The Bronies Documentary is Borderline Propaganda


Professor Pony educates the audience about “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”



Written by Myrna Waldron.

I watched My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic for two seasons. It’s a genuinely good show, with influences from Powerpuff Girls, Sailor Moon, and other television intended for young girls. It occupies an important cultural spot, since we all know just how hard it is to find well made, well written and non-condescending entertainment for young girls. Having been born in the mid-80s, I did watch at least one of the earlier generations of My Little Pony, but all I can really remember of it was that I found it pretty saccharine, (and I couldn’t have been older than 5 at the time, so that’s saying something). Lauren Faust, the original creator for MLP: Friendship is Magic, is a self-proclaimed feminist, who explicitly intended to create a series depicting female friendship. So thumbs up to the show just based on that.

Unfortunately, on the internet, the show isn’t really known for its quality. Nope, it’s known for its vocal teen/adult male fanbase. I commend these adult male fans (known as “Bronies” – bro + pony) for being willing to ignore traditional gender roles, and appreciate a show aimed at young girls, for what it is. “Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Male Fans of My Little Pony” is a feature-length documentary exploring these fans (and was financed by them via Kickstarter), and was executive produced by Lauren Faust (the series creator), Tara Strong (VA for Twilight Sparkle, the main protagonist) and John de Lancie (VA for Discord, a Q-like villain in the first two episodes in the 2nd season). de Lancie’s intent with this documentary was to provide a contrast to the strongly negative media depiction of Bronies and depict them positively. This documentary was also intended to serve as an introduction to the fandom for those unfamiliar with Bronies.

Unfortunately for them, I’m already familiar.

I honestly tried to come at this documentary with an open mind, knowing that much of the negative media attention is directed at Bronies simply because they are men who like a thing intended for little girls. I know a few Bronies and consider them friends, so I’m well aware that many Bronies are perfectly decent people. It’s also not really THAT rare for adult men to like cute things for little girls. Hell, go into any anime convention and you’ll stumble over guys like this everywhere you go.

But it’s very hard to shake my generally negative opinion of Bronies – at least, my negative opinion of the bad ones. And there are a lot of bad ones. The fandom started on notorious forum 4chan, when the first fans decided to watch the show as a joke and ended up loving it. 4chan is a hive full of racism, sexism, ableism and just about every other “ism” you can think of (mainly because posts are automatically anonymous – anonymity turns people into assholes so easily), so it’s not surprising that there are some shitty people amongst Bronydom. A few months back on Tumblr, someone asked me to explain why I have a generally negative opinion of Bronies. I am yet to see any sort of improvement on that front, and every time I speak out against shitty Bronies on Twitter, someone always inevitably replies to my tweet and complains that “We’re not ALL like that!” as if I wasn’t aware. Not one of them has ever said to me, “Yes, there are a lot of terrible people. And if I see someone acting like that, I’m going to call them out on it.” It’s always defensiveness rather than proactive behaviour to genuinely try to improve Bronies’ reputation.

This film sets out to present Bronies as decent people who are inspired by the show’s messages of friendship to be kinder, friendlier, and more accepting of people. Okay, great. I’m all for that. But this film is unfortunately borderline propaganda, because there are some editorial decisions that blatantly come off as disingenuous to anyone who actually pays attention to the media they consume. As I said after finishing my livetweet of the film earlier this week, this film would have been so much better if it were honest. It tries so hard to solely present Bronies as great people that it’s just insulting. It’s been a long time since documentaries had any sort of obligation towards objectivity, but there’s a limit.

THE GOOD:

  • I genuinely liked the Bronies they decided to interview for the film. I sympathized with how each one felt like a social outcast before discovering the series, and how much they appreciated how the fandom introduced them to friendships they never would have had otherwise. I was expecting to want to loathe these guys, (especially since within a minute of the film’s beginning there was already a stereotypical fedora) but, I didn’t.
  • A main objective of the film was to demonstrate how the series inspired creativity from its fans. “The Living Tombstone”’s music didn’t do a thing for me, but I could see why people liked it. There was one Brony who created custom laser shows, which were really cool. The lone female Brony (or Pegasister – more on her later) they interviewed also creates custom figurines for the characters. There’s an enormous amount of talent shown here, and it’s great that they found something that inspired them.
  • Two teenage Bronies who were extensively interviewed (one from Bar Harbour, another from England) have wonderfully supportive parents. The parents admit they don’t completely understand their children’s hobby, but they did what they could to make their sons happy. The Bar Harbour Brony’s parents actually came with him to BronyCon, and his father had an extensive conversation with another father of a Brony, and ended up enjoying the show when he finally sat down to watch it.
  • The English Brony also happens to have Asperger’s, which is depicted fairly here. Much of his “storyline” is concerned with his solo trip to the UK Brony convention in Manchester, and how he was trying to avoid as much social contact with others as possible until he got to the con. I wondered how this was going to work, since if he was too petrified to even ask for directions, how was he going to handle interacting with hundreds of strangers in an enclosed space? The happy ending to this was that he realized that asking strangers for directions was no big deal, and having met tons of other like-minded people, it gave him confidence he’d never had before. The latter event didn’t surprise me, as I’ve seen lots of introverted people blossom into confident and exuberant people while at geek cons. The drawback to this, though, was that they regressed back to their “usual” selves once they were back in the real world.

THE BAD:

  • Another teenage Brony, this time from North Carolina, had ordered some pony decals which he’d put in his car’s rear windshield. Unfortunately, a gang of rednecks accosted him while he was driving, and started bashing up his car with baseball bats and tire irons, and smashed in the rear windshield. This was a borderline hate crime, since the rednecks demanded that he give up his “gay Pony shit” (if I’m quoting them correctly). This was awful enough to hear about, but how the Brony decided to deal with this incident made me feel a further combination of sadness and anger. Instead of telling his father the truth, he told him that he’d gotten into an accident. He also did not report this crime to the police. I can certainly sympathize with how ashamed and mortified he must have been feeling, but his lying probably cost his parents extra in insurance costs, and allowed those rednecks to go on to attack someone else. He lives in a small town – he wasn’t obligated to report the crime, but he would have had an easier time than others identifying the perpetrators. I fear for those rednecks’ next victim, because I know there will be one.
  • More than a few of the Bronies were willing to lie to their parents about their hobby. And I see this as a failure on the parents’ part, because they should be willing to accept any of their children’s interests and not immediately jump to the “He’s gay/He’s a pedophile” conclusions. If there’s that little trust over merely liking a children’s television show, something’s broken there.
  • Near the beginning of the film, a “Professor Pony” (who is implied to be de Lancie’s character Discord in disguise) gives a quick run-down of the previous generations of My Little Pony. And bashes every single one. There were fans of the earlier generations of the show before Bronies came along. And he just insulted them. Film, meet finger. It was played off as comedy, but he actually refused to discuss the third generation of MLP entirely. The Professor Pony is supposed to be giving facts, not opinions. That whole “LOL the previous generations sucked” thing just put a bad taste in my mouth.
  • At no point did any of the fans discuss how they felt about the characters, their interactions, go in-depth about the messages of the show, etc. It was all “This show is good and it makes me want to be a good person.” None of them talked about how they gained a new appreciation or respect for girls/women. It was only a writer on the show who expressed that she liked that Bronies were learning that girls/women are capable of doing awesome things just as much as boys/men are. I would have liked to hear that from a BRONY.

THE UGLY:

  • I get that the film was about the unexpected male fans. But to ignore the female fans for a show intended for GIRLS was just insulting. There were two “Pegasisters” interviewed: “Purple Tinker,” the founder of BronyCon (so, not an average fan) and Nadine, a fan from Germany. Wanna know why Nadine was interviewed? Because she met her future fiance at a Brony meetup. (facepalm) And she was the fan designated to bring cupcakes to this meeting. (double facepalm)
  • And it got worse. Midway through the film, a quartet of female ponies interrupted the Professor Pony and angrily pointed out that Pegasisters contribute to the fandom too. Professor Pony stutters that “Girls liking ponies is expected.” And…then no examples of the Pegasisters’ creative efforts are explored, beyond Nadine’s figure sculpting. SERIOUSLY? A few female fans are interviewed at BronyCon, but NONE of them are named. Not one. Not even the one who discussed how the show helped her cope with cancer treatment. If I were a Pegasister I would have been insulted.
  • The subtitles used for some of the dialogue were inconsistent and even condescending/insulting. “The Living Tombstone,” a musician Brony from Tel Aviv, had every one of his lines subtitled, even though he was speaking ENGLISH. And his accent wasn’t that strong. I understood what he was saying just fine. Nadine’s stepfather was expressing a negative reaction to MLP and his stepdaughter’s hobby, but his words were not subtitled. For god’s sake, do they think the audience is stupid? His body language was angry/exasperated, and I understand enough German to know he wasn’t saying good things. Crap like that is why I consider this film borderline propaganda.
  • The Professor Pony briefly references fanfiction shipping and “clopping.” Clopping is masturbating to Rule 34 porn of the characters, sort of like “yiffing” for furry porn. But although the class halts and looks horrified, the Prof just skates right past the reference and ploughs on. Yeah, no. If they’re going to comedically reference the darker side of the fandom, it’s disingenuous to deliberately ignore it.
  • And that is my biggest issue with this film. It’s dishonest. It doesn’t acknowledge the racist, misogynistic, pedophile, homophobic, transphobic etc ponies. Purple Tinker is a transwoman, but they never discuss the hatred some Bronies have thrown at her. They don’t discuss the torrents of Brony abuse that was thrown at fanartist yamino because of the mistaken belief that she had something to do with Hasbro changing the in-show depiction of fan character “Derpy Hooves.” (I JUST checked her deviantART page and someone had actually posted a comment within the last few days saying “You killed Derpy. I hate you.” Oh my god.) Speaking of Derpy, they show her in the front row of the university scenes, but they don’t discuss her at all. Probably because she’s a creation that is ableist as hell and the producers know that if they bring that shit up it’ll make Bronies look bad.


There is merit in pointing out that there’s nothing wrong with adult males liking a well-made show for young girls, and there’s definite merit in trying to break down the gender barriers of entertainment. But I don’t like many of this documentary’s editorial decisions. If I were a Brony, I would have felt uncomfortable that each one who was interviewed was a social outcast, which perpetuates a nasty stereotype. If I were a Pegasister, I would have been insulted at how little the producers valued my contributions to the fandom. As an outsider with a large amount of familiarity with the series and its fandom, I’m insulted at how stupid the producers appear to think their audience is. If this is supposed to change public perception of Bronies, it’s doing a terrible job.

—-

This will be my final column for Bitch Flicks, at least for now. As I mentioned earlier this summer, my chronic illness is making it more and more difficult for me to write, and to keep to a regular schedule. I do not intend to stop blogging, but any future posts from me will be on my personal blog and will not be subject to any kind of deadline. (I may cross-post some of them however) The last few months have been much too stressful for me, and my condition is so unpredictable. I had to make a tough call, and reluctantly decided to walk away. But this is an “indefinite hiatus” as opposed to a “goodbye forever.”

I am tremendously grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with like-minded feminist film fans, and I’m grateful to every person who reads my work. I am hoping that someday my fibromyalgia will go into remission and I can go back to regular blogging, but for now, I have to put my health first.

Thank you.




Myrna Waldron is a feminist writer/blogger with a particular emphasis on all things nerdy. She lives in Toronto and has studied English and Film at York University. Myrna has a particular interest in the animation medium, having written extensively on American, Canadian and Japanese animation. She also has a passion for Sci-Fi & Fantasy literature, pop culture literature such as cartoons/comics, and the gaming subculture. She maintains a personal collection of blog posts, rants, essays and musings at The Soapboxing Geek, and can be reached on Twitter under @SoapboxingGeek.


  • Good luck with your health, fibro absolutely sucks.

  • Let me get this straight. A documentary to show how awesome a fandom is is “propaganda” but a blog designed to promote women’s rights and equality isn’t?

    Okay then.

    so…a documentary designed to show how awesome bronies are is borderline “propaganda” ? well so is every feminist blog, very African american blog, every Asian blog, every blog that discusses current events or helps promote an authors work.

    You admit to having a negative personal bias against a fandom..but decide to write an article about them anyway, thus diverting all attention to what you write, to about you and your (lack of an) educated unbiased opinion.

    Good job.

  • The problem I have is two fold:

    1. No quotes from bronies that do actively fight the stereotypes were sought. This shows selective reporting to me.

    2. “But this film is unfortunately borderline propaganda” Well, yes, of course it is. All documentaries are. So are all sites such as btchflcks. The documentary, and this site, each have an agenda. John DeLancie even admitted he had an agenda of showing what Fox News refused to.

    3. ” It doesn’t acknowledge the racist, misogynistic, pedophile, homophobic, transphobic etc ponies” why should it? Why should it give any air time to the negativity of the fandom. if you wanted that, go to Fox News where they’ll paint a picture of negativity in anything in the world. Furthermore, wasn’t it you that mentioned TERFs? Should we give them publicity in everything too? You know, to remain fair.

    4. “Probably because she’s a creation that is ableist as hell and the producers know that if they bring that shit up it’ll make Bronies look bad.” Actually, they don’t bring her up out of respect to Amy Keating Rogers, whos son Soren is so disabled that he can’t walk or talk. Bronies know that she ultimately made the decision to cut Derpy out because of the connotations Derpy brought due to an accidental portrayal by Tabitha St. Germain.

    5. Really? You consider it borderline propaganda because of…subtitles. Really? Wow. That’s stretching it a bit.

    6. “None of them talked about how they gained a new appreciation or respect for girls/women.” that works two ways you know. They could have brought it up, but they didn’t. That’s on the person being interviewed.

    7. “More than a few of the Bronies were willing to lie to their parents about their hobby.” so this makes the film propaganda, one that shows a realistic portrayal of how a family treats a brony? Still stretching it.

    8. “Near the beginning of the film, a “Professor Pony” (who is implied to be de Lancie’s character Discord in disguise) gives a quick run-down of the previous generations of My Little Pony. And bashes every single one. There were fans of the earlier generations of the show before Bronies came along.” Yeah, hi. Nearing 30 here. A fan of Generation 1 and the animation was horrible. Generation 2, which you would know if you researched by the way, didn’t have a cartoon. Generation 3/3.5 So horrible I wanted to shoot myself after watching one episode. It’s so bad that Hasbro has actually gone back, taken one of the characters (Minty) and G4/FiM-ified her. So yeah, the bashing was justified.

    9. ” am yet to see any sort of improvement on that front, and every time I speak out against shitty Bronies on Twitter, someone always inevitably replies to my tweet and complains that “We’re not ALL like that!” as if I wasn’t aware. Not one of them has ever said to me, “Yes, there are a lot of terrible people. And if I see someone acting like that, I’m going to call them out on it.” It’s always defensiveness rather than proactive behaviour to genuinely try to improve Bronies’ reputation.”

    …did you ever stop to ask any of them if they called them out? did you do ANY research for this “opinion piece” ? Yes, you can have an opinion, but it should be an INFORMED opinion. To be fair, you don’t lump all Bronies together but you still could have done a little bit more research before writing this.

    You also come across as just plain hating on John DeLancie and others. I can understand if something was incorrect factually (for example, My Little Pony Tales is claimed to be a G2 cartoon–it’s not, it’s still a generation 1 cartoon.) but everything you said as to why it’s “borderline propaganda” is stretching it.

  • It is interesting that you and your fans can’t handle dissent and criticism. I reblog this with a simple comment and I’m on the “warpath”. Interesting way to silence dissent.

  • Uh huh. Shall I copy what I said to you on Tumblr?

    “You have made MULTIPLE blog posts about me, posted multiple comments, sent multiple tweets, made personal attacks and ridiculous unfounded accusations, backed down with an apology and a promise not to cover the review on your podcast only to completely go back on your word, you have blatantly lied, you have an extremely poor definition of feminism, you have claimed I’m not willing to discuss things when I gave you a polite and well-reasoned reply to your criticisms, and you have proven that you’re mentally unstable and immature.

    Let me make something VERY clear to you. This is not debate, this is not dissent, this is harassment. And if you contact me again, talk about me again or slander me on your podcast, you will sincerely regret it. I WILL report you on every possible outlet that you continue to harass me on, and I will contact the police. DO NOT CONTACT ME AGAIN. AND DON’T TRY ME ON THIS.”

    This is your last warning. You had your chance to have friendly debate and you blew it several times over. You don’t get to try to pretend that I’m silencing you when you’ve been nothing but a crazed bully.

  • @ldg3 I’m one of the editors at Bitch Flicks. I can assure you that we do not silence dissent. We do however delete comments that personally attack our writers.

  • Yeah, I’m the ‘crazed bully’. There you go with the person attacks, but this won’t be deleted will it? Your editor will stand 100% behind it. Meanwhile YOU have sent your followers after me for no reason while you hide.

    watch my podcasting page, I think you’ll be surprised.

  • If you can show me a personal attack, I would gladly agree with you. last i checked–and I do have my comment saved–there was not one in there.

  • Calling our writer “uneducated” and “a joke,” comprises a personal attack.

    I’ll be closing this thread to further comments.

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