A Brony Tale , released in 2014 by producer Morgan Spurlock, who brought us Super-Size Me, explores the phenomenon of Bronies. Brony: A typically middle-aged male fan of children's TV series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Yes, you read the above correctly. These people do exist. A Brony Tale follows Ashleigh Ball, a singer and more importantly the voiceover artist for, you guessed it, two My Little Pony characters. Ashleigh, through the help of her filmmaker friend, director Ben Hodge, learns of the Brony phenomenon and gradually so do we. Ball travels to New York City as a guest of honor for the annual Bronycon event.
These poor voiceover artists. I've never been a voiceover artist myself but I can imagine that one of the perks of the vocation is not having anyone know who you are. The Bronies enthusiasm for fictional pastel ponies is bizarre and at the same time infectious. Ashleigh Ball is idolized like a God and we see her struggle with the notion that she may, in fact, be somewhat famous. To add to the fact that she voices two of the ponies, her personality is so bright and bubbly she is like a real life My Little Pony herself AKA. Stalker bait. Ball’s role in the production is a little too polished for my taste - like someone is feeding her dialogue, but her purpose is to represent “us”, the audience, and mimicking our very reactions to the weird and wonderful facets of Brony life.
"A long way from Equestria" Something that struck a chord with me was the explanation from a pair of psychologists as to why "Bronies" might be attracted to the 'My Little Pony' franchise. Their reasoning was that in a world where violence, war, terrorism and hate has become normalized My Little Pony, and any other "feel good" type of entertainment, provides a form of escapism. The characters in "My Little Pony" make mistakes but learn from them and do good in return. My Little Ponies each have their own strengths and weaknesses as well as supporting one another through friendships. There might be something in "fandom" - a symptom of our millennial generation. This documentary is effective in reminding the audience of how crazy the internet really is. As Ashleigh Ball says quite eloquently "They're not doing anything wrong" and it's hard to argue against this. A Brony Tale reveals the larger Brony community and charitable work that Bronies have participated in - such as the "Bronies for good" club. Yes, it's a thing.
Journey to Bronycon. These social outcasts have formed strong friendships. I use the label "outcasts" not in a derogatory manner but with a hint of empathy. Throughout A Brony Tale it becomes apparent that just like the My Little Ponies themselves, the Bronies are out to spread positivity and a good message. On the audience’s journey to Bronycon, we learn that Bronies come in all shapes and sizes, have all sorts of professions but have one thing in common: friendship. The structure of A Brony Tale is a bit jarring, with clips of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic TV show interspersed throughout the film. It feels disjointed and clunky with title cards spelling out the film’s chapters.
Challenging Gender. A Brony Tale seeks to demonstrate the challenges "Bronies" face by expressing their love for My Little Pony and it does so effectively. The doco has a definite sway towards men as each Brony interview attempts to dispel any prejudice we are all probably thinking. Finally, I found myself casting judgment and then stepping back from it as each chapter went by. One of the interviewees, a Brony himself says,“Don’t underestimate the things that make you happy”. It’s the classic boy and girl conditioning theory – boys are encouraged to play with superheroes and cars, whilst girls are taught to play with Barbie dolls. As time goes on we are seeing more men interested in what would usually be classified as ‘girly’ and vice versa and I don’t feel there’s a problem with this. I enjoyed A Brony Tale’s message and left the film feeling as though we perhaps all need a little mental rejigging, to move away from our expectations of gender.
If you love documentaries or are a fan of 'My Strange Addiction",
then this doco is worth a watch.
A Brony Tale has made Bronies "20% cooler."