It’s no secret that conflict makes for better storytelling than people bumbling agreeably though life do. The writers of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic understand this, giving the show’s likeable cast of candy-colored equines a believable variety of character flaws that do an excellent job of generating the conflict necessary to spin out plot lines that can hold a twenty-minute episode of television together. And few ponies are as flawed as the Element of Loyalty, Rainbow Dash.
Rainbow Dash seems like a simple character on the surface. She’s brash, competitive, and highly aggressive. But hidden within that cocky exterior is an insecure pony who hates to show any deep emotions like sadness or fear. And, interestingly enough, her best friend is Fluttershy–a pony who is the complete opposite of Rainbow Dash in almost every way. Find out more behind the cut.
Sure and Shy
Dash has a pretty complicated relationship with Fluttershy, it seems; in Sonic Rainboom, Dash takes her fear of failing in the Best Young Flier competition out on Fluttershy’s poor cheerleading. Fluttershy, not one for arguing or confronations, simply says, “Were we arguing? I’m sorry.” In Suited For Success, when the ponies can’t figure out how to lure a despondent Rarity out of her bedroom, Fluttershy suggests panicking and Dash snorts “That’s your answer for everything.” Even when they’re getting along, as in Party of One, when they try to escape from Pinkie Pie so they can help prepare a surprise party for the party pony, Dash and Fluttershy can’t keep their lies straight. “Playing volleyball/collecting seashells!” Pause. “Collecting seashells/playing volleyball!” And in “Dragonshy,” Dash is outright annoyed with Fluttershy for holding the ponies back on their trip up a mountain to face a dragon.
But they do have their moments of friendship, too. In The Cutie Mark Chronicles, we find out that Dash initially befriended Fluttershy because it made Dash angry to see the shy little filly getting bullied. To no one’s surprise, we also find out that Dash loves winning, which is a little like saying “the sky is blue” or “water is wet” in the Stating the Obvious Sweepstakes. In May The Best Pet Win, when Rainbow Dash confesses that she wants a pet like the other ponies to Fluttershy, Fluttershy gets so excited that she drags her friend off to find one. And in Hurricane Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash not only forces herself to be tactful with her tearful friend instead of yelling at Fluttershy (a first for Dash, normally the most tactless pony), but she tells Fluttershy not to pay any attention to the jeering from onlookers. When Fluttershy actually starts making an effort to train, Dash encourages her and cheers her on. It makes the episode’s message of standing up for yourself and trying to do your best more meaningful to have a character like Rainbow Dash try to be a good, supportive friend instead of dismissive or hostile.
Rainbow Dash also has an insecure streak a mile wide, displayed several times in her own starring episodes. We’ve covered “Sonic Rainboom” briefly, but in The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well she’s so jealous of losing attention to Mare-Do-Well that she ends up trying to turn opening a jar of peanut butter into a heroic deed worthy of praise. In Read It And Weep she’s so scared of being considered an egghead for reading the adventures of Daring Do in her sickbed that she ends up trying to burglarize the book from the hospital at night, with predictably disastrous results. Rainbow Dash is pretty proud of her athleticism and will happily tell you how awesome she is, and anything that interferes with that self-image is threatening to her to the point where she goes off her rocker trying to assert her own awesomeness.
None of these flaws make Rainbow Dash a bad character. Indeed, they give her a much more well-rounded characterization than the “jock” characters would receive on other cartoons that don’t have so much care put into them. Dash’s many character flaws are a rich way to power plots and character conflicts, whether with her sometimes friend, sometimes rival Applejack, or with her eternally shy and frustrating friend Fluttershy. More importantly, no matter how angry or irritated with the other characters Rainbow Dash becomes, she always comes around in the end. Not a bad lesson for children to learn. ■