As fanboy subcultures go, that of the Brony, or those obsessed with the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic television show are probably the one that perplexes the mainstream the most while still remaining on the fringes of respectability. Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony is a documentary that explores the Brony culture, all the better to explain it to us squares.
Bronies tries to give a comprehensive overview of Brony fandom, following people from North Carolina, Israel, Germany and other places. The fans appear to be mostly in their twenties, but young Lyle is in his teens. There are female fans as well, some of whom call themselves Bronies nonetheless, but this film is mostly interested in the men, and the attendance at the various Brony conventions appears to be largely male.
A number of the people who have worked on this incarnation of My Little Pony are interviewed, including show creator Lauren Faust, and voice actors Tara Strong and John de Lancie (of Q on Star Trek the Next Generation fame), who voices the villain Discord, and was also a producer of this documentary. They all seem delighted at the number and passion of the young male fans, but certainly don't seem to have expected it.
The film explores the inner motivations of Bronies, talking to a couple of psychologists who have studied them and their personalities, and they also focus on a young man with Asperger's who is a fan. Exposure to the show has helped Daniel to relate more easily to others, and his solo trip to a Brony convention in Manchester is a big growing experience for him. A lot of the film focuses on the perceptions that the mainstream of society has of Bronies, whether it's that they are childish or gay or effeminate. Some of the interview subjects even talk about being harassed and threatened for they Pony love.
Bronies succeeds mostly because it doesn't talk down to either the creators of the show, or its fans. It provides the viewer with a deeper look into why young adults are so drawn to a series that was intended for children. It also manages to show us some story arcs for some of its participants, such as Daniel who overcomes his fear of crowds to attend his first convention, or the German couple who meet at a Brony get together, and eventually get engaged.
Bronies don't seem to be any more socially awkward or strange than any other fan subgroup, and this film goes a long way to shining a light into a world that a lot of people wouldn't even have thought about before. There was a lot of opportunity for snark here, and the producers of Bronies wisely choose to avoid it. It's a clear eyed look at a relatively unknown group of people, and quite interesting. Recommended.