Bob’s Burgers are Magic? A Brony’s Review of “The Equestranauts”
After ignoring it since its January 2011 debut, I finally started watching the animated Fox sitcom Bob’s Burgers a few weeks ago. I’ve ignored new episodes of The Simpsons and Family Guy for years, but there’s just something about this weird little satirical show that keeps me coming back. It’s not for everyone, but it’s grown on me: Bob’s Burgers provides generally silly, stupid fun with its odd plots and surreal humor that may not always get a laugh, but is still an endearing and enjoyable feel-good experience nonetheless. When I heard that they were coming out with an episode to parody the brony phenomenon, I was of course a little wary. Bob’s Burgers is a smarter show than it looks, but it can also resort to really crude humor for the sake of a gag, and it would have been incredibly easy to exploit the worst parts of the brony subculture. What did I think of the April 13 episode “The Equestranauts?” Well… I liked it.
The Belcher family knows about the cartoon called The Equestranauts because their eldest child – the monotone nerd Tina – is a big fan of it (fun fact: her voice actor Dan Mintz actually wrote this episode.) The show doesn’t have much resemblance to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, as it seems more like the original My Little Pony crossed with an action hero transformation-themed show. The ponies live in a meadow and tell bad horse-pun jokes before it’s time to fight the villain Zandar: then, it’s time to put on armor and use their powers (we don’t learn much about the show.) Tina’s family tags along with her to “Equestra Con,” where she immediately feels out of place upon discovering that virtually all of the convention-goers are men (called “Equesticles”) dressed as colorful horses. Several welcoming Equesticles meet with Tina, but one of them (“Bronconius”) manages to con her into trading her Chariot pony doll that she’s had since her fifth birthday. It turns out that it was only one of six produced with a manufacturing defect (I’d rather not say what) so Bob feels compelled to get it back. To do that, however, Tina insists that he must watch and read as much Equestranauts media as possible before donning a horse outfit and entering Equestra Con.
I was worried that the Equesticles might have been portrayed as a bunch of sweaty, incoherent and perverted lardballs, but thankfully, they’re pretty much just… guys in horse costumes. The villain is the only really bad one, as the rest are pretty much just enthusiastic fans. As anyone who’s been to a brony convention knows, not everyone is in costume (just a handful were at the one I went to last year) but I won’t hold inaccuracies like that against this episode: it’s all for the sake of comedy. Indeed, such conventions do often have high-priced custom-made merchandise and a dance party (though I can’t speak for any highly-potent drinks.) Tina’s speech at the climax really resonated with me, as she said something that I’d like to say to the “bad apples” in the brony culture: it’s hypocritical to treat others badly when you’re obsessed with a show that teaches love and tolerance. Bronconius’ Equesticle cronies at his after-party needed that monologue to gain the courage to stand up to him, but thankfully good triumphed in the end. As for the ending? I thought it was really funny, and the end credit sequence made me wonder if Bob is really done with The Equestranauts. Overall, I thought this episode was pretty fun, and I found its portrayal of “bronies” to be acceptable: they may have an odd interest, but in general they’re mostly decent people.