Yes, The FedEx Shooter Was A Brony. And Yes, The Brony Fandom Needs To Talk About It.
For those who do not know, I am a brony — or a male who is a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. This is something that I and Brandon Scott Hole, the now infamous FedEx shooter, have in common. According to reports, his FaceBook page was nothing but ponies, with him even going so far as to say this just before his massacre:
I hope that I can be with Applejack in the afterlife, my life has no meaning without her. If there’s no afterlife and she isn’t real then my life never mattered anyway.
Obviously, this man was mentally ill, however, the obsession with a cartoon is a problem much of the fandom suffers from. Just look at how big of a fandom Friendship Is Magic has, and how independent it is especially compared to other cartoon fandoms. Nobody could imagine a convention of only, for example, Spongebob Squarepants fans, yet bronies have several conventions a year dedicated to themselves.
Friendship Is Magic was never high in the ratings department, but it was kept alive through a dedicated fanbase willing, not only to watch the show, but also to spend a large amount of money on the merchandise. There are even people who only watch Friendship Is Magic as their only animated show, or even their only piece of fiction in general. (I know this for a fact because, at one point in my life, I was one of them.) One only needs to look at the large number of collectors you can find online for this show — and especially this show — when compared to collectors for any other show.
There is, for lack of a better term, a “brony community.” A community of people all united by their enjoyment of this show, which is rather rare in culture. Even the “nerdiest” fans of Star Trek or Star Wars had to go to a “Comic Convention” or a “Science-Fiction Convention” instead of just a “Star Trek Convention” or a “Star Wars Convention”. Yet, there are no general “Animation Conventions” (nor even “Hasbro Conventions”), just “Brony Conventions.”
To really give you an idea of just how odd that is, look at another cult-classic television show, Mystery Science Theater 3000. This is a show so popular that it had two Kickstarters, one earning $5.7 million and another that’s still ongoing and passed its goal within a couple of days. In spite of this, the fandom has only ever engaged in two conventions — one of which occurred in 1994 and the other occurred in 1996 — both of which had about 2,500 guests.
Much of the brony fandom is obsessed with their favorite show, which is especially the case for people with mental illness (through no fault of their own). Now, I’m not here to connect the dots and tell you that you personally caused the FedEx shooting by not liking enough shows, but it is something to think about. Is it the best idea to have a fandom so big around one piece of programming? Is it healthy for many of its members to like few if any pieces of media similar to it? I don’t know, I’m not a psychologist nor a sociologist, but there certainly is a conversation to be had.
However, much of the community seems to be afraid to have any such conversation. Here’s Sethisto writing in Equestria Daily on 4/16/2021 after this news broke:
This is still all under heavy investigation, but for now, be prepared for some potential blowback once the news starts breaking out into the wider internet. The Wallstreet Journal did bring up the “far-right” side of the fandom that caused a stir last year, though they could not find any correlation between the two.
Okay, and I can’t believe I have to say this, but when a madman shooter is in your fandom your biggest concern shouldn’t be “potential blowback” from the media, it should be finding out what caused it and stopping it from happening again. But the brony community is afraid to have that conversation, which is especially a shame because it could be costing people their lives.