Friday, January 17, 2014

A Trilogy of Fan Flicks Episode II: The BRONIES Strike Back

Stream it here
Full disclosure: My domestic partner and I streamed this one with the intention of making fun of it. We were looking forward to it, actually, but were only mildly disappointed when we ended up being way more moved than amused by the way the movie shows that being a fan of something, anything, is a way to discover the truest and best version of yourself.

First, the Ick Factor:

You know this is what you initially pictured.
Bronies doesn't (Flutter)shy away from addressing the fact that many people are made quite uncomfortable by the thought of post-adolescent men and boys watching a show designed and marketed for young girls. (For the uninitiated, a "brony" is defined as a post-pubescent male fan of the reboot of the My Little Pony television series called Friendship Is Magic. It totally streams too if you want to get a taste.) On the contrary, the movie investigates the cultural assumptions about gender and sexuality that underpin that response. Why are we not similarly disturbed by the idea of older men (or women) watching a television show or movie that is marketed towards young boys, for example? Why does it matter that all the main characters are female? Cross-gender identification is something that is expected of girls, but culturally suspect for boys. This PBS Idea Channel (Do you watch Idea Channel? You should. It's smart and way more theoretically sophisticated than it has to be.) episode is a particularly smart take on the gender play of bronies:

It's unsurprising, therefore, that many of the bronies describe severe anxiety about telling their friends and family about their devotion to the show, and several of the subjects the documentary features suffer emotional and physical repercussions, ranging from a father's tacit disapproval to death threats (thanks, small town in North Carolina).

Get over it, Hank.
It's also unsurprising, therefore, that Bronies conventions in Europe and the U.S. provide a desperately needed safe communal space for fans to affirm that they aren't alone in this. Anyone who has been to any kind of convention (with the possible exception of the soul-compressing nightmarescape that is MLA) can relate--it's a powerful and, dare I say, magical experience to find your tribe.

The strength of Bronies is in this affirmation of the way fandom, whether online or physical, isn't isolating or strange but rather a way to connect with others and your own authentic self. The film looks at men and women who were inspired to become artists and writers because of My Little Pony, and one fan with Asberger's who confronts some of his deepest phobias to make it to a convention.

Brohoof, dude.
The strength of Bronies is NOT in convincing the viewer that Friendship Is Magic is some sort of genius show--really, how good could the writing be?--but that's really not the point. The show is a space, not an artifact--a pastel-tinged gathering place for people to be creative and connect with each other. And let's be honest, there are creepers and weirdos in every fan community.

Yeah. He's totally getting his ears surgically elfed.
Give Bronies a stream and see if, at the very least, it doesn't give you the wiggins.

Also, this guy is in it. I'm told that's very important.

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