To conclude my analysis on the documentary situation, I’d like to sum things up with important questions that should be asked, like why the doc chose the direction they used, what the consequences of these actions are, and who should be held accountable for what has happened. You can find the summary of my thoughts after the break.
The funding of the documentary has been a source of controversy since it began. Crowd sourced funding websites such as Kickstarter have been a volatile topic for more than just the pony fandom. Many see crowd sourced funding as a great way for entrepreneurs to fund projects that normally would never be funded. Others argue that sites like Kickstarter are a haven for beggars and con artists to prey on unsuspecting consumers, with very few ways to hold said fraudsters accountable. Now seems as good of a time as ever to ask the question of which side of the fence our documentarians land on.
Originally, the Kickstarter was created to make a documentary exploring what bronies are. Known then as “Bronycon: The Documentary”, Jon de Lancie pitched it as “a documentation of the fan phenomena known as bronies” in the original Kickstarter video they published (as seen here). According to de Lancie, the documentary would discover “who bronies are, and what makes them so unique”. For all intents and purposes, they succeeded on this goal, and created a documentary that did just that. End of the story, right?
Well, not so much. Let’s look into things further.
First, let’s look at the name of the documentary. The name “Bronycon: The Documentary” would suggest a study of the people who are going to Bronycon, along with the history of Bronycon and the events that lead up to it. However, the documentarians, even in this Kickstarter video, had planned to expand beyond this concept into exploring the entire fandom as a whole. The name change to “Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony” emphasized this thought process. This makes the initial naming and presentation of the doc confusing and misleading to those who funded it. It is well within these supporters’ rights to be upset with the product that they received if they were just expecting a doc that purely gave them superior coverage of Bronycon, instead of a doc that tries to tell them what defines themselves.
Another thing to look at is why there needed to be a subjective documentary in the first place. Many arguments have been made that this documentary was meant to clear up the misconceptions about bronies, whom people “do not understand, who get picked on”. Many point to the media, claiming that they are responsible for the negative image that bronies supposedly have. Jon de Lancie specifically mentions Fox News in his Bronycon Q&A, and afterwards again in an update on their Kickstarter page (as seen here).
This notion that bronies in media are portrayed primarily negatively is simply untrue. At the time, the only so-called “negative” coverage of bronies in the media was a video from the show Red Eye on Fox Network (as seen here). Howard Stern and Jerry Springer also touched on bronies in their respective shows, though this was after the documentary was funded and filmed. These “negative” articles are completely overshadowed by the massive amounts of neutral coverage by newspapers, magazines, and even CNN. There has never been any indication of a mass media bias towards the hatred of bronies, and why would there be?
So the question remains, why did the documentarians choose this route? Did they themselves believe that bronies were inherently bad? That they needed a media makeover to cover up their supposed flaws? Was all of this just an attempt to play on the fears and insecurities of the fandom for a quick cash grab?
Yet even with all of these questions, are the documentarians truly at fault here? Are they really what we should be focusing on as the center of this controversy, as the true perpetrators of these alleged wrongs?
Absolutely not. Though these questions are valid and should be asked, in truth the documentarians gave everything they said they would give for this documentary, and in some cases exceeded it. They were doing a job. Whatever the consequences of doing so, they completed everything that they said they would. No, there is one group far more accountable than these people…
They are the backers.
Because of them, we as a fandom are all now labeled. For many, this may be the first impression they ever receive of the pony fandom. Every person here will be seen as someone who asks themselves “what would pony do”. Every person here is now subscribed to a “movement” that they may not even support. Every person here is now defined by the actions and stories by the individuals shown in the documentary. This label is cast on them, whether they want it or not. This shows a lack of respect for those individuals who didn’t want to be lumped together and told who they were, especially the ones who did not fund or support this documentary.
What exactly did this accomplish? To show the world how great the fandom is? How special the fandom is? To try and justify, in your minds, that watching a children’s television show makes you some kind of hero?
Bronyism is not a movement. This is an insult to those who truly do struggle to change things in the world. A pony fan will not be paid less in the workplace because of liking a children’s cartoon show. A pony fan will not be prevented from marrying because they enjoy a children’s cartoon show. A pony fan will never see war, or create peace, by liking a children’s cartoon show. Lauren Faust may have pushed feminism by creating a children’s show for girls that isn’t terrible, but fans of the show have no right in sharing that claim. Faust and her colleagues put their livelihoods and their reputations on the line by breaking away from the norm in their industry. Their success is theirs alone, paid for in blood, sweat and tears. Pony fans have paid nothing of the sort. They simply watch television.
Pony fans are not special. There are fandoms for nearly everything that exists on the Internet: Homestuck, furries, Doctor Who. These fandoms also have artists, musicians, newscasters and just plain fans that create and support official and unofficial content of what they are fans of. They have charities and fundraisers. They have their drama and pornography. Some even have conventions, containing many people with stories of good, evil, and everything in between.
A pony fan is simply someone who exists within the My Little Pony fandom. They may watch the show, they may not. They might be good people, or bad people. But liking a children’s television show is not what defines a person as good or bad. Their actions do. To try and tell others that this isn’t the case, to try and construe a group of people too large and diverse to feasibly place under one banner as a single entity? All for the sole purpose of making themselves feel better about doing something they enjoy?
Is this really the community you want to show people?
I hope these editorials will give those of you who backed this documentary, and those who helped work on and create it, something to think about. You cannot erase the past, but you can question yourself and learn these lessons for the future. Try to educate yourself, in knowing when you are being persuaded into wanting something, in knowing what the possible consequences of such projects would entail. Most of all, I hope this installs a bit of humility for everyone who reads this.
My advice though? Next time you have money burning a hole in your wallet and you’re looking for self-gratification, buy an adult toy. They are cheaper, will last you longer, and the public won’t have to see you do it.