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SIMPSONVILLE, S.C.  — The My Little Pony series has expanded its target audience to grown men, and there is a group of guys in the Upstate who are super fans.

Taylor Bantag, Ethan Cowden and Jeffrey Stevens are “Bronies,” the title given to adult male fans of the hit show “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.”

The trio lives in Simpsonville. The popular series is about magical ponies living in Equestria and their adventures. In the late 1980s it was geared toward little girls. Now, the show has a large following of men.

My Little Pony

“We come to this show, a lot of us, because it’s bright and colorful – and in a kind of world where people my age are expected to play Call of Duty or Itty Gritty, or other bloody games, it’s kind of nice to have something that’s a bit more whimsical, a bit more colorful,” said Stevens, 21.

“I catch some flack from my friends,” said Bantag, 19.

“Definitely one of the most common things is people are like ‘Are you gay or something?’ No, I’m perfectly straight,” Stevens said.

Bronies across America are receiving national attention, thanks to a documentary streaming on Netflix that features them. Bronies are notorious for collecting merchandise inspired by the show, including pony dolls, clothing and other accessories.

The friends we spoke with said Bronies are often accused of being pedophiles – a claim they say is unfair and makes no sense. They say the fascination with the show comes first and foremost for the “beautiful” animation.

Bantag’s mother admits she had her doubts.

“I’ll be honest I was kind of a little concerned. But then he was like, ‘Mom, just please sit down and watch it and listen to the message that it sends,'” Rhonda Bantag said.

The show, Bronies said, promotes a message of unconditional acceptance and friendship, something each of them has always sought. They said they have found it in their subculture.

“We are pretty much just one big family and we take in all of the people that the rest of society doesn’t really want,” said Cowden, 21.

Bronycon, a convention for Bronies, will be held in Baltimore in August.

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