• Editorial: How Can the Mane 6 Develop More (or Finish Developing)? (Part 3)

    I started this trilogy by listing off the impressive legacy Friendship is Magic has as we came to the end of 2017. The 7 years since the first episode have seen the rise, fall, and maintenance of what is undeniably a pop culture phenomenon almost no one saw coming, and yet, even while the novelty of that unexpected depth and charm wears off, the depth and charm itself stays.

    But, maybe by necessity, it takes other forms.

    So, join me, and let's finish off my first series with our final two characters in our core group of six. Beyond putting any fears about stagnation to bed, maybe we can even find out what's still so remarkable about them, after all this time.

    (Part 1 with AJ and Flutters and Part 2 with Pinkie and Rainbow over here)

    Our resident fashionista is nothing if not surprising. Back in the day we applauded her for breaking the mould of her otherwise snooty, shallow archetype to instead be a character of many layers.

    Rarity's hysterically emotional (in both senses of the word), but also perceptive, intelligent, and business savvy. She's a mare who knows her own beauty and grace quite well (read: vain), but is also unhesitatingly selfless, as if for every bit of beauty she sees in herself, she sees just as much if not more in those around her.

    Sometimes immature and, dare I say, overdramatic, but also accomplished and rarely naive. More than that, she's, to some like our beloved Silver Quill, emblematic of the entire show's ability to surprise us with how genuine something so girly, emotional, and seemingly shallow can be once given the chance.

    And the audience aren't the only ones to have their expectations challenged. From Diamond Dogs, to the Canterlot elite, to most often, Rarity herself!

    It's not often a character's arc so perfectly matches the audience's perception of that character, but for Rarity, it's fitting (fashion puns; what more could you want?).

    *quietly humming sad reprise of Art of the Dress*
    Take one of her greatest accomplishments, for example. Canterlot Boutique. Here, Rarity faces the reality of owning a popular shop in a creative medium. She truly became as popular as popular can be... but at what cost to individuality and her own creative expression?

    Expectation, meet soul crushing roadblock called reality.

    Doctors in Equestria must have such a hard time differentiating between serious medical conditions and cartoony displays of emotion. Maybe get that checked out just in case.
    To inch ever closer to shipping territory, ever wonder why Rarity is practically the only main character (apart from Spike's crush on her) to actively seek out romance? Even Twilight literally stumbles into it in the Equestria Girls---not only not looking for it, but only finding it in another series.

    The whole point of Rarity's romantic escapades, whenever they do come about, is to demonstrate that her head-in-the-clouds approach to romance only leads to duds. Twice now we've seen her pine after two handsome stallions, either the princely or the creatively gifted, only to be smacked back down to reality when they turn out to have personalities other than the ones she imagined for them.

    Blueblood's only wearing a collar, not a suit attached to a collar. This is why it could never work out with fashion horse.
    This both speaks to her character and validates the core thesis of the show, which is of course the value of friendship.

    It's why if he wasn't, you know, a dog in comparison to a human, I wouldn't have actually minded the writers developing the Spike/Rarity romance somewhat legitimately over time. Of course there's arguments on how far apart the age difference really is, but apart from that, the idea of Rarity realizing that a potentially deep and meaningful romance has been there in the form of a friend all along isn't without merit in a show called Friendship is Magic.

    After this, the camera pans out, revealing their friends all standing on the other side of the bridge. Feel free to begin psychoanalyzing me, because I at the time liked to think that was a visual clue to the two of them someday having something apart from friendship, by literally putting distance between the kiss and their friends.
    Sparity rant over. Currently. As of 10:04 pm.

    For real, let's round back to the point: Inspiration Manifestation.

    That whole episode is about embellishing that flaw in Rarity's character to monstrous degrees. As soon as she gets the ability to make her fantasies a reality, she abuses it, and it consumes her until she's transformed the world around her into one of her own image.

    Hasbro: Upsetting a small child is what we do best.
    Simply put, Rarity's hilarious overdramatics are the most important underpinning of her character, in my perspective. That's what keeps her fascinating. She's both a role-model for creative types, and demonstrates all the classic failings.

    And it's arguable that that culminated most prominently and possibly ended in Canterlot Boutique, but the whole expectation vs. reality thing is still the primary method for creating conflict in a Rarity episode. So, even though I can be proud of Rarity for all she's learned, and I don't know if it's amounted to some universally applied wisdom yet. By which I'm trying to say, she's learned a lot, but not necessarily to cut back on the fanciful thinking.

    But, maybe that's in part because it's also her greatest strength as a fashion designer. None of her dresses would be made if she didn't dream them up out of nothing. Creatives like Rarity survive off fantasies and dreams, even if reality likes to continually come crashing in to muck them up.

    So, going forward? I guess self-awareness is the real goal. No, it's not like Rarity's completely out of touch with herself or reality, but at least in terms of her dreams for the future, she might be learning to expect the unexpected. Certainly, The Saddle Row Review taught her that, if nothing else, so maybe it's only a matter of time before she learns to keep the drama in check.

    The fashion world is now hers to dominate, and I look forward to seeing her wow them with her creative vision. If it can stop causing problems for her along the way.

    And, finally, it's the egghead's time to shine. Don't worry about being last, Twilight. I'm told you'll inherit the earth.

    Speaking of which, Twilight's becoming a princess changed a lot, didn't it? At the time, I remember rolling my eyes at the idea that Twilight's character would suddenly change just because she got a pair of wings and a title. Sounded like a lot of hoopla over nothing.

    But it's what that physical change and title represented that sparked a whole new arc for Twilight. So before we get to that, we should start by quickly talking about the foundations of her character. Which, yes, really is represented by unicorn Twilight, seasons 1-3.

    Funny how simple the symbolism can be.

    Oh hey, I remember you.
    But simplicity isn't necessarily a bad thing so long as it's done the right way. For instance, if Superman embodies hope or truth, justice, and the American way, Twilight represents learning.

    The sheer, adorable excitement of learning, the dedication of its never ending pursuit, and even a reverence for her teacher and the school system at large. Twilight's student years were filled with lessons she never expected to learn from sources she never expected to learn from.

    Star Dork, meet Moon Dork. I'm sure you have much to discuss.
    All this without ever really crossing the line from occasionally sardonic to cynical and bitter. Twilight's character was always rather brilliant that way; she had just enough of a snarky, know-it-all edge, but really, the core of this previously misanthropic character was humble, open to learning new things, well-mannered, and just plain sweet.

    For the loner who never cared about her friends, she managed just the right balance of being naturally friendly and adorkably out of touch.

    So all the fans shaking their fists wishing for unicorn Twilight to come back aren't crazy. She's very different. But the next arc builds off this one, in a way that's rather natural, in my opinion, especially considering the corner the writers wrote themselves into at the end of season 3.

    Starting with the first Equestria Girls movie, alicorn Twilight's like that person who comes out of university not really knowing how to function in the working world. Sure, she was a great student in school. One of the best. But when you define yourself so entirely by your abilities as a student, and then you graduate... well, there's an adjustment period, at the very least.

    Especially if you're someone like Twilight and what you were studying is very general. Like all magic, for instance. At this point more than ever, she had to move on to self-discovery.

    Staring at your stained-glass mural. I guess that's one path to self-discovery, technically.
    Season 4 sees Twilight struggling to find out who she is in the wake of graduation. There's also the time she cries over what she thought was Celestia's dead body for a little bit. Apparently inconsolably, too, according to her friends.

    So that's a fun graduation. Starlight got a medal.

    "Why would Luna do this? Why now?" might sound like a cheesy way to say it, but Twilight's never needed her guidance more. But she's on her own now, and has to make decisions for herself. I don't hear this moment talked about nearly enough.
    Season 5 very similarly tackles what she can do and contribute to the world. She also has to answer some hard questions about herself and come to accept those challenges to her still developing identity.

    Because season 5 was awesome.

    I once wrote an undergraduate-level essay on this episode. 
    And the answer to what she can ultimately contribute was apparently Starlight, who becomes another protagonist mostly because it reflects Twilight's growth as a teacher. When Starlight makes an attempt at reforming Chrysalis, for instance, Twilight's done her job.

    That's a "Buck up, sport" face if I've ever seen one. What a mom.
    Then, Season 7 sees Twilight let her student go, and afterwards return to balancing her personal life with her duties as a princess, but of course, she certainly isn't done teaching if Stygian and the Pillars are any indication. She's still defining her role as a teacher of friendship even to this day, and at this point, ever broadening that definition to include more and more students and friends. One friendship mission at a time.

    Worry horse worries while worrying about worrying.
    But if anyone thought she was done being the primary protagonist now that she has a legacy of sorts, point them in the direction of the Movie.

    The Movie reflects her continued search for meaning as Twilight, and pretty much only Twilight, puts pressure on herself to be the lone savior of Equestria. Why? Because princess, because unrealistic expectations. And in part, because she idolizes Celestia and Luna (but especially Celestia) so much that she feels she needs to measure up to impossible ideals.

    I don't think this had anything to do with Twilight forgetting friendship lessons or regressing as a character (even though that would be kinda understandable, given how the script for this thing was written a few seasons ago). The staff kept the hero-worshipping part of Twilight intact after all this time, and it's still feuling what she thinks a princess should be.

    Granted, we've come a ways from Lesson Zero, but not very far. Comparing the two Gala episodes, Twilight's plot is pretty well the exact same because she still has the same hangups with impressing the princess and putting her on a pedestal deeply rooted into her character.

    Best comic arc is best.
    For Twilight, her ultimate destination isn't set in stone since she's already accomplished so much. It's not like there's an obvious goal she's still gotta reach. All the same, combining what she's learned from both arcs so far could be the direction to go. Inspiring a love of learning in others while taking on a meaningful leadership role in Equestria.

    I was initially going to end this trilogy of long-windedness off by talking about how we really can't predict where our girls will end up, and how beautiful that is, in its way.

    Then Leakmageddon happened, and a portion of the fandom really does know what's in store for them. Whoops.

    All the same, whether you've absorbed the leaks with your eyes or managed to find a decent rock to hide under (in this economy?), I think it's clear to all of us how vital and intriguing the future of these characters is these days. And in my opinion, that's remarkable 7 seasons, a movie, and a spin-off series in. Downright remarkable.