rule34.paheal.net and e621.net. When I began researching Bronies in 2013, Rule34.paheal.net hosted 53,731 images tagged “My Little Pony,” with 49,419 of those images tagged as featuring characters from “Friendship is Magic.” Since then that number has increased to over 64,889 sexually explicit images with the tag “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” Meanwhile e621.net surpasses Rule34.paheal.net with a total of over 82,469 images tagged “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,” though it should also be made clear that unlike Rule34.paheal.net, not all the images on e621.net are explicitly pornographic or even erotic, though most are. I am also certain that all numbers presented here will be completely irrelevant by the time ink hits printed page as the amount of erotic My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fan-art continues to grow at an astounding rate.
  29. Lauren Rae Orsini, “Researchers strive to understand brony culture” The Daily Dot (21 Feb. 2012) http://www.dailydot.com/society/bronies-brony-my-little-pony-study/ and Lauren Rae Orsini, “Brony psychology 101: What 2 researchers discovered” The Daily Dot (12 July 2012).
  30. Ibid.
  31. For claims that “cloppers” are a minority with the larger Brony fandom see Alexis McKinnis, “Alexis on the Sexes: I want a pony” Vita.mn (7 Sept. 2012) http://web.archive.org/web/20120918155608/http://www.vita.mn/162941186.html and Sadie Gennis, “Give Bronies a Break! In Defense of Adult My Little Pony Fans” TV Guide (31 Jul 2013) http://www.tvguide.com/News/Bronies-My-Little-Pony-Friendship-Magic-1068692.aspx. For claims that “cloppers” are a myth see Lane Moore, “I Went to a Brony Con on Valentine’s Day and Fell in Love” Cosmopolitan (14 Feb 2014).
  32. Tamaki Saitō, Beautiful Fighting Girl, trans. J. Keith Vincent (University of Minnesota Press, 2011), 83.
  33. Katie Toth, “Why Female My Little Pony Fans Are Exalted Among ‘Bronies’” The Village Voice (18 Feb. 2015) http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2015/02/new-york-city-ponycon.php.
  34. Emily Manuel, “Welcome to the Herd: A Feminist Watches My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” Global Comment (25, Aug. 2011) http://globalcomment.com/welcome-to-the-herd-a-feminist-watches-my-little-pony-friendship-is-magic/.
  35. Brian Truitt, “Female ‘Transformers’ come to the fore” USAToday (Apr. 23, 2015) http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/2015/04/23/transformers-female-characters/26236633/.
  36. Readers interested in the subject of female exclusion from fandom should seek out Victorian K. Gosling’s essay “No Girls Aloud” in Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World ed. Jonathan Grey, et al. (NYU Press, 2007) for a general overview of the topic. Readers interested in a more nuanced approach, with specific implications for Brony fandom, should seek out Joanna Hollows’ essay “The Masculinity of Cult” in Defining Cult Movies: The Cultural Politics of Oppositional Taste, ed. Mark Jancovich, et al. (UK and NY: Manchester University Press, 2003) in which Hollows specifically looks at male dominated fandoms based around material that is inherently feminine in nature. Hollows argues that because male fans wish to avoid the sigma of safe, domestic superficiality so often associated with women’s media they must actively reject the participation of female members so that such media may be “redeemed by the process of reclassification” (38). One of the chief ways fans discourage the participation of female fans, Hollows writes, is by populating the fandom with graphic male oriented, female objectifying, heterosexual pornography, which as we have already discussed is more than abundant within the Brony subculture. Doing this, writes Hollows, not only reinforces the masculinity of the institution of fandom by reconfirming its “illicit and ‘outlaw’ status,” both seen as fundamentally male attributes, but also serves as a means for members to display how truly masculine they are by “demonstrating how far or low you can go” with there being few routes one can go kinkier then admitting you masturbate to images of cartoon ponies from a children’s show (39-44).
  37. Cosplay is another Japanese loanword, a portmanteau of the English words “costume” and “play,” and refers to dressing up like a character from a your favorite comic, show, video game, or film.
  38. Henry Jenkins, “In Defense of Moé: An Interview with Patrick W. Galbraith (Part Six)” Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins (06 Feb. 2015) http://henryjenkins.org/2015/02/in-defense-of-moe-an-interview-with-patrick-w-galbraith-part-six.html.
  39. Quote from: Anne Allison, Millennial Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination (University of California Press, 2006), 131. In addition, the parallel between My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Power Rangers was also recognized by Dan Mintz who writes for the animated sitcom Bob’s Burgers (2014-Present) whose season four episode “The Equestranauts” pokes fun at Brony fandom with its own fictitious fandom, “the Equesticles,” who are adult men obsessed with a children’s TV show called “the Equestranauts” which as Robert Ham of Paste magazine observed is “a sort of hybrid of the cute ponies and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.” Robert Ham, “Bob’s Burgers Review: ‘The Equestranauts’” Paste (14 April 2014) http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2014/04/bobs-burgers-review-the-equestranauts.html.
  40. For Powerpuff Girls as an American “Magical Girl” show see Anne Allison, Millennial Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination (University of California Press, 2006), 158-159. For McCracken on the influence of Japanese pop-culture on the Powerpuff Girls see “Craig McCracken – Interviewed 2/24/02” Fridays: The Fansite (2001-2004) (24 Feb. 2002) http://www.nickandmore.com/archive/fridays/interviews-mccracken.html.
  41. “Comiket” is a portmanteau of the English words ‘Comic’ and ‘Market.’ See Tamaki Saitō , “Otaku Sexuality,” trans. Christopher Bolton, in Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science-Fiction from Origins to Anime, ed. Christopher Bolton, et al. (University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 228.
  42. The implication here is that such individuals don’t get out of their house much. Patrick W. Galbraith, Otaku Spaces (Seattle, WA: Chin Music Press Inc., 2012), 20.
  43. Matt Alt, “What Kind of Otaku Are You?” Neojaponisme. (02 April 2008) http://neojaponisme.com/2008/04/02/what-kind-of-otaku-are-you/.
  44. Matt Alt, “Can Otaku Love Like Normal People?” Neojaponisme. (07 April 2008) http://neojaponisme.com/2008/04/07/can-otaku-love-like-normal-people/.
  45. Patrick W. Galbraith, “Otaku Sexuality in Japan” in the Routledge Handbook of Sexuality Studies in East Asia, ed. Mark McLelland and Vera Mackie (New York, NY: Routledge, 2015), 208-209.
  46. Tamaki Saitō, Beautiful Fighting Girl, trans. J. Keith Vincent (University of Minnesota Press, 2011), 25-26.
  47. T.M. Luhrmann, Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), 336.
  48. Tamaki Saitō, Beautiful Fighting Girl, trans. J. Keith Vincent (University of Minnesota Press, 2011), 30.
  49. Patrick W. Galbraith, Moé Manifesto: An Insider’s Look at the Worlds of Manga, Anime, and Gaming (Ruthland, VT: Tuttle Publishing, 2014), 5-7.
  50. Ibid., 172.
  51. Hiroki Azuma, Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals, trans. Jonathan E. Abel and Shion Kono (University Of Minnesota Press, 2009), 42-44.
  52. Patrick W. Galbraith, Moé Manifesto: An Insider’s Look at the Worlds of Manga, Anime, and Gaming (Ruthland, VT: Tuttle Publishing, 2014), 121.
  53. Casey Baseel, “Daughter of Osamu Tezuka, God of Manga, discovers his stash of hand-drawn sexy mouse artwork” Rocket News 24 (29 Mar. 2014) http://en.rocketnews24.com/2014/03/29/daughter-of-osamu-tezuka-god-of-manga-discovers-his-stash-of-hand-drawn-sexy-mouse-artwork/.
  54. Patrick W. Galbraith, “Lolicon: The Reality of ‘Virtual Child Pornography’ in Japan” Image & Narrative 12:1 (2011) 106.
  55. Tamaki Saitō , “Otaku Sexuality,” trans. Christopher Bolton, in Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science-Fiction from Origins to Anime, ed. Christopher Bolton, et al. (University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 240.
  56. Fred Patten, “The Allure of Anthropomorphism in Anime and Manga” in The Japanification of Children’s Popular Culture: From Godzilla to Miyazaki, ed. Mark I. West (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2009), 46-48.
  57. Patrick W. Galbraith, Moé Manifesto: An Insider’s Look at the Worlds of Manga, Anime, and Gaming (Ruthland, VT: Tuttle Publishing, 2014), 179-180.
  58. Setsu Shigematsu, “Dimensions of Desire: Sex, Fantasy, and Fetish in Japanese Comics” in Themes in Asian Cartooning: Cute, Cheap, Mad, and Sexy, ed. John A. Lent (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1999) 131-132.
  59. For Saitō’s comments on otaku sexuality not being perverse see Tamaki Saitō, “Otaku Sexuality,” trans. Christopher Bolton, in Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science-Fiction from Origins to Anime, ed. Christopher Bolton, et al. (University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 245; for Bronies lack of interest in actual ponies see Shaun Scotellaro, “Pony Body Part Chart” Equestria Daily (17 June 2011) http://www.equestriadaily.com/2011/06/pony-body-part-chart.html. In addition, one of my interviewees, Paul from Atlanta, GA, told me: “I don’t really care for the look of real ponies… But I find them [the Friendship is Magic ponies] appealing because… they don’t have hooves, they have these weird little stumps and these little tiny nubby noses and the big giant anime eyes.”
  60. Henry Jenkins, “In Defense of Moé: An Interview with Patrick W. Galbraith (Part Two)” Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins (26 Jan. 2015) http://henryjenkins.org/2015/01/in-defense-of-moe-an-interview-with-patrick-w-galbraith-part-one.html and Patrick W. Galbraith, “Lolicon: The Reality of ‘Virtual Child Pornography’ in Japan” Image & Narrative 12:1 (2011) 106.
  61. For Saitō’s comment see Tamaki Saitō, “Otaku Sexuality,” trans. Christopher Bolton, in Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science-Fiction from Origins to Anime, ed. Christopher Bolton, et al. (University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 245; and for Volker Grassmuck see “‘I’m alone, but not lonely’: Japanese Otaku-kids Colonize the Realm of Information and Media: A Tale of Sex and Crime from a Faraway Place.” (Dec. 1990) http://www.cjas.org/~leng/otaku-e.htm.
  62. Tamaki Saitō, “Otaku Sexuality,” trans. Christopher Bolton, in Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science-Fiction from Origins to Anime, ed. Christopher Bolton, et al. (University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 241-245.
  63. Kirsten Cather, The Art of Censorship in Postwar Japan (University of Hawaii Press, 2012), 239.
  64. Hiroki Azuma, Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals, trans. Jonathan E. Abel and Shion Kono (University Of Minnesota Press, 2009), 89.
  65. Patrick Edwards and Marsha Redden, “BRONY STUDY (Research Project) Study Results” Brony Study (21 Nov. 2013) http://www.bronystudy.com/.
  66. Setsu Shigematsu, “Dimensions of Desire: Sex, Fantasy, and Fetish in Japanese Comics” in Themes in Asian Cartooning: Cute, Cheap, Mad, and Sexy, ed. John A. Lent (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1999) 132.
  67. Henry Jenkins, “In Defense of Moé: An Interview with Patrick W. Galbraith (Part Two)” Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins (28 Jan. 2015) http://henryjenkins.org/2015/01/in-defense-of-moe-an-interview-with-patrick-w-galbraith-part-two.html.
  68. Setsu Shigematsu, “Dimensions of Desire: Sex, Fantasy, and Fetish in Japanese Comics” in Themes in Asian Cartooning: Cute, Cheap, Mad, and Sexy, ed. John A. Lent (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1999) 132.
  69. Chris Giles, et al. “Pay Pressure” The Big Read (18 Sept. 2014) http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/ec422956-3f22-11e4-a861-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3Sc5pqafL.
  70. Patrick W. Galbraith, Moé Manifesto: An Insider’s Look at the Worlds of Manga, Anime, and Gaming (Ruthland, VT: Tuttle Publishing, 2014), 132.
  71. James Pethokoukis “Why the rise of cosplay is a bad sign for the U.S. economy” The Week (09 Oct. 2014) http://theweek.com/articles/443181/rise-cosplay-bad-sign-economy.
  72. Patrick Edwards and Marsha Redden, “BRONY STUDY (Research Project) Study Results” Brony Study (21 Nov. 2013) http://www.bronystudy.com/.
  73. James Pethokoukis “Why the rise of cosplay is a bad sign for the U.S. economy” The Week (09 Oct. 2014) http://theweek.com/articles/443181/rise-cosplay-bad-sign-economy.
  74. Patrick W. Galbraith, Moé Manifesto: An Insider’s Look at the Worlds of Manga, Anime, and Gaming (Ruthland, VT: Tuttle Publishing, 2014), 122.
  75. Another recent example of moé culture invading the US is hip-hop artist Pharrell Williams’ 2014 hit song “It Girl,” the music video for which combines elements of anime and Japanese “‘dating simulator’ games” and was produced by Murakami Takashi’s production company Kaikai Kiki. In both the song and video the “It Girl” to whom Pharrell’s affection is directed is a young anime girl; an “archetypal moé character.” See Matt Alt, “Pharrell Williams’s Lolicon Video” The New Yorker (15 Oct. 2014) http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/pharrell-williamss-lolicon-girl; for Galbraith’s comments on the parallels between “Bronies” and “otaku” see Jonathan B, “The Moé Manifesto Interview with Author Patrick W. Galbraith” Things To Do In LA (01 July 2014) http://www.ttdila.com/2014/07/the-moe-manifesto-interview-with-author.html.
  76. Henry Jenkins, “In Defense of Moé: An Interview with Patrick W. Galbraith (Part Two)” Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins (28 Jan. 2015) http://henryjenkins.org/2015/01/in-defense-of-moe-an-interview-with-patrick-w-galbraith-part-two.html.
  77. Patrick W. Galbraith, “Lolicon: The Reality of ‘Virtual Child Pornography’ in Japan” Image & Narrative 12:1 (2011) 116, footnote #10.
  78. Henry Jenkins, “In Defense of Moé: An Interview with Patrick W. Galbraith (Part Two)” Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins (28 Jan. 2015) http://henryjenkins.org/2015/01/in-defense-of-moe-an-interview-with-patrick-w-galbraith-part-two.html.
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