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State of the Arts: Show me the brony

Documentary explores manly subculture of My Little Pony fans
brony
Brent Hodge’s A Brony Tale, about adult male fans of the children’s cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, closes the DOXA Documentary Film Festival, which runs May 2 to 11.

The first fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic you meet in A Brony Tale is a bald motorcycle mechanic with a thick goatee and a fierce brow.

This biker, DustyKatt, explains he and other guys like the Hasbro animated cartoon intended for girls because it features relatable characters and “excellent storytelling.”

The “manliest brony in the world” is just one of the many male My Little Pony fans director/producer Brent Hodge met on his journey around the U.S. exploring the brony phenomenon.

Others include a DJ who remixes My Little Pony music at brony parties, military bronies and a brony whose other passion is pumping iron.

“I was definitely weirded out at the start,” Hodge said.

He learned about bronies from his friend Ashleigh Ball, lead singer of  Vancouver band Hey, Ocean!, who he’d met through previous work at CBC Radio 3.

Ball is also a voice actress who plays Applejack and Rainbow Dash on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and when Hodge heard she was receiving letters from adult male fans and was invited to appear at BroNYCon, he was hooked.

Hodge spent a year strategically taking on film work around North America to interview bronies.

A Brony Tale follows Ball as she considers attending and then appears at a brony convention in New York City and features the bronies Hodge met on his odyssey.

He discovered bronies are a kind and generous lot. They volunteered to pick him up from the airport, showed him around town and, after interviews, wanted to hang out.

Hodge interviewed psychologists who’ve studied more than 30,000 bronies and learned 85 per cent are male (female bronies are sometimes called pegasisters) and 84 per cent are heterosexual. He learned how fandom had inspired bronies to make music, art and a group, Bronies for Good, which raises money for organizations that help children.

Soon, Hodge was questioning his initial cynical thoughts about men who enjoy stories about characters with pastel and rainbow-hued manes. “Maybe I am kind of being stereotypical here about what it takes to be a man,” he said. “These guys… [are] kind and confident. They’re brave, clearly. These are all really great qualities that should be in a man and they have all those.”

The Courier reached the 28-year-old Hodge in New York City Thursday as he admired the theatre where Hodgee Films’s first feature-length documentary was to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival

“We’ve only done TV projects, so this is the first time where I actually have to sit in a room with people and see what they think,” Hodge said. “It sold out four hours.”

A Brony Tale touches down in Vancouver May 11 to close the DOXA Documentary Film Festival, which runs May 2 to 11. The pop-culture doc is guaranteed future screenings with Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame acting as executive producer and distributor.  

Hodge, who grew up in Victoria and now lives between Vancouver and San Francisco, previously directed the Leo-nominated TV documentary Winning America about Vancouver-based band Said the Whale and What Happen’s Next about singer Dan Mangan. He couldn’t say what he’s working on now, but says his future projects will be upbeat.

“A lot of docs don’t make you feel all that good, they make you feel like you’ve done a lot of wrong in this world,” he said.

He wants those who see A Brony Tale to be entertained, to learn a little about voice acting and to feel their perceptions about bronies shift.

“It’s not even about the show,” Hodge said. “It’s about this community that they created. They have a big saying, you know, come for the show and stay for the community, so that’s the moral of the story, really, it’s all about friendship.”

 

 

Do the DOXA:
With more than 90 films and 78 screenings DOXA covers vast ground beyond men who love My Little Pony. The festival opens with Virunga, a film set in Eastern Congo where rangers protect a national park from those who want to exploit its rich natural resources. DOXA also includes a special presentation of To Be Takei, about George Takei who played Mr. Sulu on Star Trek and in recent years came out as gay. For more information, see doxafestival.ca.

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crossi@vancourier.com