The Steady Decline
Alternatively, “Why is the fluffy fandom so different from before?”
With the first Fluffcast currently going on at the time of this post after what has been a prolonged hiatus, I decided to put out this opinion piece as one of the potential talking points is the fluffy pony fandom being very, very different today in contrast to its start. The person who
suggested this talking point was Andy, aka Rarifag, one of the hosts of Fluffcast back in the day. He had made his return to the fluffy pony fandom recently, but there was an observation he made:
“I’m noticing many modern stories have a default “poopie” and “bestest” baby in litters . Is it
something that just happens every time in fluffy litters? I don’t recall it being so universal.”
The problem with asking this question about the difference in the fandoms, as well as wondering
why certain negative tropes and ideas about fluffies became more popular over time, is because
there is no clear cut answer. During my time research fluffybooru while it was still online last year, I had found numerous bits and anecdotes that reflected the adoption of more negative tropes within fluffy headcanons and hivecanons, as well as a growing pessimism and negativity that reflected itself in the art on the booru. But the problem with giving an answer like this is that it is fairly subjective.
It can be acknowledged that the fluffy pony fandom now is a bit more active. But this wasn’t the
case at the start of January 2020. At the time, the booru barely had new content, with new art and
stories trickling in. There would even be some days without content. Of course, the Click brought
about a literal explosion of fans, which brought some new blood into the fandom, but that period
also saw the death of the booru. Some would argue that “the Click and redditors were responsible for the booru’s death”, but the problem with this statement is that it ignores the fact that booru was in decline over the years. And pinpointing the reasons behind it isn’t easy.
A while back, I assembled a gallery about how the fluffy pony fandom started, and later, wrote a
piece on its genesis from 4chan. Much of this observation as preserved thanks to people like @BKCatharsis and @meganonymous , as well as the anons who had preserved the many MLP threads on 4chan at the start of the fandom. Thus, and despite what some people might tell you, fluffies were NOT created to troll bronies, they were created BY bronies on 4chan. The information from these early threads, as well as the still existing Fall of Cleveland forums, all help to preserve a somewhat cohesive timeline of how the fluffy pony fandom started, what may influenced it, and from there, why the booru was started.
But anything after that is uncertain.
The first reason is obvious – the booru is gone. With the booru offline, all the dates and timestamps on comments on various images are gone. And as much as the comments on the booru were heavily vitriolic, some of the comments had the creators mind regarding some of the content they created, as well as other anecdotes. With this information gone, we now have an archive of art and stories that lacks context. This lack of context means that trying to understand why the fandom started developing more negative tropes over others, why it changes so much, will be difficult to explain.
But that’s not to say that there isn’t information about the period that hasn’t been preserved. We
have the testimonies of various people who had been active in the booru over the many years, and from there, bits of information that backs up certain testimonies should still exist through the
manner of screenshots and the like. This however goes into another problem, and that is that any
account of the history of the booru is going to be subjective due to the lack of information.
But what information is known? What bits of booru history, what anecdotes, and what ideas have
been suggested that mark the various influences on the history of the booru and, from there,
contributed to its slow decline?
There is an image by Squeakyfriend that shows a contrast between a smarty and a innocent fluffy, and from there, an abuser anon deciding to abuse them both anyway. In the comments of this image, it was mentioned by Squeakyfriend that this image was created at a time when there was a discussion about the prevalence of bad fluffies or smarties. Given that this was a period when a certain copypasta was circulated on the fluffy abuse threads on /b/, it could be theorized that there was a push for more negative depictions of fluffies. This is the famous “hellgremlin” theory, which can be attributed to @Foxhoarder as she came up with the term. And there is some basis to it, as more negative depictions of fluffies, and fluffies behaving badly, became noticeable after the 2015 period or so, as Foxhoarder puts forth in her account.
The problem with the Hellgremlin theory is that it assumes that depictions of fluffies with negative traits, or doing bad things, was not prevalent before. And thing is, they had existed before. Carpdime had drawn art, as early as 2014, of fluffies acting selfishly, and doing selfish things. The character of Nasir’s Maroon, a unicorn who embarked on a genocide of non-unicorns, existed before the hellgremlin term was coined. The idea of fluffies having negative traits, or acting with certain prejudices in mind, isn’t exactly new. It could be argued that there was a surge in content about fluffies acting badly, but the writer is of the opinion that is not specifically this kind of content that led to the decline.
2ch.ru & /b/
In the comments on the Fluffybooru butthurt advisory system, @Menthol and @General_Lemon mentions the influx of
Russians users in the early days of fluffybooru, most of who were known to be heavy abusers. There is some basis to this statement as abuse artists like Quickhorn, Shaferaraks and Egor Alexeev were all Russian. Even Artist-kun, who pushed for Russian hugbox week, to show that the Russian users weren’t all abusive, was still well-known for doing abuse. Even Russian_Hugboxer, who was an exception to the rule, heavily drew animal abuse in response to fluffy abuse, and also drew sexual relations between fluffies and humans. Another place that has been blamed for the influx of more trolls and shitposters is 4chan’s /b/, as fluffy abuse threads used to be quite common on the board. And yet, while there seems to be some basis these statement, the problem is that it feels like an exaggeration to say that a decline of the booru would be just because of any one particular place.
A third possible reason for the decline of the booru is that the culture of the booru got more toxic and negative as time went on, not only because of outside factors, but also because certain narratives kept being pushed regarding fluffies. It has to be accepted that abuse has been a part of the fluffy pony fandom from the beginning. Gingerfig and mwike were among the earliest artists that specialized in fluffy pony abuse, and talk about abusing fluffies was as prevalent as talk about seeing their cuteness. However, the thing about the early fluffy fandom was that there was a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect among the different creators. In the comments of one of the images where Gingerfig expressed his view of fluffies as to be hated for being an invasive species, Gingerfig mentioned that he had respect for Marcusmaximus, one of the earliest hugboxers, as a fellow artist. In the early days of the booru, there was a lot of gift art done for other artists (such as the fanart of Gowdie’s Bean by Black-Dragon-Blood and Santanon)
However, and as time went on, people started doing less tribute art to each others fluffy OCs. If any tributes were made, it was to their abuse, non-fluffy OCs, and as time went on, there seem to be this air of cynicism. After all, who want to do art of fluffies if they were meant to be hated, or only existed for abuse? A culture of shitposting and shit-editing other peoples work had existed on the booru since the beginning, as time went on, people grew more attached to the non-fluffy aspects instead of fluffies themselves. Which is why its not surprising to me that people complain about some pictures on the booru, and even on this site, complain about pictures of abuser OCs “without fluffies in them”. If fluffies aren’t special, or existed purely for abuse and suffering, who would want to make or focus on them? This is also why, in this writer’s opinion, jellenheimers got so popular among the reddit crowd, especially Clickers, in Summer of 2020. If having to choose between the “stinky” fluffy and the “cool” Jellenheimer who can teleport behind you (nothing personnel, kid), of course you’d pick the Jellenheimer. But of course, the problem with this approach is not that there was any less hugbox towards the latters parts of the booru. Muffin did join fluffybooru at the end of 2019, and Pinkyfluffy had remained as one of the most stalwart hugboxers in the history of the booru. While I am of the opinion that the booru had become more cynical and too accepting of abuse, this is not to say that there wasn’t hugbox.
In short, I cannot safely say what is the cause of the decline of the booru, and a sudden change in
the fluffy fandom. I can only theorize, and bits of information exist, but the most that we can rely on is speculation, and subjective testimony.