Sunset Shimmer Is Not A Perfect Pony · 7:05am
Those of you who have read An Equestrian Gentlemare, Stranded Amongst Alien Barbarians, Consoles Herself, may have noticed that the Sunset Shimmer I portray in this story is morally-imperfect. This is not even because she does sexual things with Flash Sentry -- she does this in love, after all, and "Love Makes Clean" is explicitly part of my Equestria's philosophy of sexual morality. Under the same conditions, Twilight Sparkle might very well do exactly the same sorts of things -- Sunset and Twilight, after all, have had similar moral upbringings.
It is more a matter of her arrogance, her dismissal of Humanoid culture as inferior despite its technological superiority and the ample evidence she has that the Humanoids are capable of finer emotions and more moral conduct than for which she gives them credit. Indeed, she is in love with a Humanoid who displays fine emotions and strong moral scruples -- Flash Sentry. Rather than conclude from his example that her opinion of the Humanoids is too low, she instead decides that Flash must be an extraordinarily-atypical Humanoid. Well, he is superior, but not as exceptional as she imagines.
Sunset Shimmer is also a hypocrite. One of the reasons she sees the Humanoids as morally inferior is that they are inconstant in love and friendship -- but her experience of this comes from a school in which she has been consistently disrupting love affairs and friendships! (She's actually right that the Equestrians are on the average less promiscuous in love and more loyal in friendship than the Federals -- but the difference is less than she imagines, and much of it comes from the fact that Equestrian culture has been influenced by Princess Celestia for its entire existence).
Another reason why she regards the Humanoids as inferior is that they are more aggressively violent than are the Ponies. This is true, and part of the reason why it is true is biological -- the Humanoids have evolved to be more aggressive and violent than have the Ponies. On the other hand, she misses that the Humanoids are also more imaginative and individualistic on the average than are the Ponies, and for similar evolutionary reasons. And the reason why she misses this is simple racial arrogance -- she's looking for reasons to feel superior to the Humanoids.
Also, her basic original plan is to plunder the Humanoid world for magic which she can bring back to Equestria to impress Princess Celestia into making her an Alicorn (she still doesn't grasp that Ascension doesn't work that way). She is perfectly willing to violently attack, and even if necessary risk death to, Humanoids in order to do this. Very few of the other students at Canterlot High School (which, remember, is an elite high school) are this vicious. And of course when she falls into Nightmare, all bets are off -- she actually tries to kill Twilight Sparkle, who is not only another Pony but a Pony from the same background and even House -- Twilight is a distant cousin of hers! (Admittedly, nopony behaves well when Shadow-ridden).
Even in the sexual-moral terms I discussed at the start of the essay, Sunset Shimmer comes off less well than she imagines in comparison with Flash Sentry. Sunset, after all, assumes that she's going to have to leave him for good to return to Equestria -- she fantasizes about bringing him back with her, but doesn't really believe that this is going to happen. Flash, on the other hand, assumes that they can stay together indefinitely -- he doesn't intend to leave her. Thus, she's being more promiscuous than he, and this is despite the fact that she was raised in a LESS promiscuous culture.
Sunset (to her credit) sort of gets this -- she feels bad that she's taking advantage of Flash. But she doesn't feel bad enough about it to avoid doing it.
(Another irony here is that Flash does ultimately leave her, and his reason is that he starts to realize just how malevolent Sunset is being to the other Humanoids, which among other things makes him morally uncomfortable).
So, basically, Sunset Shimmer isn't perfect, and I'm quite aware of this. I am not trying to write her behavior as perfect and having her come off as arrogant, hypocritical and racist -- she is all of those things.
But then, this is pre-reform Sunset Shimmer. Why should this surprise anyone? This is the girl who winds up turning into a she-demon and trying to enslave her schoolmates and kill Princess Twilight Sparkle.
Part of the reason why Sunset Shimmer is crying when she finds herself in that crater, at the denouement of Equestria Girls, is because she's just had a tremendous Heel Realization -- freed from her Shadow, she grasps not only that what she was doing in her Nightmare but a lot of what she has been doing all along was morally wrong. She grasps that her presumed moral superiority over the Humanoids was largely an illusion born of arrogance.
Now, post-reform Sunset Shimmer isn't perfect, either (in particular, she's still bad-tempered). But she's a lot more virtuous, and less-vicious, than she was before. In particular, she's a lot less arrogant about being an Equestrian Pony, and a lot more tolerant and even appreciative of the Humanoids, than she was before her reform.
I'm not sure why any of this should surprise anyone. Yes, I love Sunset Shimmer. She's one of my favorite characters. But I also know her limitations.