My name is Aaron Haaland, and I'm a brony. I could love the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic cartoon quietly, keep it in the stable without the label. It's not my little secret though. As the owner of Orlando's best comic shop, I need to stand in loyalty with my fellow bronies. Comic book shops have long been the taste testers of pop culture, so it's not uncommon to get generous recommendations for TV shows, movies or music inside their hallowed walls. When one of my best friends, the late Triforce Mike Pandel, honestly told me that the Hub's new My Little Pony incarnation would change my life, I listened. Now I feel the magic of these ponies' kindness and laughter. It makes me blush. It's not unmanly, it feels good man! I'm proud of what I love.
Why would I choose to love a cartoon aimed at young girls when I'm a grown-ass man? My job is dependent on being seen as an entertainment expert, but now people may just think of me as "that brony guy." Well, for me, loving quality in pop culture isn't a choice. I was born to enjoy an engaging story executed with self-aware humor and characters that grow and change with their worlds. Furthermore, these ponies embody the traits of real women. Therefore, I'm instinctively drawn to them. I see my wife in Fluttershy's caring and kindness. Sometimes she gets pushed into things she doesn't want, but push too hard, or cause harm to her friends, and she's a force of nature. Beyond that, I get uplifting lessons that aren't just for girls. I feel better after I watch a pony show than I did before I carved those 20 minutes out of my crazy life.
I challenge you to try My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Part of being an adult is deciding to like what feels right for you, not what's being marketed to you or what your peers may respect. You aren't going to be bullied like back in school. (I'm even told the public school system doesn't promote bullying as much as it used to.) Loving this show publicly helps you love yourself, and learning its lessons will make you a man who loves his friends better. After losing my friend Triforce Mike in a tragic accident, the show's catchphrase – friendship is magic – rings even more true. It's something everypony can relate to.
Aaron Haaland is owner of A Comic Shop (acomicshop.com), a repeat winner of the Best Comic Shop category in our Best of Orlando Readers Poll.