• Member Since 27th Feb, 2013
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Sprocket Doggingsworth

I write horse words.

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Help! My Heart is Full of Pony! - Fluttershy · 3:29am Jul 26th, 2019

I have much to write about Rainbow Roadtrip, but before I tackle its themes, message, or emotional content, I want to take a moment to draw attention to some subtle characterization that was, in and of itself, profound.

On multiple occasions in Rainbow Roadtrip, Fluttershy is depicted as the pony with the most emotional intelligence. She is called upon to be the voice of reason. When the Mane Six discovered that they had been lied to - that there was, in fact, no Rainbow Festival - everypony grew justifiably angry at Mayor Skies. In the heat of all this anger, it was Fluttershy who stepped forward - fearlessly inserting herself into a tense social situation - to solicit an actual explanation from the mayor - to offer a listening ear and some empathy at a time when everyone else had already lost their cool.

The same thing happened later on when the retired Manhehattanite couple was in conflict with their grumpy neighbor. Fluttershy once again inserted herself right in the middle of a social conflict (with somepony known to be cantankerous) - to offer a voice of reason - to offer compassion for both parties, and to propose a workable solution.

All without fear.

Did any of us stop and say that this was out of character for her? That Fluttershy should not have been able to do this? No.

It was so believable that you wouldn't consider it out of the ordinary. But think about it!

In the very beginning of the series, Fluttershy was the very embodiment of the shy girl archetype, comically cringing at the notion of having to give her name to a somepony new. Now she's moderating social conflicts of strangers.

How far she's come!

What strikes me looking back at her gradual development, is that there's no single solitary turning point where she completely self-actualizes. She's certainly had her share of milestones, but this was more of a gradual arc. Somewhere along the line, she went from being a wallflower to being a natural leader. And it just sort of makes sense.

What is the point I'm getting at?

Well, over the years, I've heard some fans criticize the show for Fluttershy's "learning the same lesson over and over again." However, I think this is a strength in characterization, not a weakness. Hidden in this slow but steady arc of Fluttershy's is a lesson in and of itself.

If you learn to stand up for yourself once, it may get a little bit easier the next time you do it, but your social anxiety isn't going to disappear over night. Assertion is a skill that takes practice (like any other). Every new obstacle carries the danger of backsliding into old habits, and the opportunity to transcend them.

It's a rocky path.

Books, and movies, and television love to highlight singular triumphs. Such moments make for compelling stories. Somebody abandons their well-designed plan, rips up their note cards, and gives a speech from the heart. Somebody works up the courage to step out onto the stage and sing. Somebody fights back against a bully for the first time.

(Somepony stands up to a dragon despite her deepest fears.)

These tropes can make great lessons and tales, and are quite inspiring when told well. However, it takes more than that to turn your life around. Fluttershy "learned the same lesson again and again" because overcoming social anxiety doesn't happen overnight. Every single lesson she's learned and re-learned is a step in the right direction.

Real change is not as romantic or dramatic as these shining moments. It's about replacing negative patterns of thought and behavior with positive ones. Real change comes from constant effort. That's what it takes to break lifelong habits. Those moments of clarity that our favorite stories celebrate - those moments of triumph - they are windows of opportunity, nothing more.

So looking back at nine years of Fluttershy's stumbling blocks and triumphs, I see dozens of milestones, (and she grew a bit more confident with each and every one), but there was no singular definitive moment where she became the pony we saw in Rainbow Roadtrip. The pony who not only has the confidence to insert herself into tricky social situations, but the grace to excel at it. Pinkie Pie even describes this calm, empathetic style of conflict resolution as "what Fluttershy does best."

I, for one, find this inspiring - to see what Fluttershy has become. Because even if we all "learn the same lessons again and again," and even if these recurring stumbling blocks feel like failure, with dedication, patience, and self-examination, grander progress is within our reach. It is possible to become better versions of ourselves.


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Comments ( 2 )

Thank you for pointing that out and then elaborating from it. :)
Indeed, it had felt so natural to me in the special that I hadn't thought to think of it as odd.

I've noticed Fluttershy becoming more confident just a bit each season. Even with the help and support of her friends, she did the difficult work of overcoming her shyness, fears and lack of confidence. Her inner beauty shines even brighter now than it did when she was just the shy and kind pony. Showing her grow into a better pony is as important a lesson as any of the others the show as taught us.

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