Male bonding over pony tales
An animated kids' show about ponies and friendship has become a worldwide phenomenon - so much so that adults are jumping on the bandwagon too.
Grafton's Liam Shelley is a brony - an older fan of the show My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic - and says he has met his closest friends through it.
The show has spawned websites and conventions.
There's even a documentary about its adult fans, A Brony Tale, which screened at Auckland's Documentary Edge Festival.
Liam says he used to ride horses when he was 10 but that's not what drew him to the show.
"It's always the people. It was a long time before I actually met [other fans] because I lived out in the Coromandel countryside. Then I came to university and there were so many more."
The show started in 2010 when Liam was 15.
"At the time I was really into gaming and stuff, then eventually it just started becoming not that interesting for me.
"I started getting back into equestrian, horse riding and then I saw this one website that just showed off a big image gallery of all these ponies - the show had just started in America. And then I was like ‘oh this is interesting, horses and stuff' and then I found all the jokes really funny.
"For a long time I wouldn't watch the show," the 19-year-old continues. "It's really difficult to get into, to begin with. The first few episodes are pretty cringe-worthy.
"I watched it the first time and thought ‘oh crap' and turned it off immediately. I tried again, got through the theme song and bam, it took off."
The English and computer science student says he talks to other bronies online and spots plenty of people around the city wearing My Little Pony T-shirts.
Bronies become instant friends, Liam says, and it has given him the confidence to put himself out there.
But there are the antagonisers, known online as trolls.
"The people are always friendly. You do get the occasional troll but none of them are particularly terrible.
"Some of the trolls are bronies but some of them just like to bait and annoy us for the fun of it. It's usually nothing too terrible."
He says his family and friends think bronies are cool.
"They've all been accepting, you see so many horror stories on the internet like when people just don't understand it but that's generally in America. In New Zealand everyone seems OK with it."
Some bronies collect figurines - Liam owns five and a couple of plushies.
The show's fourth season just ended and Liam says fans are already chomping at the bit for new episodes.
Liam knows many will be confused by the phenomenon but says people should give it a go.
"Don't judge what you haven't tried."
See bronythemovie.com for more information on the documentary.
Auckland City Harbour News