I mentioned in my What's Making Me Happy This Week post last Saturday that I'd had the chance to watch some amazing documentaries while at home due to snow. I'm a huge documentary fan and can't resist the opportunity to plug these four (and hopefully more soon). For the record, all of these are currently available on Netflix Instant, should you want to watch.
Of all the documentaries I watched recently, this one was the hardest to see, but also the one that fascinated me the most. In fact, I watched it twice, the second time with Luke. It's about the use of killer whales in captivity, specifically places like Sea World, where they are displayed for the public and perform in shows. In particular, this documentary focuses on a killer whale named Tilikum, who has killed three people during his time in captivity and led to the ongoing legal battle between Sea World and OSHA. We're given the history of the capture and breeding of orcas in captivity, as well as Tilikum's own history and the history of similar attacks on trainers.
I found the whole thing to be horrific and it definitely shaped and changed my views on keeping such large mammals in captivity. The documentary itself is, admittedly, one-sided, although this is apparently due to Sea World's refusal to participate or give any sort of statement. Sea World has released a rebuttal to the documentary (click here to read it). I found some parts of it interesting but many other parts to be pretty weak. I did bring it up to two good friends who work at the Tennessee Aquarium and whose opinions I greatly trust. While neither of them have seen it, they both said that general opinion among other aquarium workers is that the film is sensationalized. My personal opinion is that my money definitely won't be going to Sea World. If any of you have seen it and have thoughts, please let me know - it's a movie I absolutely can't get off my mind and would love to discuss more.
I have no shame in admitting that I am a huge fan of the tv show Dance Moms. I just like it. I think it's definitely staged, but I just love those little girls. This movie, however, totally puts Dance Moms to shame. It follows six young ballet dancers who are training to compete in the Youth America Grand Prix. The level of talent is mind-blowing. I didn't know bodies could move that way. There's none of the behind the scenes mom-fighting that takes away from the fun part of Dance Moms either. It's all about the kids and dancing, although it does highlight how the kids and their families have had to dedicate their entire lives to ballet.
So this is basically the same thing as First Position, but substitute Irish dancing (think Lord of the Dance/Riverdance) for ballet. I particularly enjoyed this one because, for a brief time during high school, I was a competitive Irish dancer. I'll pause a moment to let that sink in. Yes, it was hilarious, yes I had the shoes, no I did not have a wig, and I borrowed a costume. Pictures of it may or may not exist. And yes, I can still jig. This follows dancers preparing for the World Championships. Irish dancing is, obviously, super cool and, like ballet, takes an incredible amount of flexibility and energy. The dedication is, at times, astonishing and the dancing is so fun to watch.
Ok, before I even start, I need to qualify my review by saying that I am well aware that there is a contingent of this fan base that is NOT AT ALL cute and dorky and harmless. I am SURE that if I googled Bronies I could very easily uncover many things that I'd never be able to unsee. In fact, I recently heard about Brony-themed porn, which is just gross. HOWEVER, this documentary only examines the fun-loving, based-only-on-the-show fandom, that has sprung up around the children's show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Surprisingly this fan base is largely adult and male. There are just a ton of teenage and grownup people who love this show.
The documentary is to the Brony culture what Trekkies is to the Star Trek fanbase. We get to meet and follow a few major characters are they participate in various Brony cons and fan activities: a teenage boy who is afraid to tell his conservative father that he likes My Little Ponies, an autistic teen who has found in the Pony fandom a place where he can forge human connections, a couple who met through MLP, and an Israeli fan who has achieved pop star status among the Bronies.
So as I mentioned, I'm sure there are very adult iterations of Bronies that I definitely do not want to know about and BY NO MEANS wish to see links to or pictures of. Seriously, don't do that. I mean it. This movie, and henceforth my opinion of Bronies, is that it's just about the most adorable little thing I've ever seen. In a very weird way. The autistic boy who goes to a Brony con and makes friends? Dead. The little boy whose father finally goes to a con with him and grudgingly accepts his Broniness? More dead.
I'm not now and for the foreseeable future will not be a Brony myself (fun fact from the documentary: girls are bronies too), but I am obsessed with fandoms and the culture that comes with them. I love seeing, watching, reading about cosplay and fan cultures and how they emerge and evolve. So this was a natural documentary for me to watch and love. And, as always with various fandoms, I love how accepting they are of people with differences. No one is a "geek" within a fandom. It's heartwarming to see people who really can't fit in anywhere else find their tribe.