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Being Blinded by a Shimmering Star! Patreon Reward for Firimil/Nova Quill! · 7:51pm Mar 28th, 2018

Heya readers!

This latest mad dash to get my rewards done on time is brought to you by Nova Quill/Firimill.
As you may have guessed, Nova asked me to pontificate about that very adorable sociopath, Starlight Glimmer!

Drawn by the lady herself!

I’ve spoken at length about Starlight before, but that was a few years ago and my view has at least progressed, changed being a pretty strong word here, though I probably would disagree with a point or two I made back in that blog post now. That being said, I took some time to think about how I wanted this blog post to go and have decided to go a little meta here instead of just talking about Glimmy directly.

Now, before peeps get ready to angrily disagree with me in the comments, I’ll say this: I don’t dislike Starlight as a character, I do think the writers of the show proper have mostly mishandled her post “rehabilitation”. Also, this post isn’t designed to change anyone’s opinions on Starlight so much, but hopefully for those who dislike her, you’ll maybe get some insight into her character. Likewise, if you’re someone who loves Starlight, hopefully, this will shed some light on why she’s still a polarizing character after all this time.

Ideally, maybe this will cut down on the somewhat obnoxious discussions about Starlight on Derpibooru.

First off, because the comparison always comes up with Starlight, let’s contrast her journey with that of a character who seems to be far less divisive.

This cutie! Right here!

I’m not suggesting Sunset Shimmer is inherently better, but somehow she’s managed to be added to the cast without multipledrama tags specifically for the character. In fact, the only Sunset Shimmer tag that suggests a discussion must have occured on a picture that I can find in my allergy ridden, not-drunk-enough-for-this-stuff state, also implicitly involves Glimmer.

These characters have a pretty similar back-story. Both where former villains brought into the light by one Princess Twilight Sparkle and both were introduced (in their respective shows/movies) as new main characters almost immediately.

So why is it one of these characters is often considered godly-tier waifu material and the other one gets fought over because some love her with a fiery passion and others loathe her with the same passion?

Well, let’s take a closer look at what drove the characters to be villains. Sunset seemingly was fed up with Celestia not handing over all the secrets that would turn Sunset into an alicorn. If we disregard that, it’s clear that Sunset and Celestia had a falling out, likely because Sunset wanted more power/influence or something she thought befit her station. Without the comic support, her reasoning for running off to human land are somewhat vague, but it’s clear her goals seem to be to prove something to Celestia. Now, some seem to think Sunset MEANT to transform into a demon, but her line “A demon. I turned into a raging she-demon.” delivered with not a small trace of annoyance would suggest otherwise. Plus, there’s some visual hints in the first EqG movie that the transformation, and likely subsequent plan to take over Equestria where not part of plan “A”.

Pictured: The face of someone whose plans have gone a bit awry.

Starlight Glimmer’s original goal was clearly forced equality via the removal of cutie marks. She was, of course, driven on by a friend moving away when she was young! Aaaand… Okay, I’ve managed to add to expand on that idea in my writing, but I’m sure many of us remember that it was popular to write fics where Twilight and Spike pointed out how dumb and insane that sounds. In the interest of not dismissing Starlight entirely, I’ve suggested this points to two things about Starlight’s character:

  1. She grew up with little support outside this one friend.
  2. She’s just kinda unavoidably mentally unhinged… possibly due to the aforementioned lack of support.

This actually makes for an interesting character in my opinion, but the issue here is we the consumers of the show have to infer these things, and… again, with the idea that Starlight could have tried contacting Sunburst or even enrolled in the same school at some point in mind, it’s hard not to see her as a little or a lot crazy.

That being said, this is one of my favorite aspects of Starlight. For one, it makes her one of the shows most terrifying villains. Her motives don’t stem from a selfish desire to spread chaos or conquer. As an antagonist, Starlight actually believed she was doing the right thing and that makes for a shockingly realistic bad-mare who even uses some real-world tactics to get her way.

Okay, and magic…

You should all know the rest. Starlight sought her revenge and almost got it at the cost of the planet. Twilight convinced her to give friendship a try and now Starlight is a “good mare”.

And the problems with how Starlight was handled continued.

One of the key things that comes up with discussing Sunset and Starlight is how their redemption immediately following their heel-face-turn. Sunset is still basically despised by her peers except the five Twilight tapped to befriend her. Even if the whole mind-controlling demon thing was a mistake, this follows. Sunset ruled the high school with an iron fist for a good couple years or more. Still, it’s hard not to feel sorry for the girl when she makes an effort to be nice to literally everyone yet still gets reminded by her past mistakes by her friends and the faculty and is the target of most the glares thrown around in the school.

Thanks, Celestia!

Meanwhile, Starlight immediately gets forgiven by the ponies she brainwashed into joining an unnerving cult she hoped to grow until it consumed all of Equestria. In fact, that forgive her SO hard that Starlight has to freak out a couple seasons later when they invite her back and basically want to treat her as some sort of guest of honor despite kinda ruining their lives for a bit.

Now, I’ll by that ponies are a far more forgiving race than humans for a dollar, but as human it’s not hard to see how Starlight’s immediate, devoid of consequences treatment is rather unsatisfying. A point in Starlight’s favor is she sometimes just can’t deal with how her actions that seem evil in hindsight to herself are so easily forgiven. She seems to suffer from a small bout of imposter syndrome. I’d say the most unfortunate thing here is that her mental self-flagellation isn’t so much a defining character trait in the series as something the writers break out of the toolbox from time to time when we’re supposed to feel bad about whatever is going on with Starlight. Sure, if Starlight was like this ALL the time, it might get tedious, but hey, we now have semi-assertive Fluttershy after a few seasons. Basically, if the self-guilt was a bit more prominent leading up to the end of season 7, I’m sure many would feel Starlight had more earned a sort of redemption or grown as a character. Instead, she just sorta gets over the fact that ponies she’s wronged, via-cult indoctrination, have super-ultra-hyper forgiven her and decides they can hang out with her now.

Meanwhile, Sunset is STILL paying dividends for being a high school bully for a few years (more on this later).

Skipping ahead to the first moment of actual redemption, Sunset basically finds her confidence to help giant alicorn-rainbow blast a trio of mind-controlling megalomaniacs who had summoned their giant sea-monster stands. Starlight, uh… knew the guy who could help fix the problem. This, in turn, was used to show that maybe Twilight, the Princess of FRIENDSHIP, maybe had something to learn from the pony who was not above assault, imprisoning, and brainwashing the innocent a few months prior.

To be fair, Twilight really didn’t seem to know what she was doing here.

This brings me to something that I find rather irksome about Starlight. The stories that feature her prominently on seem to unfold in a way to make her out to be the hero when really… we could have used a season of her just figuring out how not to be psychotically evil at times.

Instead of that! You’ve been human for all of a few hours! How did you even do that?!

Honestly, my favorite Starlight episodes are the ones where she relies on magic and something terrible happens, or she hangs out with Trixie and then something terrible happens! It feels more like the character we should have at this point in the series, or maybe should have seen more of in season six. Instead, we get this weird back and forth where she’s either hyper-competent or she’s mind controlled/accidentally possessed members of the cast because apparently, she’s just off her meds that day? The recurring and compounding problem here is that Starlight will, even accidentally, do these rather unsavory, to say the least, things and then be forgiven by the episode’s end mostly because… she’s really sorry, I guess.

Contrast once again, Sunset STILL gets the short end of the stick for stuff she’s gone to great lengths to repair because I guess the writers can’t get enough of wobbieizing the poor girl. The girl can’t even catch a break with characters she hasn’t wronged at all  and apparently won’t stop being put through the wringer until she's nice to EVERYONE she’s met.


It’s a little hard not to feel sorry for Sunset in this case while it’s actually nearly impossible to feel sorry for Starlight without filling in these massive gaps the show leaves us with.

Another issue often working against Starlight is the zero-sum game that is how much time each character gets on screen. Sunset does get something of an unfair handicap here. Equestria Girls can be a movie, or an episode-long special, or a two-parter long special, or a short, or even the SAME short over and over again until every character in the franchise gets a turn. There are tons of different ways to let other characters shine in that flexible format. These characters are also mostly proxies of the pony characters as well, so it probably softens the blow a bit when Sunset is the focus of the story. Starlight, on the other hand/hoof, can’t really be in an episode without ultimately using time that might have gone to one of the other characters. She also is often the voice of reason in episodes where that role could have gone to another character… like, let’s just say Spike because I’ll never be over his absence in Fame and Misfortune.

To quote or maybe paraphrase a comment I read on Derpibooru, it’s not necessarily that people dislike Starlight as a character, they dislike the fact that she’s presented to us as the only Coca-Cola in a dessert. Even if you’re one of the peeps who approve of most her uses, I’m hopeful most everyone can see she was quite overdone in Mirror Magic.

I personally think she’s not without her charm. I actually enjoy watching her pick an action she thinks is the “right” one when, in fact, it is the exact opposite of that, and really… she’s a lot more endearing when she’s basically blundering through a solution because she doesn’t know what the buck she’s doing rather than deliver a line that shows she’s somehow gained more insight of friendship then the characters who’ve been around for four seasons before we even knew she existed.

Pictured: A character who is making things up as they go along!

That being said, I actually thought her use in School Daze was pretty good… but a guidance counselor, Twilight?!  Really? Do you want a generation of messed up revolutionaries?! Because that’s how you get a generation of messed up revolutionaries!

In conclusion, I’d say Starlight has her merits and can fill a role not easily filled by characters that have been around longer, but that she’s often not used that way. So, on one hand/hoof, maybe people pick on her a little more than she deserves, on the other, it shouldn’t be hard to see why she rubs some the wrong way. So maybe people can step back and appreciate that Starlight, even if indirectly, has sort of wronged the cast or is at least indicative of someone seeing less of their favorite character or maybe that character being somewhat flanderized in an episode or even disappeared completely from one.

On a final note, I’m going to post one of my favorite pieces featuring Sunset and Starlight and the accompanying blurb the artist wrote with it.

“To me, there has always been striking differences between the stories of Sunset Shimmer and Starlight Glimmer. Sunset Shimmer is basically a good person who went down the wrong path and must prove to the world that it is possible to come back from the brink and become that good person again. Starlight Glimmer is basically, at her core, a bad person who desperately wants to be good, and she must prove to herself that it is possible to fight your better nature to be who you want to become. At least, that’s how I see them…
Though one of the biggest similarities between them is that they both have meaningful, intriguing stories to tell.”

Again thanks to Nova Quill/Firimillfor this reader supported blog topic. If you want to get in on this and ask me to blog about a topic, check out my patreon. I’m sure I’ll get better about the timing of them as I power through the absolute worst time of the year for allergies and a mobile game I’m playing is killed and buried next month. :raritydespair:Catch you in the comments!

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Comments ( 8 )

Is there any way to favorite this blog post other than to bookmark a webpage?

As much as you might think I hate the character, I actually don't. There have been several scenes where she legit made me laugh out loud (genuinely; not as a scoff)

That said... man the writers miss handle the little sociopath.

Thank you for the read, and that old image feels nearly prophetic right now.

She is easily one of my favourite characters these days thanks to how relatable she is. People mock her backstory but she was a kid and kids overreact so it's not hard to see that one moment shaping her whole life. She's impulsive and it shows she often puts ideas into action first and worry about the consequences later. I look forward to more Starlight going forward and can only hope we get to see more of her and Sunset hanging out in the future.

  1. She’s just kinda unavoidably mentally unhinged… possibly due to the aforementioned lack of support.

Ponies ARE herd animals, being alone like that probably didn't do wonders for Starlight's mental health. And aside from that, maybe she was just born with something wired "wrong" in her brain. Or in the years between Sunburst leaving and her forming a cult, something happened. Something that pushed her over the edge and drove her pretty frickin' crazy. Or both, who knows? Either way, I suspect there's more to Starlight's story than she's willing to divulge, even to Twilight. For now, anyway.

So is Chancellor Naysay going to get hit with a newspaper soon?

Honestly, my favorite Starlight episodes are the ones where she relies on magic and something terrible happens, or she hangs out with Trixie and then something terrible happens!

It's also heartwarming when she gets out the big barbed-wire-wrapped-sledgehammer to reasonably tap something.
I'm thinking specifically the bit in the journal episode with Fluttershy.

Well, hell, this was MUCH better than my choice of topic. Go, Nova Quill!

Honestly, bottom of my heart, I absolutely despise the "traumatic childhood" excuse for villainy. Especially when it's used in media where actual childhood trauma is not something the creators either understand or are allowed to even broach as a topic, or both. They really need to stop bringing it up. This garbage stems from that "Making of a Monster" shit that my own childhood and that of many other people I know and many, many others I don't could probably find episodes in, and it is absolutely degrading to us and the efforts we put into being decent people on a daily basis. Like "rubbing shit in our faces" levels of degrading.

Starlight Glimmer and Tempest Shadow can rot in a hole. A rough past is not an excuse or even a common motivator to go on violent rampages and cause real and lasting harm to others. And frankly, theirs have been the kind of slights that experience from the show would dictate that most ponies would just shrug off and try to make things work anyway unless the plot demanded otherwise. This is even accounting for the "ponies can't cope" meme that diligently explains virtually all of their spastic behavior. There are perhaps dozens of ponies with various disabilities in the show, none of whom seem to be inclined toward evil and rightly so. Unless you guys really think we should be keeping an eye on Derpy and that stallion in a wheelchair that runs a burger stand.

In fact, most people I've met who've had them spend most of their time just trying to live their lives. I can see being a a jerk as a result, due to the apparent absence of any positive incentive to be nice or enough experience of the receiving end of kindness to know what kind of behavior to emulate and why. But so what? Being mean to somebody is nowhere near on the scale of stealing their identity and free will, let alone destroying the country or trying to violently depose its leadership, although some people and countries seem to have been held in velvet long enough to believe otherwise and behave accordingly.

There is a difference between "forgiving" and "failing to make sound judgments based on observation of past behavior", or at least there has to be if I'm the one with a cognitive deficiency on the topic. I'm going to be honest, the word is a concept I still can't really wrap my head around, other than it's often called for by those who intentionally wrong others and want to escape the consequences. Then again, Equestria is unbelievably easy to invade and dominate for a country of its size, wealth, and power, so maybe there's a meta story there that most people just aren't seeing. Honestly, if it wasn't for Twilight & Co. always saving the day, there simply wouldn't be a pony-led country. It kind of makes you wonder what's been holding everything together during the thousand year span between Celestia and Luna's antics and the new crew's adventures.

I think it'd have been vastly more compelling if Starlight's "forgiveness" on the part of her victims was just Stockholm Syndrome flaring up from the ponies who've had her think for them for so long, they can't handle her not doing it. Like others have said, Equestrian ponies are herd animals. But more than that, they are modeled after what people think actual horses would act like if they were sapient. Horses are very strongly disinclined to think for themselves unless whoever was doing the thinking for them presents an overt threat to their well-being that falls within the limits of their understanding. Which is why they allow crazy apes to put things on their backs and even ride them. Starlight Glimmer, being both much more intelligent than the town and genuinely (if psychotically) interested in their well-being, did not meet the necessary criteria to be perceived as a threat. It would make more sense if they didn't forgive her so much as they still didn't know how to function without her in the role she occupied for them.

What I personally find more insidious on the writers' (or just Hasbro's) part is that all of the redeemed villains' arcs (and much of the series in general) seem to push a mentality of codependency that far exceeds the limits of health. I get that the theme is "Friendship is Magic", but it's not forever, and having every ended relationship come with the threat of a literal apocalypse, and others being staved off by the forced bonding of individuals who are inherently disinclined towards even basic cooperation is a strong sign that things are being taken too far. And that's further highlighted by the new season's "School of Friendship" bullshit. I cannot stress enough that you cannot hug and/or teach away the world's problems, and training children to try to make friends with total strangers, especially those who are adults and/or from different cultures, is probably not the best idea. Especially given recent events around the world and in this community.

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