In most states, it’s not legal to fire someone on the basis of their sexual orientation or their racial, religious, or ethnic identity. But is it OK to lay off an employee because of his passion for online fandom? One redditor called “FiredBrony” claims it happened to him—all because of a My Little Pony desktop background on his work computer.
He says his boss terminated his employment after a series of “warnings” about his investment in MLP fandom, and that he was told his interest in a “show for girls” was making his coworkers uncomfortable. Maybe his behavior was weirder than he claims. Maybe just being a brony was enough to get him the axe.
It wouldn’t be the first time a fan has lost his job due to his fandom. Firsthand accounts and legends abound in fandom of employers refusing to tolerate employees’ hobbies or enthusiasm for various fandoms. Many fans desperately try to keep their fandom activities “in the closet” for just this reason, and for fear of the negative reactions they could receive from close friends and family members.
The negative reactions FiredBrony endured when he put a picture of Applejack, a popular character from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, on his computer desktop, is straight out of every fan’s nightmare scenario. In a post to r/mylittlepony titled “Whelp, I got fired yesterday for being a ‘Brony,’” FiredBrony related how his coworkers had teased and mocked him:
On Wednesday, some of my co-workers were talking about [Friendship Is Magic] and Brony culture. I tried to talk with them about it and I subsequently got mocked. It was a few guys against me which I thought was weird as I don't make fun of the stuff they like, but all the sudden it's cool to make fun of a tv show I like? Then on Thursday somebody (or somebodies?) had told some more people in the office about it and people started making little jabs in the hallway about liking shows for girls and stuff, I did nothing to bring this shit on, but they were letting me have it. Then yesterday my boss called me into his office, told me people were uncomfortable working with me (I do nothing but sit in my little hell-cube and do work all day, I hardly interact with anybody) and that they were going to have to let me go.
But while FiredBrony says he didn’t do anything unethical or alarming when he brought up his passion for the show, Redditors were quick to point out that he may have exercised poor judgment when he tried to relate to the boss’s 9-year-old daughter and their shared enjoyment of My Little Pony:
[I]t's take your child to work day. I bring my son in (he's more of a sports guy than me) and it's a good day. He talks with a couple of my co-workers (he's 10) about random sports stuff. My boss's daughter is 9 and she comes in wearing a Rainbow Dash shirt. As we were doing introductions, I told her I liked her shirt , something innocent the same way people go "those are some cool shoes" to a kid, nothing weird at all. After the day is done, my boss brings me into his office and confronts me about it, telling me again he thinks it's weird and to cut it out at work. I try to tell him it's no different than people pulling my son aside and talking about sports with him and stuff. But I oblige and for the next few months, didn't bring it up at all feeling now like my boss has it out for me.
Redditor silverpixiefly pointed out that this interaction, though it seemed harmless enough to the brony, might have alarmed his employer. “He doesn't have to come within fifteen miles of assuming [pedophilia] for the fear to affect how he sees the situation,” echoed Surander. “Just from OP's account, it sounds like he could have handled some things better… there might be lessons to learn here.”
The incident prompted considerable discussion about the hypocrisy of some shows—like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad—being more “acceptable” shows to be fannish about than others. "So you would rather I take joy in watching a bunch of people fuck, rape and kill each other over a special chair or a man with cancer make meth over a story learning about friendship and loving each other?" commented TheDarkKrystal.
While at-will termination means that bronies, alas, are not a protected class of employed workers, FiredBrony seemed to be positive about his prospects. “I have some other opportunities already coming up that pay better, have better hours and better benefits. So thanks,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, bronies continue to encounter tensions in their community over children and adults sharing the same spaces.
Maybe his boss should just be glad his employee never brought up clopping at work.
Photo via br0ny/deviantART