A Brony is a man between the ages of 18-30 who
enjoys the animated children’s show “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” This
subculture operates completely without irony, celebrating the message
“friendship is magic” and other positive themes of this
pastel-colored cartoon about flying ponies.
In Brent Hodge’s non-judgmental documentary, “A
Brony Tale,” individuals ranging from Dustykatt, the manliest Brony, to Brian,
a military Brony, reveal their obsessions and discuss the archetypes of
masculinity. Hodge also provides a throughline by chronicling Ashleigh Ball,
the voice-over artist for some of the pony characters. Ball has been invited to
attend Bronycon, a convention dedicated to Bronies. The idea both scares and
intrigues her. (And it would be interesting to see what the Bronies think of
her after seeing her talk about them in this film).
As Hodge shows, repeatedly, with high schoolers,
Northwestern university students, DJ Brony parties, and 800 Southern
Californians, these men (and women) are all looking to bond over their shared
passion. But to what end? Other than the fact that “My Little Pony” provides
these guys with positivity in a cynical world (as well as a peculiar outlet for
expressing their artistic talents from drawings to T-shirts, to tattoos) the
film never quite explains the appeal—save Dustykatt’s inspired readings of the characters, and
Brian’s touching comments on how the show helped him find guidance and order in
his post-military life, when he was suffering from depression.
There are amusing moments, where the guys are
perhaps taking their appreciation for the show a little too seriously. But the
film only touches on the issue of adult arrested development, and the crisis of
masculinity that could have been investigated much more thoroughly. Likewise,
the nature of celebrity worship and the weird subculture of fandom are
underexplored. In contrast, a series of interviews with a husband and wife,
each psychologists, are far more revealing—especially when the film shows why these doctors have such interest in studying Bronies.
Ironically, “A Brony Tale” makes viewers unfamiliar
with Bronies 20% cooler—to use a “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” catchphrase. But this film is perhaps
too sweet and childish for its own good.