“Ah yes, my documentary”
More so than any previous brony convention, this one was buzzing with an energy that charged the very air with significance: fans were aware at all times that no lesser figures than Lauren Faust and John de Lancie were roaming the halls along with them. A free-rein press policy ensured that attendees knew they were at all times subject to being caught on camera and their presence broadcast for the world to see. It was a watershed moment, one where fans first began en masse to embrace their roles in the community in a flesh-and-blood way, braving the embarrassment of being seen in public in Rainbow Dash wings and declaring it worth the risk. It was time to put up or shut up, and the presence of such major figures as Faust helped give the four-thousand-strong crowd the courage to declare itself collectively proud to be seen there.
The role that de Lancie played, though, was more to electrify this uniquely vibrant atmosphere than to contribute to any fans’ understanding of the memorable character he played or even of his well-practiced “how I got into acting” spiel. The big deal for de Lancie, of course, is the documentary that he, Laurent Malaquais, and Michael Brockhoff have committed to producing about the brony phenomenon. De Lancie described in his panel discussion that the Star Trek fandom—on which he naturally has a unique perspective—had its genesis in the 1970s thanks to female fans of Kirk and Spock; to him, the cross-gender, multi-generational appeal of Friendship is Magic is nothing less than the same phenomenon in reverse. He is clearly excited to be in on the ground floor of something he deems to be as historically and culturally important as the Trekkie movement has proven to be in past decades.
De Lancie has spoken with passion and conviction in several interviews of his and his collaborators’ vision in creating BronyCon: The Documentary, which is to preemptively counter the “freak show” tone of the mainstream media’s inevitable coverage of the community. Hence fans were set at ease by the idea of professional camera crews threading their way through the crowds, capturing in high definition the moments of unreserved giddy camaraderie that pervaded the convention throughout the weekend. The result may be a “perfect storm” of some of the best, most candid footage of bronies being their most unreserved, least guarded selves, before the fandom inevitably begins to change. After all, reaching the size that this community has done, and in such a short time, means that whether the show lasts forever or whether it ends a few months from now, the act of appreciating it will never be quite the same as it has been during these past two years of gleeful, free-form bewilderment.
Top-drawer VIPs and a professional-grade venue are the marks of a fandom whose convention career has officially come of age, and to be sure there’s something to mourn in the loss of the crazy spontaneity of a convention held in the sweltering attic of a Chinatown sock factory, or of a room full of nearly a thousand fans watching an impromptu glee club serenading songsmith Daniel Ingram over a stuttering Skype connection with their rendition of “At the Gala”. And yet this fandom is still full of surprises; the best moments of its face-to-face encounters and serendipitous little miracles could never have been scripted. John de Lancie appearing in person at Bronypalooza to shake the hand of The Living Tombstone after a performance of his “Discord” song. Dustykatt donating a lock of his manly mustache to the auction. Lauren Faust coming out of the woodwork at the same auction to add her signature to a signed poster that subsequently went for a staggering $4,050. A fan meeting John de Lancie face to face and sharing an instant of mutual understanding and rapture over a treasured box of Matjes herring. These moments, along with experiences like seeing the latest episode of Friendship is Witchcraft or the premiere of PONIES: The Anthology II from inside a roaring audience of thousands, can’t be engineered, nor can they be judged from a distance. They can only be experienced, remembered, treasured. And people who weren’t there in person will never quite know the feeling of what such a sensation is like.
They’re the good kind of tears
Perhaps most remarkable at this convention was the level of mutual respect flowing between the VIPs and the fans. The attendees were there for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet their favorite creators and writers and voice actors, but the adoration did not only move in one direction: the guests of honor were determined to put on as good a show as they possibly could. They wanted to make the convention worth the fans’ while; they were earnestly concerned with making sure the fans were having a good time. From Rogers pulling out all the stops with her rendition of the early sketch of the “Smile” song (and penning a followup story for Equestria Daily going into further detail about its creation) to the voice actors riffing with each other to depict their characters with Canadian accents or to do impressions of each other’s trademark roles, they were having as much fun as the bronies were. It wasn’t the first time at a convention for some of the guests, such as Andrea Libman, Cathy Weseluck, and Nicole Oliver; but for others, notably Faust, it was a unique moment in time that both sides wanted to make count.
De Lancie’s microphone might in coming weeks capture dozens of pony fans’ voices describing with urgent frankness the emotional core of the show, the depth of character defining the main cast and the profound level on which so many bronies relate to them. As raucously comic as the show is, it’s punctuated by sentimental moments that grab the viewer’s heart and squeeze in much the same way that certain episodes of shows like Futurama or films like Up do. Fan creations that take elements from the show and run with them, such as those pieces that expand on Derpy’s life story or the origins of Princesses Celestia and Luna or explore the later years of the Mane Six, only serve to deepen the bond that fans feel with the show’s universe. To look out over the crowd at BronyCon is to observe thousands of men and women who, until Friendship is Magic aired, had to a large degree forgotten how to appreciate entertainment that was anything but cynical, mean-spirited, sarcastic, and nihilistic. It’s a whole generation born into the Age of Irony who can thank Lauren Faust’s creation for reawakening in them the ability to be moved to tears by—to take just one example—a scene of two estranged sisters reunited at the finish line of a gymkhana obstacle course.
And so when, at Faust’s solo panel on Saturday, fans collectively presented her with an ornate scrapbook filled with viewers’ personal stories of how the show has touched them and changed their lives, it’s small wonder that she had to cover her mouth and blink back tears just as she had at the opening ceremonies.
“Are you trying to make me cry again?” she rhetorically asked the adoring crowd.
To which I would say, “Lauren, we’re just returning the favor.” ■