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A BRONY TALE (Review)

Review by Clay N Ferno
Produced by Brent Hodge, Carolyn Wells, 
Lauren Bercovitch, Morgan Spurlock
Written and Directed by Brent Hodge
Starring Ashleigh Ball, Bryan Mischke, Andrea Libman, 
Nicole Oliver, Donald Rhoades, Andy Stein, 
Jordan Downs, Kelvin Williams

Ashleigh Ball is a voice over actress and singer for Canadian indie pop band Hey Ocean! who played at my nightclub in Cambridge, MA last year. Another performer to grace the same stage last year was the twenty-one year-old Silva Hound, an Atlanta, GA DJ that spins Brony remixes on a tour with Brony musicians as Musiquestria.

A Brony Tale tells the story of Ashleigh going to her first BronyCon as the voice of Applejack and Rainbow Dash, main characters on the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic animated TV show.

This is the second documentary about the Brony subculture to cross my desk, and the second to make me visit the show again as we see fandom’s most picked on rise above the negativity outside and embrace community inside.

Ashleigh Ball is reserved enough to consider Bronies nice but not her playmates. She reconsiders her role in people’s hearts as she gets to know more about the Brony culture and the positive message the show brings to so many (kids, adults, males, females, whatever!). Similar to John DeLancie’s reaction to his newfound popularity with My Little Pony fans in Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony, the voice actors sometimes have no idea what they are getting into when asked to perform on the show.

Part of a new series of documentaries from the mind of Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), this exploration of the Brony culture does a great job of interviewing both Norms and Pony fans about the mysteries in and surrounding the pony fans.

Starting with an interview with fitness dude Jax Blade aka Muscle Man Brony about the show this also features a psychologist and father of a Brony that goes deep into the sociological reasoning behind the culture.

The stats about Brony sexuality and gender identification may surprise you. One of the most interesting was a chart in which hetero couples where both parties are Bronies, it may be because the girlfriend is trying to identify and enjoy the Ponys with her boyfriend.

Gurus expose the real origin of the Brony name, something that came out of a 4chan sub section, not necessarily because of the Bro-(masculine) terminology (though that really made it stick! Bro-Hoof!

Ashleigh’s life as a touring musician and voice actor is interspersed with the interviews, as she makes the decision to go to Brony Con. Plenty of Brony fans see her band Hey Ocean! because of the show, which is great! Man, I wish I had known that when we booked her! Her bandmates appreciate that the fans are gentle and kind and positive but question why they attend the show.

When she relents, and makes the decision to be the special guest at BronyCon, we see her go from being skeptical about the Rainbow-Dash-cutie-mark-brandishing nerds at the airport picking her up to being absolutely floored by the celebrity she had at the con. And not the celebrity in a fame-seeking way per se, but the outpouring of support and effect she has on this section of the fandom became real for her for the first time.

Appropriately, we see our friend Silva Hound DJ at a Brony dance party (one similar to the event I hosted but on a larger scale) at the convention. The twenty-one year old tells his story of using music to make money to graduate college and survive his hometown of Atlanta Georgia. For music fans in the know, this is exactly the polar opposite of rapper Chief Keef in profiled in a recent Vice documentary, Chiraq!

Brony culture, by definition, has a lot to thank us comic book nerds, geeks and Trekkies for. The previous generations have set up convention culture, cosplay and community rules with years of experience. What Brony culture also faces, besides the normal nerd-chic stereotypes are a whole bunch of outside challenges about gender, acceptance and ‘being normal’.

Sure it’s not ‘normal’ for Sally to want a Tonka truck but it is FOR SURE not normal for an adolescent boy to put on a fleece Pony hat and draw cutie marks all day. To these Bronies, I wish them the best because my ‘90s high school experience would have been even tougher on me if I tried to pull that off!

A Brony Tale gives you a great overview and also great insight into a very positive geek culture. I think by design it is propaganda (in a good way) to expose the warmth of a group of guys not obsessed with anything violent but learning from a show for people of all ages. Kudos for Ashleigh for making the trip to the convention, and for making the convention special for those in attendance.

I’m still in the first Season on Netflix, maybe halfway through the movie but I have my Brony shirt from the Musiquestra show last year and hey, If I’m not a Brony, I’m at least Brony curious.

A Brony Tale is in limited theatrical release and is currently available on digital and on demand.

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