A Brony Tale, a new documentary directed by Brent Hodge, takes an inside look at the flourishing community of “bronies,” a fandom that is challenging gender roles and society’s expectations.
The Brony Phenomenon
For those who don’t know, a brony is an adult, male fan of the animated show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. While the show is targeted at young girls, these unexpected fans have created an entire subculture around the children’s cartoon and made it their own. Many bronies go beyond simply watching the show, creating original artwork, fan fiction, and music. Websites such as Equestria Daily provide a space for these original creations, as well as a supportive community in which these fans can connect and interact.
The brony phenomenon has grown so large that BronyCon, an annual fan convention celebrating all things My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, has drawn over 8,000 attendees from around the world. The convention features show guests, vendors, screenings, contests, and more, and many fans attend in cosplay. While those who attend may not be the most conventional group, BronyCon demonstrates how My Little Pony fans are welcoming of all different people, living up to the show’s values of community and acceptance.
‘A Brony Tale’
A Brony Tale premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, and has been playing in select theaters starting July 8th.
Brent Hodge’s documentary follows the journey of voice actor Ashleigh Ball, who voices the My Little Pony characters Applejack and Rainbow Dash, when she is invited to the 2012 BronyCon in NYC. While her first introduction to the fandom leaves Ball understandably bemused and even creeped out, the film charts her progress as she gets to know the people who form the brony community. These adults are open-minded, enthusiastic, and un-ironically love a colorful children’s cartoon about ponies.
In our culture there is a stigma attached to men who fail to live up to standards of masculinity, and the brony fandom tackles this issue head on. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic itself sends a message of equality and the acceptance of differences, with its inclusion of characters who defy traditional feminine gender roles such as the bold, athletic Rainbow Dash. It is therefore fitting that the fans who rally around this show demonstrate a similar defiance of gender roles, challenging our society’s conceptions of what can or cannot be enjoyed by men and women.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic may seem like a simple children’s cartoon no different from any other, but its ability to prompt such a progressive and open-minded fan base has set it apart. The brony phenomenon demonstrates the power a fandom can hold, and the good that it can do in upholding values and inspiring creativity. A fandom like the brony community can provide a supportive space in which people can feel comfortable being themselves, and the attention this group has received can prompt us to question just what it is that our society sees as ‘wrong’ about such a refusal to conform to gender roles.