• Editorial: How Could the Mane 6 Develop More? (Part 1)

    It's safe to say the future of Friendship is Magic isn't in question, but the future of its characters just might be. Seven seasons, a marvellous movie, a sufficiently successful spin-off, a continuing comic line, and a buttload of toys and later, and where are we?

    No, really, where are we? Where am I? I seem to have gotten lost trying to comment on a post and tripped and fell into a post itself. Trippy.

    Eh. If I'm going to be living this lie, I might as well say hi. I'm MarvelandPonder. Among other things like fanfiction, I sometimes do stuff. Internet stuff. In 2017, a whole year of it called Year of the Pony. I have too much fun talking about the singing, crying horses, and no one's been able to stop me yet.

    I self-plug so ruthlessly because I've talked about character arcs a whole heckuva lot back on my tiny analysis blog. And, because Season 7's notorious heavier focus on side-characters leaves me to double-take at the Mane 6.

    Are they done developing? Have their roles as teachers surpassed their roles as characters?

    I don't think so, but this is such a troubling idea I had to take not one but three editorials to go over what each of the girls has been through. That way, we can make more accurate guesses about how they might develop from here! Today's subjects, one Shy, Flutter, and a Jack, Apple.

    Ready to get bludgeoned with the phrase "character arc?"

    I'm no psychic (... yet; just give me three more mail-order lessons and I'll have the basics down), so if I didn't base where I think the Mane 6 could go from here off something, this would be on FIMfiction instead.

    How's about we base this off their character arcs so far, then? Starting with an easy one, Quietshy Mchorseface, which is what I assume her legal name must be:

    Fluttershy's is beyond easy. The theme of her hard earned development and years of personal blood, sweat, and tear-stand growth amounts to her name. Flutter = shy. The math checks out!

    I'm definitely biased having the disorder myself, but I could see Fluttershy having social anxiety disorder. That gets into fan-theory/projecting territory, for sure, but the crux of that thought is that Flutter-Nutters feared rejection so terribly that she became reflexively self-critical and dare I say, gasp, shy.

    It's only the friends she feels most comfortable with, that ones she trusts more and more not to reject her, that she can be herself around. Hence why the titular shy character can have friends to begin with.

    I still gush about this moment, where we focus just long enough on Fluttershy flying up through the trees to see her basking in the light on the other side. Simple, yet gorgeous.
    Early Flutters can be seen erupting from her shell in a variety of ways, be it a mono-e-mono dragon encounter, a verbal tussle a monstrous minotaur, or, a personal favourite, the whole character study they call Hurricane Fluttershy, that really embodies everything about early seasons Shy.

    ... Huh. So that episode wasn't just a fever dream.
    Then, things take a turn for the repetitive. Perhaps purposefully, but just perhaps.

    I think it's understood these days that the seasons 3 and 4 Fluttershy learned a lot of the same sort of lesson, but for a good cause: realism. You can be Mr. Cynical and say they just didn't know where else to take her yet, but while you're stewing over there in your Angry Corner, I'll be over here in Optimism Alley thinking how it ultimately worked out in terms of the pacing her arc.

    Whether she has social anxiety or not, the logic holds sound that you can't really just get over any kind of social phobia so easily. And in fact, it says so in the very definition of a phobia. If you're not aware that it's irrational, that's called a delusion. And even if Flutters was stuck reinforcing similar sounding lessons, she was well aware and working on it. Lucky for us, it lead to something wonderful!

    If she can out-stubborn AJ, you know she's a force to be reckoned with. Get it??? Southern horse says reckon one or two times! That's funny. I'm funny. 
    The ingenious part of her arc comes in seasons 5-7, where we see the "baby steps" of previous seasons start to amount to real progress. Here, the lesson from Putting Your Hoof Down sticks: it's not assertiveness Fluttershy needed, but being comfortable and confident in herself. Not a bold, bulldozering of others, but enough meaningful self-acceptance to stand up for what she wants.

    And, honestly, you really see it in her these days. It doesn't take how her parents act in Flutter Brutter to imagine how a less-developed Fluttershy would've responded to Zephyr Breeze.

    There's no reason to assume those snakes are gay, but then, I wouldn't be able to call them the snays. Here's that gay representation we broke EQD arguing about, everybody! Marvel at its 3-second wonder!
    This season, the completion of Sweet Feather Sanctuary ties the end of that arc in a neat bow. It may not have been a dream we knew about prior, but the sanctuary itself now stands to represent all the progress Fluttershy's made because she can stand up for what she wants comfortably, calmly, and steadfastly even in the face of detractors.

    Alright, so that's the past. Like I said, not finished my psychic training, but with one arc definitively completed, where can Fluttershy go from here?

    To me that face says: "And then the officer told me I had an arrest warrant thiiiis big. So, um, basically, I need to hide out in your basement for a while."
    A Health of Information might be our clue. Fluttershy can be fiercely determined when she wants to be and with the development of the previous arc under her belt, I think she can finally properly face the root causes of her self-doubt to begin with.

    The next arc could be about confrontation. Not in the Putting Your Hoof Down New Fluttershy Smash! way, we've done that (and Hasbro had trouble selling the New Fluttershy Hulk Hooves given that foam hooves are just misshapen cubes), I mean now that she can stand up for herself and others she could address all kinds of old wounds.

    Her old bullies, the flight school itself, and as much as I love her, Rainbow Dash. Skittlebrau's been one of Fluttershy's biggest supporters in the past, but my favourite horse is also perpetually insensitive---to the degree that she's used Fluttershy as a dormat before. And, you know, she's a little sorry she sold her into slavery that one time. That happened, kiddies.

    Could be interesting to see them really talk about that aspect of their relationship.

    Or, hey, maybe Flutters could make the a non-preachy environmentalism story. O.K. K.O. did it recently by leaning heavy into comedy and Captain Planet camp, so it can be done. It's a genuinely important topic we're all sick to death of, but perhaps if written correctly, it could be an interesting front for her character to tackle. Especially if it treats it as a complicated issue that's genuinely difficult to find solutions to instead of a black and white sermon from the side of the environmentalists.

    No matter who she faces or why, I think it could get interesting to see Fluttershy use all that confidence for something worth fighting for. She's earned it. Now it's time to put it to the test and stand up for those that can't stand up for themselves (her past self included).

    Speaking of strong characters, my sequeway is here.

    Applejack's absent parents have always shaped how I've seen her, but the appropriately perfect episode The Perfect Pear confirmed what a number of us have assumed all along: that their loss is a big reason why Applejack is the pony she is when we meet her.

    Even though family horse never explicitly dealt with that tragedy on screen, she did always seem to deal with branches of that same thematic tree.

    *Hurt by Johnny Cash playing somwhere ominously in the distance*
    A fear of letting her loved ones and her town at large down based on a crazy work ethic and identity rooted in being dependable at all times? These are the calling cards of an orphan who took on some of the duties of parent and provider when the parents were out of the picture.

    Look no further than Somepony to Watch Over Me for proof of that, or even small, more maternal moments like AJ's reaction to Applebloom's first Grand Galloping Gala.

    Let her have this, RD. Let her have this.
    And the Apple family has no doubt always been close, but certainly not as close as they've become. A teenage Applejack and Big Mac were a lot more argumentative, and even Granny Smith seemed a bit stricter with them. The loss strengthened their bond, and made the importance of family insurmountable in Applejack's life.

    Letting go of the workahol, the overprotectiveness of her little sister, the fear of letting everyone down--- all of it, I think, is especially tough for her because of the origin of those lessons.

    Artist found here.
    In light of how this arc ends, and I do think The Perfect Pear was the end, it seems to me Applejack's still dealing with the loss of her parents. I think she's moved on from the grief of it, and even though I triple-dog-dare them to do it, I doubt we're ever going to see that part of her life.

    Instead, we're seeing the phase right after. Dealing with the pony she became because of it, and unlearning everything that kept her going in the previous, forever unseen grieving stage.

    I have no subtlety, you should know this about me upfront. I'm listening to Candle in the Wind and sobbing as we speak.
    These days, it's not like Applejack's not stubborn, or not a hard worker, or any of the flaws she's had from Day Uno. But she's learned to keep all that in proportion, for the most part.

    In letting go to the right degree, and undoing what the grief did, she was able to learn about her parents more and unite the family that's still around.

    From there? Why not shoot for the top?

    Cut that cuteness out. I said stop. ... what do you mean it's involuntary? 
    Apple Family Reunion was the first time on the show that Granny handed a responsibility down to AJ. An important one. And Where the Apples Lies shows us SnappleJack's been wanting to run the farm since she was young.

    So, they've already set up the perfect destiny for Jackie right under our collective nose.

    Ran from it as a kid, only to run it someday? You gotta respect the game.
    Owning her family farm, uniting lost branches of the family (like, oh, I don't know Pies, Pears, etc.) becoming the definitive family matriarch---the sky's the limit!

    And in terms of internal development to parallel this progression, admittedly, Applejack's always been a tough nut to crack.

    Previously (on MLP), she's been extremely satisfied with her life, so it was hard to motivate her to learn a variety of lessons. She often felt better suited to the wise advice-giver role, or the straight-man (insert shipping headcanon puns here). You can't always go back to the stubborn well for development water, so to speak (which sounds kinda gross now that I read it back).

    Oh hey, this must be that empire of dirt I've heard so much about!
    So, having Applejack struggle with larger swaths of the Apple family and wanting to be a great leader in the family might be the ticket.

    Deal with that hot-tempered pride, the love of family almost to a fault, the aversion to change v.s. the value of maintaining the traditions she loves (and by all means have more flashbacks, or flashJacks, where she's actually with her parents, wherein they show where some of these flaws might've originated in the same vein as Hurricane Fluttershy, Parental Glideance, etc.)

    And if you wanted to build on the last arc in a positive, (sigh) non-death-of-her-parents way, it could be to address it indirectly through the establishment of a Ponyville orphanage. You know, that thing Scootaloo doesn't actually live in. Some way to let Applejack deal with those feelings constructively, but subtly, without the fear of making the kids learn the harsh reality of death from someone other than Disney.

    But, what do I know, right? Maybe I'm interpreting the characters all wrong. I'm 1000% certain they'll take them in different directions than I thought of here. They usually do, and it's always better than anything I could think of.

    Until we meet again in part 2, how do you see Quiet One and Countryisms the Character? How wrong am I? Where, if anywhere, would you want to see these characters go if they could start brand spankin' new arcs? How much can they develop without changing into totally different characters?

    Or do you think it's high time newer and/or less developed characters ran the show?

    What's the good word, EQD?

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