…a largely online community, there is no geographic barrier for those wishing to participate. Many Bronies prefer the online presence of the Brony community because it is a way to retain anonymity and avoid potential stigma… Bronies come from all walks of life but are predominantly men from the age of 15 to 35; they are typically educated and single…The phrase, ‘I’m going to love and tolerate the shit out of you,’ is common in Brony media and communication, and it exemplifies the Brony characteristic of inclusion.
They’ve also been accused of being alt-right, but then most people have.
Regardless, it’s clearly a subculture which can offer solace and comfort to those who feel out of step with normal life. However, it can also be argued that it infantilises adults and, coupled with it being a visible online identity, leads to a small (but prominent) set of people with genuine problems using it as a means by which their mental degeneration is legitimised while the real world looks away.
Which ties in, to an extent, with Hypnopony.
Told exclusively through instant messenger conversations, Hypnopony tells the tale of four teenagers who identify as ponies, so much so that one makes audio files that act as relaxation/revelation podcasts about shedding your human body and unleashing your inner pony. What immediately becomes clear is that two of the participants, Cotton Wisp and Bumble Hugs, are in a relationship and they are clinging onto this notion of hypnoponyism to imagine a world outside of their small town where they don’t have to disguise the fact that they’re gay.
Older readers may find the initial premise too daft to overcome but, when you look past this, it’s a tale of small towns holding back big dreamers.
Of course, such stories are ten a penny, but they work so well because the big dreamers are normally passionate, all-or-nothing types who face adversity and either break out or die trying. This double-edged dichotomy is illustrated perfectly in Hypnopony through the conversations between Cotton Wisp and Bumble Hugs, as it is made it clear that the two of them are trapped and suppressed teenagers, pondering the meaning of life while yearning to escape their surroundings for a utopia that (in teenage eyes) seems just out of reach but (in adult eyes) doesn’t exist.
There are also hints throughout that something awful happened, due to the use of “official” language normally found in government files here and there, but the narrative refuses to come down one way or the other as to who this official is. It could be an intelligence agent. It could be an academic. As a result, this ambiguity leaves the reader uncertain whether to view the whole escapade as a slow-motion train wreck or a teenage misunderstanding that got out of hand.
Using faceless technology to tell a very human story, Hypnopony is a triumph.
Stuart Buck, 2021, Hypnopony. Self published.
⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.