Thousands of adult men from all walks of life are praying together at the altar of Twilight Sparkle, Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash.
They call themselves ‘bronies’ (bro-ponies) and they may be the most loyal fans of MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC — a television program ostensibly created for pre-pubescent girls.
It is a phenomenon you almost have to witness to believe. And now you can.
“There is really nothing else quite like it,” says Laurent Malaquais, director of the documentary Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony, which will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray in December.
“The elements of harmony are really what [the fans] plugged into. You will see within the fandom that each Brony identifies with a certain pony. And that pony will have strengths and weaknesses that they need to overcome.”
“At the end of the day, all of the ponies come together and they function as a unit, as a community. In every episode they have to learn how to overcome an obstacle. And that obstacle, basically is what divides them from them and their friends. So for a lot of bronies, the cartoon is a non-threatening way to learn these life lessons.”
Malaquais’ film offer all access, behind-the-scenes footage from the annual BronyCon convention (which drew almost 9,000 fans in 2013!) as well as some very personal stories of bronies who have endured extreme bullying because of their devotion to the show.
“I go to visit this one guy named Alex in South Carolina,” the filmmaker tells me. “He has been bullied by the local rednecks of the town because he put a huge Princess Celestia sticker on the back of his car. They call him a homosexual and say he need to stop playing with these ponies…”
According to Malaquais, the local have also bashed Alex’s windows and pulled guns on him in an attempt to drive him out of town.
“They have made this poor 19 year-old kid live in terror,” he says. “But he continues to face them down, mostly because of the courage he got from the show. When I was there filming it was scary. They knew we were filming them. It is a small town, just over a thousand people. And these rednecks in their trucks were driving past us as we were filming. It was scary. They were outside my hotel room when I woke up in the morning. I was scared. When I left in the morning, I was happy to leave. He told me when they broke his windows and pulled guns on him, the police don’t do anything because the police are rednecks, too. They don’t care. Their attitude is ‘Stop playing with ponies and you won’t have this trouble.’”
Not surprisingly, I asked Maloquais to tell me more about the bronies and their culture.
How did the bronie movement start?
Purple Tinker (real name: Jessica Blank) is responsible for first putting together BronyCon. She started it as a meet-up. First it was a couple of hundred people. Then it got so big that she said, “We have to start a convention.”
Who are the bronies?
The bronies can be anybody. Generally speaking, they say it is kind of a “nerd culture” — if by nerd you mean they tend to be highly intelligent. They tend to be big anime fans. They are really into art, music, pop culture. That is the common thread. A lot of bronies have been bullied, but the bronies will love and tolerate the shit out of you. These are sweet people. With the film, I thought we could do something to show who they are — and let them show us, more importantly what they are all about and why they love animated ponies and what it means to them inside.
It is true the bronies themselves actually financed the movie through Kickstarter?
Yes. The way that they could mobilize and network was phenomenal. The bronie community themselves are a special group of people. They really wanted a voice. They wanted to be able to say “This is who we are and this is what we are about” and they needed a film that could explain that.
I understand that many of them use the internet to watch episodes together and chat.
Yes, but some of them go farther than that. Many of them are so into anime and they love the show so much that they have learned Toon Boom and other animation programs and they have stripped the ponies out of the cartoon and recreated it and rewritten the story lines and created cartoon that are convincing that [creator] Lauren Faust couldn’t tell the difference. If Hasbro ever stops making the show, the bronies have the power to just continue it online. It now belongs to them.
Isn’t that illegal?
Hasbro has actually been really cool. They’ve let them [change] things and put it online and they haven’t said anything. They have been really great with the bronies.
How many bronies do you think there are?
I would conservatively say there are at least a half-million bronies out there. But who knows because it keeps growing.
Many people might assume that the adult male fans of this show are all gay.
That’s true. I don’t want to rule out a gay audience. There is definitely a gay community within the bronie fandom, but I went looking for gay stories and I could only find one. It is part of the DVD. It is a couple in England. So there are not really that many gays in the fandom that I have seen. In fact there have been bronie studies that would indicate that they tend to me more non-sexual than sexual.
So this has nothing to do with fetishes or pedophilia?
To tell you the truth, there aren’t any children at the conventions. It is rare to see kids there. But if anything should happen, the bronies would be all over it. They would never let anything like that happen. And I have never seen anything sexually deviant. There is an undercurrent of bronies that are into Rule 34. Rule 34 says that “anything that can be sexualized on the internet, will be.” So there are sex dolls of ponies and stuff. But there are a very small number of people who are into it. It is really a minority.
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