Guys and Dolls

What do My Little Pony and Star Trek have in common? More than you think, says actor John de Lancie

Guys and Dolls
John de Lancie played Q on Star Tre: The Next Generation

John de Lancie wants to dispel a few myths about “bronies.”

“First of all,” says the former Star Trek actor, “they are not a bunch of homosexuals who are living on food stamps in their parents’ homes, which is the way the less-than-enlightened media has chosen to portray them, because it makes for good copy to people who find that interesting.”

Bronies, for the uninitiated, are the 20- to 30-something males who’ve wholeheartedly embraced the animated television series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Their devotion is such that several themed conventions have sprung up in New Jersey, California and here in Washington.

As convention attendance has increased, however, so has public curiosity. Bronies have become a subject of condescending or bemused fascination on account of their enjoyment — with an unfashionable lack of irony — of a TV show aimed at a very different demographic.

De Lancie, who appears in Spokane this week to speak at Interplayers Theatre, discovered bronies through his professional involvement in the My Little Pony series. He voices the scheming antagonist Discord, who, incidentally, is modeled on de Lancie’s mischievous character Q from multiple Star Trek spinoffs. After the contemporary My Little Pony reboot aired in 2010, he began receiving e-mails with questions about the show that clearly were not coming from its target audience.

“I came from knowing nothing and found myself quite interested in the notion that these were 20-year-old guys willing to brave the ridicule that society dishes out to be interested in a show that is about being kind, being generous, being loyal … because [the show] was aimed at 10-year-old girls,” de Lancie says. “I don’t know if I would have had the balls to admit that.”

This past June, de Lancie overcame his own reservations and attended BronyCon in New Jersey, along with more than 4,000 other participants. About a month before the event, he set up a Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary that would be filmed at the convention.

“I wanted to give [bronies] breathing space so they weren’t continually being defined by the news,” he says, “before they get identified by people who have actually no interest in community, who are highly agenda- and ideologically driven.”

The Kickstarter campaign raised more than $300,000, making the proposed documentary the second-most-funded film in the funding platform’s history. Following recent test screenings and feedback, de Lancie says it will be released in the next six weeks under the title, Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony.

One thing the film makes clear is that the act of identifying yourself as a brony isn’t a camp gimmick, de Lancie notes. Rather, it “creates community.”

“It’s just a ticket to get in under the tent, in the same way that Star Trek created a way to get in under the tent — and that tent was sci-fi, which at the time was considered quite silly, and now it’s become the norm,” he says.

De Lancie acknowledges that his outspokenness on behalf of bronies has made him an unofficial ambassador of the group, but he’s pleased with what they represent.

“The world is changing, and My Little Pony in its tiny little way is helping people understand what it is to be tolerant, to listen, to go one step further than your immediate reaction,” he says. 

A Q&A with Q • Fri, Nov. 23, at 7:30 pm • Flying without a Net: How to Survive in an Insecure Business • Sat, Nov. 24, at 7:30 pm • Interplayers Theatre • 174 S Howard St. • $30, or two tickets for $50 • • 455-7529

Dreamworks Animation: The Exhibition — Journey From Sketch to Screen @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 11
  • or

About The Author

E.J. Iannelli

E.J. Iannelli is a Spokane-based freelance writer, translator, and editor whose byline occasionally appears here in The Inlander. One of his many shortcomings is his inability to think up pithy, off-the-cuff self-descriptions.