I’m a cynic. I try not to be, but my default response to most situations is jaded sarcasm and more than a hint of suspicion and barely concealed hostility, plus I’m prone to depression. I try not to be this way, but sometimes it’s difficult. Just look at the news right now. If you’re black and wreck your car, you may be murdered while asking for help. White gun fetishists are carrying semi-automatic weapons into fast food restaurants to protest what they see as draconian gun laws, but then when a black man picks up a bb rifle from the toy department in a store he is gunned down by police. And depending on where you are, if you’re black you don’t even need to have a gun to be murdered. You can apparently be shot by a hyper-militarized police force for simply surrendering if the chants from Missouri of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” are any indication. We’re living in an America where peaceful protests are being met by armed forces ordering crowd dispersal from the backs of tanks with machine guns at the ready; where crowds of “concerned” citizens shout angrily at busloads of children trying to escape violence and poverty; where conservative politicians sue the President for using Executive Orders to bypass stonewalling and then chide him for not using Executive Orders when they can’t get enough votes to pass their own legislation. The East coast is flooding; the West coast is suffering from drought and fires; the South is sending armed forces to keep children from entering the country illegally. We’re living in a world where Hamas lobs rockets at Israel from densely populated parts of Palestine and Israel without hesitation bombs the citizenry into bloody pieces; a world where religious fundamentalists in Iraq are murdering people by the thousands while the Iraqi military drop their weapons and run; a world where armed madmen in Nigeria kidnap hundreds of schoolgirls, and when nothing is done, they may be lost forever, some are murdered and others sold into slavery; a world where Russian forces are financing civil war in the Ukraine and will likely invade before everything is said and done. Is it any wonder that grown men and women find comfort and security in a cartoon marketed to little girls and focused on teaching lessons of friendship, love, and respect? A Brony Tale is a documentary about these people and Ashleigh Ball, the woman who voices the characters Applejack and Rainbow Dash in the animated series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I admit that when I first heard of the “Brony” phenomenon I didn’t know what to make of it; of them. And I’m someone who is vaguely obsessed with Adventure Time, which touches on some of the same general themes but wraps it up in a boy-friendly post-apocalyptic adventure setting. I’m old enough to remember when My Little Pony began back in the 80s and when Friendship is Magic launched in 2010, it wasn’t really on my radar as I really didn’t expect a cartoon marketed for little girls about ponies would be something a cynical, sarcastic, vaguely paranoid and hostile 40-something man who is prone to depression would enjoy. Honestly I’m still not sure that it is, but after watching Brent Hodge’s entertaining and informative documentary, I’m willing to give it a try. A Brony Tale began as a collaboration between Hodge and Ball as she was invited to attend the New York City Bronycon in 2012. The Brony community was something strange and new even to Ball so they decided to document her journey to the con (from deciding whether or not to attend, to the actual trip to NY) while also interviewing self-professed Bronies from around the country about just what it was they connected with in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Although there is an active female fanbase as well, some of whom have adopted the “Pegasister” title, the film focuses mainly on the men and breaks quite a few stereotypes along the way – although a couple of others are reinforced. I had assumed that a large portion of the Brony community would be gay, but that’s incredibly off-base and says more about my own ingrained prejudices and preconceived notions about the toys than anything else. In fact, the vast majority of Bronies self-identify as heterosexual and the single most common reason for connecting with the show is its pure, unironic embrace of friendship and respect for others. If anything, the defining feature of many fans is self-aware nerdiness and/or a deep-felt desire to embrace and celebrate friendship – whether that’s friendship with other Bronies in-person or with the community in-general. One of the greatest strengths of A Brony Tale is that Ashleigh Ball has similar misconceptions (and as a former victim of a stalker, some legitimate concerns) about the community and we get to share her journey to the realization that Bronies are just open, friendly, ordinary (well, not quite ordinary) people who use My Little Pony as a way to express themselves and share a sense of belonging. If there’s a weakness to the documentary, it’s that a little too much time is spent with Bell; time that could be spent delving a little deeper into the lives of the Bronies. We do get to know a few of them and the heart of the film is definitely the story of Bryan, an Iraq War veteran dealing with depression who uses art to help heal. Watching him deliver his work to the actress who voices Princess Celestia, Nicole Oliver, was magical (no pun intended). While Bell is adorable and watching her frolic in a lake with her friends is pleasant, a little more of the Bronies’ personal stories would have gone a long way. There’s a lot to like about this film, and it does a good job of promoting both the Brony “lifestyle” and Friendship is Magic at the same time. It’s nice to be reminded that no matter how dark the world may seem and how bleak life can feel sometimes, respect for others and a sense of community go a long way toward making things better. Sometimes that attitude even shows up in the real world, transforming nights of violence and armed stormtroopers in tactical gear into hugs, handshakes, and mutual respect. Here’s hoping that it becomes more common. A Brony Tale is currently available VOD and will be released on DVD Tuesday, August 19. Array Advance Review: A Brony Tale (2014)4.0Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Dignan I don’t think I’d ever watch the show, but as someone who greatly enjoys playing Animal Crossing at least an hour or two a day, I could never be the one to throw a stone at these folks. I probably enjoy Animal Crossing for some of the same reasons these people get into MLP; it’s environment is completely benign and friendly, and yes – child-like without being aimed solely at children…it’s just a happy place one can escape to where there those elements of the real world you describe are non-existent and can be left behind for a bit. After all, what is media but an escape? Some of us need that escape more than others.