Strong in the Real Way
With a title like that, you might think I’m referring to Fluttershy’s outbursts. Speaking up to the dragon in Dragonshy, losing her mind at the first Grand Galloping Gala, or even just recently standing up for Pinkie and herself to her friends in Buckball Season.
And while those things do take courage, Fluttershy being a badass isn’t what makes her strong.
It all goes back to what it really means to be a “Strong Female Character,” and how Fluttershy’s character arc has recently taken a turn for the amazing.
Fluttershy has performance anxiety, low self-esteem, and her own brand of introversion. Doesn’t take me to point out that she’s shy, too. Overall, it meant her character arc couldn’t take leaps and bounds to get her to the next step.
Just like one does in exposure therapy for real life anxieties, Fluttershy had to make small steps. A lot of small steps.
So many small steps that some fans were even getting a bit impatient, citing her episodes as always dealing with the same or very similar subjects.
From about– Oh, let’s say– Putting Your Hoof Down in season 2 to It Ain’t Easy being Breezies in season 4 (excluding maybe Keep Calm and Flutter On), Fluttershy seems to be learning different nuisances of the same core lesson.
Being assertive is about being calm and comfortable speaking for yourself. Her past failures and tormentors don’t define her now. Her performance anxiety won’t just go away with positive reinforcement, and it takes time. Sometimes the kindest thing is to be hard on someone.
All to do with strengthening her ability to stand up for herself and be comfortable with who she is.
And by the end there, even I was starting to feel how small those baby steps were. But just as I was getting tired of this stage of Fluttershy’s development, we moved onto the best thing in the world.
In seasons 5 and 6, Fluttershy has been killing it.
Scare Master, Flutter Brutter, 28 Pranks Later, Buckball Season, and Viva Las Pegasus kick so much butt in terms of Fluttershy’s characterization (and The Hooffields and Mccolts gives her a chance to use her ability to communicate with animals for something, but that’s beside the point).
On paper, Scare Master sounds like it’d be another baby step. Fluttershy trying to enjoy Nightmare Night for her friends’ sake and turning out to have a talent for terrifying them.
But there’s an honesty I love in this episode. Fluttershy’s honesty.
She tells her friends straight-up that she gave it a chance and doesn’t enjoy it, and her honesty is rewarded with a warmth and respect from her friends (and the episode itself, which treats the ending as a happy one).
Flutter Brutter somehow got even better! I think your opinion on this episode largely depends on whether or not you enjoyed Zephyr Breeze, but let me tell you, as someone who loved this beautiful douche-monkey, Fluttershy is so great here.
Why? She’s not afraid to express herself.
How often have we seen her apologize for her opinions in earlier seasons? How many times has she been either too reserved or exploding with emotion?
In this episode, Fluttershy expresses everything she feels without hesitation. She’s annoyed, she’s unimpressed, she’s peeved for crying out loud! It’s great because for once she’s not afraid to let her frustration show (so long as she doesn’t cuss in front of the street children again).
28 Pranks Later may have had Rainbow Dash making an unusually cruel decision in the opening, but at the very least, I gotta give it to Fluttershy because you actually see her call Dashie out on it immediately and get genuinely angry– as she should.
She even brings all her friends together to talk to Dash about it, she doesn’t just run away crying back to Angel Bunny.
Buckball Season has her explode on Rainbow Dash and Applejack partway through, and you might think that’s what I was referencing, that’s actually not the moment I’m talking about (even though her speaking up on behalf of a friend is great).
It’s when Fluttershy burns AJ & RD when they’re playing again.
Maybe you think I shouldn’t be pointing to burns as example of emotional maturity, and you’d be right, but the thing is, Fluttershy teasing her friends takes confidence.
The Fluttershy we were introduced to in season 1 wouldn’t want to upset anyone accidentally. Season 6 Fluttershy? When she’s confident, she’s not afraid to poke fun at her friends (so long as she knows it won’t hurt them, of course).
And Viva Las Pegasus? She stands her ground and tries to compel that big stubborn patoot of a farmer to budge on helping Flim and Flam (a lost cause, but the girl doesn’t back down when she knows she’s right).
Wrap it Up, Already, you Doofy “Analyst” You
All this to say Fluttershy’s strength in these last two seasons comes from having the courage to be honest and express herself without worrying about it. She’s genuinely confident enough in herself now because she’s being genuine.
Take a look at her. She’s still introverted, kinda shy, and has performance anxiety up the wazoo– she’s still a complex character with real faults
And that, my friends is what I think it should mean to be a Strong! Female! Character!: a strong character.
I’m sure you’ve seen the kickbutt, take-no-prisoners, no-man-can-imprison-me flavours of female empowerment, and maybe that has a place still for some. Certainly, some stories require kickassery.
But ultimately, Fluttershy has become an ideal example of what makes a strong female character strong: not just shouting at dragons and facing fears in big epic shows of courage, but being comfortable enough to be true to who you are in a real, tangible way.
You go, Fluttershy.
Here’s a compilation post with MLP Editorials just like this one! Enjoy the analysis and fangirling!
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Gurrrl, Why Acking So Cray-Cray?
Ah man, you put everything I’ve been loving about Fluttershy this past two seasons into the lovely little article I’ve always wanted to write. Excellent write up- Fluttershy has been impressing over and over this season, and all handled in such a nuanced and genuine way~