Movies: Bronies

So this is a documentary about the men who enjoy My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. I use the word "men" loosely, though, since most of the subjects followed throughout the documentary were boys and young men.

I wanted to see this because I was hoping to better understand what drew Bronies to the show. But I don't feel I received a satisfactory answer. It was all very general, a sort of, "Well, the show is about having friends and makes me feel good." There are a lot of shows about having friends, and probably a number of them that could make a person feel good, so . . . Why this show? A cartoon about ponies?

The Bronies averred that the writing, animation, and voice acting in MLP:FIM is all "top notch." I think they're probably a little biased. I find the animation and voice acting passable, and the story lines sometimes quite weak.

Oh. Do I watch MLP? Well, my three kids do, and I sometimes join them. I grew up playing with My Little Pony—my best friend and I made up great stories with them—and I remember the 80s cartoon and the movies from that era. My daughter has claimed all my original ponies and has quite the collection of FIM ponies as well. And my sons also find the show engaging, though my 8-year-old would never admit it. Still, when it is on, it's not as if he goes to find something else to do.

Okay, but back to Bronies. From the small pool of guys they chose to follow for the documentary, I noticed they all had few to no friends. Now, I don't know that for sure, but that was certainly the sense that was given—and maybe it's just they didn't want their friends to know about their Pony habit, but then again, they're in a freaking documentary for Christ's sake, so it's gonna get out. Anyway, what I extrapolated from the data given is that these lonely young men are drawn to MLP:FIM because the show makes them feel part of the friendship. And then they go online and find others like themselves and start to feel connected in ways they don't in their day-to-day lives.

It's not a bad thing. I'm just saying MLP fills a need for these men.

Is there a stigma for these Bronies? I don't know any in life, unless they are closeted . . . And it seems that any contempt may depend largely on one's immediate environment and culture. In the film, one boy named Lyle has a very "conservative" father who has trouble accepting his son's enthusiasm for a little girl's show. A young man named Alex lives in Appalachia and is subject to physical threats when he puts Pony memorabilia on his car. The overarching slur seems to be that boys and men who like MLP must either be gay or pedophiles. There is a whole argument regarding the genderfication of childhood here, but I don't feel like getting started on that.

I do wish Bronies had perhaps talked to a few more girls and women about how they feel about boys who like their stuff. I realize that wasn't the point of the film—the point was to examine the boys and their points of view. But there were a lot of girls at this BronyCon from what I could see, and I want to know why, and what they think of these guys "appropriating" something designed for them. Not that I think these girls would be angry or slanderous; they seem generous in their own rights. But the fact that something only becomes important enough to look at once boys are interested? If only girls were attending these conventions, there wouldn't be a movie. Right?

What I really want to know is: Do the girls think these guys are weird? Or are they happy these guys are sharing their enjoyment?

Because I have minor in fan psychology, I find the fan interactions with the text most interesting. That these guys make music and write stories and do Pony art . . . And MLP is great for that kind of thing because anyone can create a pony identity for him- or herself and join the world of Equestria in this idealized form. (I'd love someone to make me a pony. I'm useless with art, but if some of my characters could become ponies? That would be awesome.)

I guess, though, what gave me a skewed view of the whole Bronies documentary was that it was produced by Lauren Faust and that John de Lancie was the one to come up with the idea for the film. That knowledge made this feel far more biased and propaganda-ish. I don't think they mean it that way, of course; I honestly think de Lancie et al. mean well in that they want these Bronies and other MLP fans to be comfortable with themselves. But let's be honest: When fans are happy and feel accepted, they buy stuff. And if the fandom is more widely accepted, the fan base grows, and . . . Even more stuff gets sold. So a documentary like this is in the interest of the show and its creators.

On the whole, it was interesting but ran a bit too long and, as I mentioned, didn't really answer any key questions regarding why the Bronies are so drawn to the show, which is what I really wanted to know.


Christine Rains said...

Keith and I watched this a few weeks ago. It didn't really keep my attention. Like you, I felt it was too long and I didn't find the answers as to why these guys love the show so much. Yet years ago, I knew tons of guys who were really into Sailor Moon... but at least that had girls in short skirts!

M said...

It's less surprising to me when guys like anime. As you say, Christine, girls in short skirts . . . But ponies?