How do you prepare your students for your first test? I show my students this:
The video is, to be sure, ridiculous. The word Bronies and the very idea of grown men watching My Little Ponies is silly (meant in the least pejorative sense of the word).
However, the video is a great opportunity to talk about nearly countless sociological concepts; making it a great way to study for an intro test.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Bronies
To be honest I had only intended to talk about gender roles and norms, but as my students started critically analyzing the clip I got out of the way and let them run with it. Gender roles, statuses, values, norms, symbolic interaction, presentation of self, deviance, sanctioning, gender policing, failed performances, protecting the performer, homophobia, heteronormativity, sexuality, and sub-cultures were all brought up in our discussion of this video.
As they brought up new aspects to the discussion I would chime in with the sociological concept they were talking about. For instance when a student said, “No one sweats it when a girl plays with G.I. Joes, but heaven forbid a boy enjoys barbies or ponies. It’s like everyone’s waiting to point the finger at the sissy (she put this in air quotes).” “Sociologists call that gender policing,” I interjected.
The Bronies were a hot discussion topic. Students were falling over themselves to get the next word in. Bronies are an atypical class topic, but a sociologically loaded one.
I’m most proud of how my students dissected the name Bronies. “It’s like they had to ‘man up’ the name.” said one astute student. “Yeah, even though they are fans of a girly show they sure seem spend a lot of time talking about their manhood,” added another. We flipped through the myriad Brony pics found online and my students quickly pointed out how misogynistic many of the captions were. We concluded that for being an atypical expression of masculinity many Bronies are quick to reaffirm hegemonic masculinity.
3rd Person Self-Reflection
When students watch the reactions of the teens in this video they have the opportunity to analyze reactions that they themselves would most likely have. This provides a pedagogical side door to teach self-awareness and critical self-analysis.
“What do you think about the reactions these teens had to Bronies?” is the question I lead with after the video ends. “They’re closed minded,” blurts out one student. “Yeah, they were really harsh,” says another. “Why do they care so much what other people like? I mean it’s not for me, but if you dig it, so what?” The students were largely pro-Brony and they eviscerated the teens criticism showcased in the video.
After we have thoroughly dissected the reactions of the teens in the video I turn the conversation back toward them. “When I was watching you watch the video I noticed a lot of you scrunched up your face in what looked like disgust, confusion, or revulsion,” I try to show them their reflection gently, but many of the students sit back in the chairs and folder their arms in defense. “Your body language seemed to be communicating to your classmates, ‘I’m no Brony! I wouldn’t be caught dead watching that show!’ What do you think about your own reactions?”
The students were surprisingly open to self-reflection and I think it’s because we had already analyzed the teens reactions. This video provided a sort of 3rd person self reflection. The students could see themselves in the teens and subsequently they could critically analyze their own thoughts/beliefs without being forced to claim them in front of their peers. I’d love to tell you I planned that, but it was more of a happy accident.
Analyzing videos like this is an excellent way to teach your students that sociology is not just a collection of random facts to be memorized and regurgitated on test days. Bronies teaches us that sociology exists EVERYWHERE. Unlike other disciplines, sociology is insanely useful in the day-to-day. I end our analysis with, “If you are able to see the sociological in the world around, even in videos about Bronies, you will almost certainly ace next week’s test.”
After class another student emailed me this video where Bronies react to Teens React to Bronies. They self-proclaimed Bronies were much less misogynistic than the images we saw in class. So I don’t want to paint the Brony community out to be monolithic. You could say there is a lot of divers-orny within the Bronies. Sorry couldn’t help myself 🙂 ↩