Big thanks to John W. Smith for making a joke on Facebook about Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans Of My Little Pony being available on Netflix Instant as a great way to start the new year. When Sarah said she had to watch something on that service for an FYA post, I carried that joke into the real world while we unpacked some dinner from Thai Passion, but no way did I think we'd end up actually watching the whole movie. But then there were all these close up faces of dudes in their 20s talking about how much they loved the ponies, and a little animated Pony University that got me up to speed on what the heck the new show was, and before I knew it I was hooked on bronies.
Ultimately, though, it was a pretty great little cultural studies doc, and a really interesting prism for looking at fandom in general. With Bruce Campbell's Fanalysis way back in 2002 we got to see the extreme side of fandom for things that we were typically fans of, and of course before that Trekkies famously explored one of the oldest fandoms that's ever been mocked. But I watched Star Trek - not as much as Devin did, but enough to know what it was and who the characters are - so there was a part of me with those films that had to admire the dedication that those fans took in letting their passions guide their hobbies so utterly and completely. The adult My Little Pony fandom gets made fun of soooooooo much online, though, and I'm not at all familiar with Friendship Is Magic (and didn't even know it was a thing, actually), so I had no idea what to expect these bronies to actually be like. At first I was disappointed that it wasn't a movie about dudes wanting to have sex with tiny plastic horses, because that would have made me feel much better about my own life, but instead I saw that, "Oh, shit. I don't think I'm that much different than these bronies after all..." I think because the subject matter makes it easier to see the tribe of fandom without getting caught up in the thing they were actually fans of.
And it turns out that a lot of bronies are actually really sweet. There's the teenage kid, Lyle, with a super conservative dad who basically shuts down and can't even really talk about his son watching a cartoon for little girls. There's the small town guy who gets his old school Mercedes' back window smashed in by the rednecks in his town after he puts a custom My Little Pony decal on it. And there's the couple in Europe who find each other before going to a meet up and discover that they both love making their own customized merch. Then there's The Living Tombstone, an Israeli DJ who makes remixes and gets hundreds of thousands of YouTube views for his stuff. Some dude who makes his own laser cartoons. And a guy with Aspergers who gets super uncomfortable when he has to just ask someone for directions to the BronyCon in Manchester.
Any one of them would be super easy to make fun of, if you're a big dumb bully, but in the end what I really liked about this doc is that I think it shows that a dork is a dork is a dork, ESPECIALLY when you're between the ages of 14 and 20 fucking years old. The difference between collecting My Little Pony plushies and spending hours painting the miniatures used in the old Hero Quest game that no one but your unappreciative little brothers will ever see is pretty fucking tiny. Not that I ever did that, nor ever played with my Nerf bow and arrow well into college...