‘Bronies’ Shows the Positives of Fan Cultures

A bit back I posted a Tweet looking for more light-hearted documentaries. Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony certainly fits that bill.

Laurent Malaquais’s 2012 documentary is about the fan culture that grew around an unlikely show: “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.” My Little Pony is a Hasbro toy franchise that started in the early 1980s and was marketed to little girls. The “extremely unexpected” part of the title refers to the primarily male fans, who identify themselves as “Bronies” in the opening talking-head montage.

While that unlikelihood could have been played as a spectacle throughout the documentary, Bronies is more about fans and fan cultures than about their extremes. It delves into how and why fans respond the ways they do. For younger boys such as Lyle in Maine and Daniel in England, the show gives them a group to connect and identify with. For artists such as The Living Tombstone and LaserPon3, the show becomes an inspiration for music and animation.

The documentary does raise questions about perceptions of masculinity and “proper” audiences for the show. Lyle’s father remains skeptical of the show and his son’s liking of it, and this tension becomes an opportunity at a convention for the two to meet another father who accepts and supports his son’s fandom of the show.

But the larger identification comes through the more universal messages presented in the show about friendship, acceptance, and understanding. Bronies also reach out into communities by raising money for charities such as through auctions at conventions.

The people behind the show explain more about its production and attempt to explain the somewhat baffling, if overwhelming, response. Show creator Lauren Faust explains her intentions behind it, while Tara Strong, voice artist for one of the main characters, connects with different groups, such as a military fans group.

The most recognizable figure, particularly in voice, is John de Lancie. Star Trek fans will recognize him from his role as mischevious Q in several of the spinoffs. Fittingly, he voices the character Discord on the show, which he plays off at first as an expected surprise to see how it has taken off.

Overall, Bronies is about the positives of fan cultures and how they enable people from around the world to connect both online and in person.

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