A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Brony Tale, a documentary film, takes a lighthearted, non-judgmental look at the unusual fandom of Bronies -- a group of adults, mostly male, who are ardent fans of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, a television program designed to appeal to little girls. This fan-based phenomenon, begun in 2010 when the newest incarnation of My Little Pony appeared on television, asserts that the strong values promoted on the show -- kindness, generosity, loyalty, laughter, friendship, honesty, and personal responsibility -- enrich its viewers' lives and have the potential to make the world a gentler place. The Internet has enabled participants from across the U.S. and other countries to join together in their passion for the show and its characters. To acquaint its viewers with the Brony lifestyle, the film follows Ashleigh Ball, one of the actresses who voices two of the little ponies, as she discovers the Brony world. It highlights several particularly engaging and original Brony personalities, and, along with Ashleigh, the film's viewers attend BronyCon -- the ultimate fan convention in New York City. No language issues, no violence, no sexuality, nothing objectionable; however, everything My Little Pony is promoted and praised.
What's the story?
Bronies are grown-ups who love My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic -- mostly males, mostly heterosexual, from high school- to college-age and from military men to business owners and monster truck drivers. Documentary director Brent Hodge assembles interviews, film clips, Internet entries, and new footage of actual conventions and meetings to explore the world of the Brony for his viewers in A BRONY TALE. He cleverly uses Ashleigh Ball, the voice-over actress for two of the cartoon's characters, as a way into this unusual cultural phenomenon. Ball, who has done voice work for many cartoon characters, is clearly stunned by the passion and magnitude of the fans who have united via the Internet to celebrate a television show that was primarily created for little girls. The young actress is invited to be a celebrity guest at BronyCon, a New York convention not unlike such gatherings as a Trekkie convention (for Star Trek fans) or Star Wars events. Ball's a bit wary at first but game to check it out, and Hodge's viewers check it out along with her.
Is it any good?
Prejudgments are dispelled as a colorful coalition of adults sings the praises of the ponies' moral values and meaningful stories. What becomes increasingly clear as the film unfolds is that Bronies find friendship, a sense of belonging, and a sense of purpose as they interact with their fellow fans. Particularly inspiring is the story of one young man, an artist before he left for military service in the Middle East, who came back shattered from his experience. He credits his Brony-dom with helping him to draw again, with finding solace and a new direction in a life that was faltering. Brent Hodge does a fine job of putting it all together, keeping it lively, and showing how what might initially be considered a frivolous occupation brings its devotees into an enriching community, similar to that which has been provided by churches and social organizations throughout history.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the emotional and cultural advantages of belonging to a group of like-minded people. Think of other acceptable ways of forming such "communities" (religious affiliation, clubs, political associations). What do you think being a "Brony" means to the fans who have made this connection?
This film uses Ashleigh Ball's introduction to the Brony world as a way of introducing the viewer to that world. Can you identify other films in which a particular subject or issue is explored through the eyes of one character and therefore educates its audience along with that character?
Before you saw this movie, you might have had a preconceived notion about adult male fans of My Little Pony. Were you surprised by the actual fans you met? How did A Brony Tale change your perception of them, if at all?
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