Well, it happened. Finally.
I watched the documentary about the Bronies.
Truthfully? I blame the review website foreveryoungadult.com. Not long ago they did a review on this documentary called Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Fans of My Little Pony, which has apparently been making the rounds on Netflix. And after reading that review, I couldn’t get watching this documentary out of my mind. Because here’s the premise, people: there are a whole bunch of teenage and twenty-something men (and a handful of women) who are totally obsessed with the TV show My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic. And I do mean obsessed. This isn’t like “I watch it with my kid or brother when it’s on.” This is like “I make remixes to their songs and laser light shows and wear costumes and collect the figurines and go to conventions.” Because yes—there are Brony conventions. One of which had, like, 4000 people in attendance.
I’m going to be honest: I didn’t make it to the end of the documentary. Not because I was totally creeped out or disgusted by the Bronies, as some commentators in the film seemed to be—quite the opposite, actually. There are several Bronies in that film who are incredibly courageous and really tear at your heart strings. One guy nearly got the crap kicked out of him because of his thing for My Little Pony. Another dude with Asperger’s makes the trek into a decently-sized city and deals with all kinds of difficult interactions with people just to go to the Brony convention. Yup, I totally teared up.
No, the Bronies themselves were actually quite endearing. But the My Little Pony thing? I could not grasp this. I really tried. The Bronies kept talking about all the great lessons in the show, and how much they connected with the characters, and how the show made them feel at peace and like life is good again…and yet every time the film showed a clip from My Little Pony, all I thought was this: “ohmigwardpinkandpurpleandcheesyandwhyisTwilightSparkle’svoiceSOHIGH?”
So yeah. Poor Friend Who Didn’t Know What She Was Getting Into When She Agreed to Watch This With Me and I actually turned it off to try watching a full episode of Friendship is Magic, because it turns out those are on Netflix too. And I still could not get it. Yeah, there was some nice generic messaging about friendship and kindness and loyalty etc. But no more or less than I’ve noticed in any other kid’s cartoon.
All this got me thinking about something that fascinates me: the way humans are wired. The fact that some people just seem to be so wired to like certain things, and the way others can be so wired to be repulsed (or in my case, more indifferent) towards those things.
For years, I thought I was the craziest person in the world because I would rather read a book written for teenagers any day of the week than pick up something in the adult literature section. It wasn’t until I published my first book and was shoved into the world of internet book sub-culture that I realized plenty of other adults are also wired to love young adult lit, and the friends who mocked my books and asked me when I was going to get serious about my reading weren’t the whole of the population besides me.
For years I thought I was the only one who read romance novels under the covers and hid them under my bed. Then Fifty Shades of Grey took over the world (which I actually hated, BTW—never made it past the first book), and I realized that nope, plenty of other people were wired to like books like that.
I never did figure out why that particular book made it suddenly okay for people to really talk about the fact that they might be wired to like romance novels. I just know I’m really grateful it did.
And here’s why: if there’s one thing the Bronies documentary will probably make you think about, it’s tribes. You know, tribes like the ones Sherman Alexie talks about at the end of his amazing young adult book, Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian:
“I realized that, sure, I was a Spokane Indian. I belonged to that tribe. But I also belonged to the tribe of American immigrants. And to the tribe of basketball players. And to the tribe of bookworms. And the tribe of cartoonists. And the tribe of chronic masturbators. And the tribe of teenage boys. And the tribe of small-town kids. And the tribe of Pacific Northwesterners. And the tribe of tortilla chips-and-salsa lovers. And the tribe of poverty. And the tribe of funeral-goers. And the tribe of beloved sons. And the tribe of boys who really missed their best friends. It was a huge realization. And that's when I knew that I was going to be okay (217).”
The documentaries about the Bronies—at least the part that I got through—is much more about a tribe than about a fanaticism over a TV show. It’s about a group of people who are able to own what they are, who they are, how they’re wired, because they’ve found their tribe of people who are wired the same way. And that makes it okay that they’re not always accepted by the people who aren’t wired that way.
Lately I’ve found myself falling head-long into a lot of Tribes I didn’t know I had. Joining the internet book world (well, kind of, I’m still introverted enough that it’s a slow entry) has given me access to a whole tribe of people who love YA lit as much as I do. Publishing my first book has made me realize that there’s a whole author tribe out there who are wired to understand my love of writing and support me when I'm struggling with it. And, because my YA publisher is an imprint of a publisher that produces gay romance novels, I’ve also happened into a tribe of people who also love romance novels.
All kinds of tribes.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the Bronies. And even though I didn’t make it through the whole film (I AM SORRY BUT TWILIGHT SPARKLES IS SO ANNOYING I AM JUST NOT WIRED THAT WAY), I feel qualified to say that these are the most important ones:
1. Accept how you’re wired, and know that it is very, very unlikely you are the only person who is wired that way.
2. Find the tribe of other people who are wired that way.
3. Be excited when this tribe embraces you, and when you embrace them. Because embracing people for who they are is not something that’s coming easily in our world these days.
4. When someone isn’t wired the way you are, it’s okay to shut off the TV and just be glad that they found their tribe. But don’t judge them because you don’t understand the way they’re wired.
No matter how much Twilight Sparkles may annoy you.