Okay, I SHOULD be drawing Sun-Dried Cherries stuff right about now to avoid losing the amazing momentum on my Galaxy Note drawing... but if I plan to steal away valuable time to write this up, it's because I REALLY want to get this out of my chest as it disturbs me too much to keep it bottled up.
And no TL;DR footnotes here -- anyone who has followed me knows I can write and write A LOT, and write A LOT I shall....
Finally, just to clear away any issues of bias or conflict of interest, I was a backer for the Bronies documentary back when it was still only about Bronycon. I paid for this stuff (thankfully not too much), and reserve the right to complain over an undelivered product (much like leaving bad feedback on Amazon or eBay, only with more pizzazz).
Although lately I have grown visibly distant from the brony community (owing both to my move and my dedication to my own original series), and could realistically make the case for having "left the fandom", I don't in any way dislike it or MLP:FiM. It's a great show because it has inspired so many people to get together, have fun, explore new talents, and open their eyes to a wider world of possibilities.
It's in no way special because Anime has been doing this for countless years before that, but MLP:FiM does have the advantage of being a homegrown phenomenon, and thus free of the many language or cultural barriers that prevented the likes of (say) Card Captor Sakura from challenging gender notions 10 years before these pastel ponies ever did. What I've seen of the thriving brony community isn't anything new for me per se, but it IS the first time that we as Americans/Canadians/Europeans/Westerners are the first to experience the Anime fervor. It is the first time that a Western animation studio has been so generous in allowing an almost unbridled proliferation of its copyright content, to the point of almost encouraging it at times
And as I've always surmised, the outcome would result in a sheer EXPLOSION of talent and artistic expression never before seen in our side of the hemisphere, mainly because we lacked the common rallying flag to draw it out. Long story short, it was new for us, many of us thought it was awesome and amazing, but so few of us had enough experience with this sensation of fervor, passion and love, that it became difficult to explain even the simplest of questions, such as why so many of us enjoy a show "made for little girls" (<=quotes are intentional).
We all fear what we don't know, so many of us have ended up making some really silly or stupid decisions along the way, such as antagonizing or scaring away non-viewers, or breeding fear, uncertainty and doubt within your own ranks. It's in my opinion the real dark side of the brony community, and it's in no way the ponies' fault this exists -- it's just the outcome of trying to herd together various unique flavours of human nature unaccustomed to this, and then watching the inevitable chaos and drama ensue.
It's rough and ugly, but it's natural and not unexpected -- even the pony characters themselves are far from perfect, and if not for that artificial mantra of "love and tolerate", so many of us could probably realize that the real message of the show is that you should simply be yourself (a very honest and simple message), and since everyone else will probably be themselves as well, you simply need to work a little harder to work things out amongst yourselves. Three simple words from a /4chan/ meme aren't going to magically do that for you -- only true friendship is magic (<=how's that for a better mantra?), and as you all know by now friendship requires quite a couple of ingredients (that not everyone in this day and age is willing to commit to).
But I digress...
The documentary had the opportunity to dispel a lot of that mystery and uncertainty in a scale that no little 10 minute review on Youtube could hope to achieve. It could have given a sense of direction to countless bronies unsure of where to go next, maybe a little food for thought for so-called haters, and perhaps a little inspiration on current and/or perpetual non-bronies. And based on some of John's interviews during the course of the year, it seemed to me at the time that he had enough of a moderate view to achieve like that, or something close to it. A truly universal documentary that could be enjoyed by all and, more importantly, could transcend the very notion of ponies themselves to address some the REAL core problems that remain to be addressed in our society (one of which is an extreme lack of sanctioned pastimes that inspire young people).
Instead, we basically had a 90-minute montage of celebrity bronies, over-exposure of the fandom's most extreme elements, proliferation of the kinds of stereotypes the show worked so hard to try to dispel, and a complete and utter lack of history, information, tact or at times even common sense. It focused too much on the fun, edgy, angsty and dramatic, and too little on the down-to-earth, knowledgeable, mature and inspiring. In other words it didn't take itself seriously -- and while fun is good, TOO MUCH fun is not necessarily a good thing (as the cloned Pinkie debacle will tell you). Fun is temporary, it won't last forever -- and fun is a very subjective thing and not bound to be appreciated the same way by everyone.
Bronies have accomplished a lot, done a lot, contributed to charity a lot, added new insights to various discussions a lot, so it's not like they don't deserve a little pat-in-the-back from time to time. But if one is serious about following the edict of the show, then consistent self-praise, bragging, and fanaticism is not something we want to do a lot of. Sadly the movie is structured in such a way to accentuate these vices while drowning out the best our fandom has to offer simply because it generally tends to keep to itself rather than be outspoken and vocal.
Perhaps to sum it up in a single word, the entire movie is dishonest to me, to the point it's almost disingenuous to the very honest presentation of the original MLP:FiM show.
Surprisingly as a guy myself, one of the most dishonest aspects of the entire documentary was its sidelining of women and girls, who aside from a few snippets here and there only really got mentioned during a very cliché animation sequence that seemed pulled out of a bad 90's cartoon. Woman ARE the silent majority behind the brony movement and have been hugely influential in various ways more than some of you are willing to admit. However, the documentary opts to obsess over the "ZOMG! GUYS WATCH LITTLE GIRLS SHOW!!" aspect just like countless bad articles written before it.
Has it occurred to anyone that perhaps a lot of the gender awkwardness of the MLP:FiM following is mainly the result of everyone asking the wrong questions?
Is this really a case of grown men that watch and love a little girl's television program?
Or is this actually a case of a girl's television program being finally produced with such care, attention and respect for their intelligence, that it eventually turned out to be no different than a program with universal appeal, good even for boys and adults too?
It's a simple discourse swap, but it makes a world of a difference and it actually brings you closer to why the show itself is so incredible and special. But the fact that that's ignored is very telling of our society -- heck, the documentary contributes to the problem by treating the "little girls" label as a radioactive substance.
Look at the very demeaning 20 second history of the My Little Pony franchise from before MLP:FiM...
I may not have like them myself, and I feel they tried to instill the wrong values in girls for the most part, but be that as it may that was all most young girls had or were given to watch, and it's wrong to fault them for that or demean the culture they grew up with. They were inspiring in their own way, even if only to force a young girl to make up her own imaginative pony stories that would end up becoming the foundation of what MLP:FiM is today. Instead of appreciating that common ancestry, so many of us are so quick to destroy it, wreck it, tear it apart literally, like a domineering male lion committing infanticide.
Well then, if the situation is THAT BAD that you admit that anything for "little girls" is bad or boring, how about rather than avoid it you try to fix it instead? After all, what guarantee is there that little girls wants bad and boring programming? Perhaps your tastes and there's are not terribly different, perhaps there is an opportunity for middle ground. (comedy is a great middle ground, for example). If the notion of "little girls" entertainment were radically changed so that it is not synonymous with "boring" but more synonymous with something positive and universal, such as "funny", then you begin to fix another one of our core societal problems from the inside out. MLP:FiM is a great start, but honestly you can do way more and way better than that.
Don't shut out girls and women from the general discussion -- make sure they have a voice, a say in the matter, treat them as you would want to be treated, and inspire in them a sense of wanting to explore their own potential. Likewise for girls, don't be afraid to speak up and don't denounce your own strengths, talents or intelligence simply because it's not desired of you. Above all else for both, never be afraid to be inspired by one another -- greatness fundamentally has no gender, and the more artificial barriers we take down, the more we grow to appreciate both our differences and similarities, and in turn the better our relationships and communication become as our respect for one another is earned rather than contrived.
As much as we have improved as a society, there are still many remnants of the old ways of thinking that persist to this day, and the complete usurpation of the MLP:FiM movement as a guy-centric phenomenon is simply an inaccurate and unnecessary manifestation of that. If we really want to bring about any kind of positive change, we owe it to ourselves to set the record straight first and foremost before we can even pretend that our house is in order.
[otherwise, we come off as hypocrites]
In closing, though I may have seemed to have gone way off on a tangent, I actually have not. If you truly appreciate the show for what it is, then you will accept that it's not eternal. MLP:FiM as a franchise will not last forever... it will either bow out gracefully into the night of our collective memories, or be killed off by a Hasbro stupidity, or suffer any number of possible end scenarios that happen to any series or fad. Fan material may lose steam, grow stagnant and stale, and venture off to try out new ideas and possibilities.
And this is a GOOD thing!
Because like any good teacher, MLP:FiM will inspire you, bring you together with new friends, entertain you with loads of fun, encourage you to explore amazing new talents, and she will open your eyes to a world of possibilities you once were willingly blind to. And then she will send you off on your merry way.
Whether you choose to visit her every once in a while is up to you, but ultimately what matters is that you return back to the real world a little smarter, kinder, more sensitive, more clever, more confident, and less afraid of trying new things.
If you want people to respect her for accomplishing that, you will not treat her as your funky, ironic, raison d'être that's only fun until it stops becoming so, but rather as an unconventional but effective jumpstart to a new life and a new way of thinking, one that simply begins with ponies (or anime or anything else that inspires you), and ends wherever your own imagination can take you.
And a documentary that never fails to stumble over itself will NOT do it for you, so if you want things done right you're gonna have to do it yourself.