“Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony” is a $322 thousand documentary funded primarily by pony fans. DHN was issued a copy (big thanks to the distributor at scrnland.com for doing so), and after seeing the doc, I’ve written a two-part editorial on my feelings on the documentary and the events surrounding it. This article will discuss the documentary itself, and you can find my opinions on it after the break!
Documentaries, as with all news and journalistic entities, have two ways they can present their information and content to the world: either objectively, by staying as neutral as possible and presenting hard facts and statistics; or subjectively, trying to argue for a particular viewpoint using facts, figures, and witnesses to back up their claims. Both viewpoints have positive and negative aspects attached to them. Pure objectivity is preferred in our industry, being the goal of many journalists. However, sticking only to facts and figures can make an article or story feel robotic and inhuman, and trying to remove all bias and emotion from the reporter can be difficult to do. Subjective content, on the other hand, removes the need to be unbiased in an effort to make an informative argument for whatever side the journalist has chosen. This approach is even more difficult to pull off effectively, as the truth can be lost if arguments for the other side of the story are whitewashed or not addressed. Journalists can also blind themselves from these arguments by becoming so involved with the subject matter that they can no longer see any argument other than their own as viable or correct. As such, most journalists strive to stay neutral on their stories, and let their readers decide for themselves what opinions or discussions they’d like to have.
“Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony” falls into the category of subjective journalism, with the argument being “bronies are good people”. And therein lies the problem with the entire documentary, in that arguing that someone is “good” or “bad” is not something you can put facts and figures to. Bronies are also too large of a group to be making such base attributions in the first place. The documentarians choose a subjective route, but the question remains as to why they choose to do things like they did, and not an objectively fact driven piece like it could have been.
As it stands, “Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony” is pure propaganda, with little to no intellectual value to be found within. Nearly all of the documentary is storytelling, following handpicked individuals around and letting them tell whatever personal story that brought them into the fandom, or to one of the conventions. Only two experts are ever brought in to speak on the documentary, both clinical psychologists, and even then they only give their professional opinions without backing them up with any kind of evidence. Individual personal stories can become the centerpieces for longform news stories, a tactic that NPR likes to use. However, personal stories are subjective in nature, being unable to be verified by anyone but the person telling the story. This becomes a serious issue when trying to use these individual pieces to try to represent a whole that is much larger then the individuals themselves. Without any factual basis, without statistics and studies, with almost no rational or justification for their arguments, the piece becomes a mess of emotional pandering and a disgusting display of yellow journalism at it’s worst.
Not addressing the issues within the history of the fandom doesn’t help the legitimacy of the piece either. And yes, there are issues, and not just clop. The documentary doesn’t address things like the harassment of Yamino after the removal of Derpy or the explicit death threats in the lyrics of pony artist Yelling at Cats. Purple Tinker, the creator of the original Bronycon, is shown lauding the fandom, yet recently has spent much of her time across many social networks blasting bronies for transphobic language. Not facing these issues means that bronies cannot learn from these mistakes, or at least begin to discuss them and try to figure out why people think the way they do. It’s also misleading to the general public. It promotes an image of the fanbase that isn’t the entire truth. And if people aren’t getting the whole truth, then why should they believe the good things that are crammed hamfistedly into the doc?
The terrible thing about this is there is some very interesting things that can be learned from the brony community that aren’t in the documentary or are played down in favor of trying to play emotions for sympathy. The history of bronies contains incredibly relevant and interesting ideas that could be used for studies pertaining to marketing, sociology, and social media. Letting experts in these fields discuss and break down the history of the fandom could have added much to the intellectual value of the piece. But instead, the history of the fandom is condensed down to a four minute song, and the experts and show cast are tossed to the sidelines in order to shove more high-emotion content in the viewer’s face. Not to mention that this history intentionally dismisses previous generations of the show and the fans who enjoy them, not only inaccurately portraying the fanbase yet again, but furthering the rift between these fans and the fans of G4. Fans of the toy line are ignored entirely.
There are good things in this doc, but they’re too few and far between for me to recommend. The editing is well done, and the parts where they do bring show staff on to talk about the conception of the show is interesting (albeit, longtime fans have already heard these stories before, as they’ve been the subjects of interviews from pony media for years now). The animation done by Jananimations (also know for Ask The Crusaders) is well done, as to be expected from them. You can find much of this for free online though, legally, by reading news articles or by going to Jananimation’s youtube page. I would not recommend paying the $12.99 the documentarians are asking for this, but I would also not recommend pirating it either.
This leads me to the elephant in the room that has yet to be addressed: the price. In the second part of my editorial, I’ll go over what price the fanbase will pay for this doc, both monetarily and figuratively. I’ll also discuss the ethics of crowd source funding in relation to subjective documentaries, and who is responsible for things turning out the way they did, and question the motives of those involved. Stay tuned, pony fans! And as always, remain calm, post ponies.