Kyle J. Steenblik

The Bronie Documentary is marebidly fascinating, and endearing.

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My-little-pony-friendship-is-magic-mlpfim-wallpaperBronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony is a fully effective documentary that manages to explain a subject perplexing to many. 

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a high quality show, that fact alone should render the side effect of an unexpected fan base unsurprising.  However, to find out that there is a sizeable demographic far outside the expected or target demographic is nonetheless surprising.  Especially when it turns out adult males are avid fans of a show originally intended for young girls.  That idea challenges some pretty long-standing conceptions of gender and age segregations in media.  That is exactly what this documentary illustrates in a surprisingly entertaining package, with John de Lancie leading the charge (as both narrator and executive producer).  It left me with many of my own lifelong notions of gender equality in media challenged and, in some respects evolved.

Typically, when reviewing a movie or television program this is where I would give you a nice synopsis about the show.  However, this being a documentary, what it’s about is right out front.  It’s about the unexpected adult male fans of My Little Pony, and why it is a good thing.  Instead, I’ll now just talk about what I learned, and my thoughts on the subject.

To start off, I like the show.  I watch it with my kids; I find it incredibly well written in a way that appeals to both my son and daughter, and my wife and me.  We all enjoy it, a great deal.  I, along with several other WPR staff, skirt the Bronie issue by justifying our viewership as bystanders to our children.  By hiding behind the banner of simply enjoying it alongside them, but not without them, we were safe.  From what, you may be asking, or should be asking, were we safe?  Being Bronies, why this concerned us is beyond me, most of us freely admit to being fans of anime, which is really the same thing.  It is animation intended for children, what we as adults appreciate and enjoy.  Looking back on this, the only reason I can think of, well there are a few reasons, but primary among those is our age.  We are all 25-35 years old.  We were children when My Little Pony first became a thing, and that was definitely a girl thing.  Liking girl things 25-30 years ago, as a boy, could get you hurt.  In many ways, it can still get you hurt, depending on where you live.  As my memory serves, I, and many friends, was able to skirt this issue with various excuses.  “I really don’t mind Jem, but I really only watch it because I was waiting for G.I. Joe.”  (You see kids, in those days we didn’t have DVRs, or more than 5 channels, you watched what was on.)  There were dozens of excuses, you just had to be careful, you didn’t LIKE Jem, but you didn’t really mind it, it was “OK” for a girl show.  Where we are now is really just the natural evolution of gender neutrality.  There are no more girl shows, and boy shows.  My kids don’t even understand that concept; they just like what they like.  That was really the first true revelation that this documentary drove home.  I am also happy to say, that was not the last thing I realized.

This does not simply represent a tempering of gender equality, or neutralization in media.  It represents a tempering of “traditional” societal gender roles.  Boys and men should be allowed to fully embrace the more feminine qualities they are typically denied.  I wish you could hear how strange this sounds in my own head.  It is butting up against a wall of hard manly stubble that screams never to show any emotional weakness.  It is unfortunate, but it is for that very reason this documentary needed to be made.  These are not deviants, or damaged people, if anything they are more undamaged than many of us.

My final realization is not a new revelation, but a reminder.  Geek culture is fragmented, and far too often harshly judgmental.  We accept those within our individual sects unquestioningly, but those outside, not so much.  We can be intolerably cruel, and unjustifiably judgmental.  Far too often, we forget that being a geek is to throw yourself into what you love with unbridled passion.  We obsess, and collect, and gather in mass to share our love and passion with our friends.  My obsessions, and passions are not the same as yours, and that is fine.  I will share mine, you will share yours, and maybe we can agree that ponies are pretty cool, especially Pinkie Pie.

There you have it, my overall reaction, and self-realization, after watching Bronies.  Do I think of myself now as a bronie?  No.  I am a fan of the show, and will watch it willingly with my kids.  Would I watch it alone?  Maybe, but only until G.I. Joe comes on.

Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony, gets 8 out of 10 hooves up, it is thought provoking, entertaining, and worth your time.  You can find it streaming on Netflix now.

 

In early 2012, John de Lancie discovered that he had been flooded with hundreds of e-mails almost overnight for his portrayal of the mischevious villain Discord in Friendship is Magic. Oddly enough, all of the mail seemed to be coming from adults! This was when he discovered Bronies for the first time, and the concept of such a unique demographic forming around a TV show fascinated him to no end. As the fandom grew, so did his curiosity. Seeking to learn more about this phenomenon, he joined forces with producer Michael Brockhoff to create a documentary, and in the process answer essential questions about the Bronies: who they were, where they came from, and what they aimed to do.

With show creator Lauren Faust and voice actor Tara Strong onboard, they raised support on crowdfunding site Kickstarter and became the second most funded documentary project in the site’s history.

– See more at: http://www.bronydoc.com/

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