Observations on Characterization (and the Aesthetic Persona)

Text version and youtube description:

Youtube description:

TheoryBrony drew a pic just for this video, so go show him some love: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheoryBrony/videos?view=0&flow=grid

Ending theme is The Standard Model by SoGreatAndPowerful: http://youtu.be/fdhWa5NSoD8

That Nicole Oliver drawing was by Frist44: http://frist44.deviantart.com/

My OC is drawn by MizuTakishima: http://mizutakishima.deviantart.com/

Text version:

In this video I’ll be talking about four different aspects of what makes characters engaging, starting with “depth” and “development,” and then moving into the more interesting “aesthetic persona,” and “chemistry.”

When people talk about what makes a great character in fiction, the words that get thrown around a lot are “depth” and “development.”

A deep character means one with complex emotions and motivations. Deep characters appear to exist as actual persons, whereas shallow characters exist more as concepts. King Sombra, for instance, is a shallow character, because we don’t really know anything about him other than that he’s a bad guy. His motivation seems to be nothing more than, “be evil.”

On the other hand, Rarity is an exceptionally deep character. Her motivations stem from a childhood desire to dazzle people with her work, and a deep interest in fashion that developed out of embarrassment over her unfashionable parents. Her passion is to have others appreciate her work, and this sometimes gets in the way of her desire to please her friends, whom she loves because of their densely established connections over the course of the series. Her emotions and motivations are complex.

But more importantly than that, we also have context to appreciate those complexities. This is where I bring in a term that you’ve probably heard me use on other videos: “well-realized.” A well-realized character is one that the audience understands and resonates with because of the context given to their complexity.

For instance, a character that is deep, but not really realized, is Princess Luna. The story of Nightmare Moon and the story of Nightmare Night, both suggest complex emotions and deep motivations, but we don’t really get to SEE these things. Luna feels like a kind of weird character because we don’t completely get how she is the way she is. We can rationalize with her, that yeah, being stuck on the moon for a thousand years makes you socially awkward, but it feels weird because we don’t really get to see what Luna was like before she was on the moon, or how much the world has changed, or what she’s been doing since she’s been back, and things like that. She’s a deep and interesting character, but not terribly well-realized.

Meanwhile, let’s look at Rarity again. We totally get her and what she’s all about. In most episodes, her actions seem congruent with her established character, and we just sort of get it. In Sweet and Elite, we never have to sit around and wonder how Rarity is having this conundrum. We know that she is, on the one hand, the element of generosity and an excellent friend, but on the other hand, we know what Canterlot and popularity mean to her. Because she’s a well-realized character, the conflict resonates with us, whether we come out of it loving Rarity or hating her as a result.

Now, let’s talk about “character development.” This is the process by which a character evolves over the course of a series. If depth represents the complexity of a character’s emotions and motivations, development follows how those things change over the course of a work.

Rainbow Dash exhibits strong character development over the course of the series. A lot of her episodes mark definitive changes in her life, which are felt continually over the course of future episodes. After May the Best Pet Win and Read It and Weep, she learns to accept things which she’d previously considered lame, and becomes a more honest individual because of it. In Wonderbolts Academy, she shows a perfect crossection of depth and development when she resigns from Wonderbolts training due to personal moral obligation which may have extended from lessons that she learned in previous episodes.

For a character who never really shows any development, let’s look at Princess Celestia. Over the course of the series, what little we see of Celestia suggests her to be a dignified, magnanimous, seemingly all-knowing, and extremely manipulative leader. Her character is well-realized and certainly has some depth to it, but doesn’t really undergo any development.

Depth and development are both excellent literary tools, but I feel that both of them are extremely overrated when it comes to exploring what makes a character or a series great. After all, many people would argue that Celestia, Luna, and even King Sombra are great characters, in spite of their lack of development, realization, and depth, respectively. “Well, those people are just biased.” Of course they’re biased! Everyone is biased! But why are they biased? Why do they like those characters, if it has nothing to do with depth or development?

This is where we come to the topic of “Aesthetic Persona,” which is a phrase that I made up because I don’t know of an existing phrase to describe it. If you know one, or at least a similar one, let me know in the comments.

A character’s aesthetic persona is the raw appeal of being who they are. It’s a combination of how they look, how they sound, and what they do.

Let’s look at Celestia’s aesthetic persona. Starting on the technical level, she’s designed by Lauren Faust and exhibits the characteristics of Faust’s design sense, and the general design sense of Friendship Is Magic as a whole. Compared to other ponies, she’s very tall and regal looking. She has a white coat and a flowing, multicolored, pastel mane, which definitely sets her apart from most characters. This is her visual aesthetic, which could be enough to attract fans all on its own.

Her voice is that of Nicole Oliver, who plays her with a very smooth, calming, and motherly tone. Her clarity of speech gives it an air of officiality. Her dialog is usually restrained and dignified, yet approachable, so much so that we often feel the other ponies are overreacting when they’re bashful around her, yet we also have no doubts about the fact that she is the princess and that she is deserving of respect. This sense of understanding her character, just through her look, her speech, and the way her character is written, comprises her aesthetic persona.

Depth and development can play a role in a character’s aesthetic persona, but they don’t have to exist for the viewer to connect with a character. Plenty of people adore Celestia just for what she is, regardless of how few appearances she actually has and how little she actually does in the story.

While I’m on the subject of characterization, there’s one last thing I’d like to talk about, which isn’t so much about how a character works as an individual, but how they work in the context of the story—and that thing is “chemistry.” Chemistry between characters can best be described with an analogy to chemistry itself. Mind you this example will be extremely simple and my chemistry knowledge is on a middle-school level at best, but for the sake of example, think of carbon and oxygen. When you combine them, you get Carbon Monoxide. You no longer have just carbon and just oxygen, but something entirely new which has come out of combining them. When characters have chemistry together, it means that something new has been created which you couldn’t have with just one character or the other.

For instance, Rainbow Dash on her own is a pretty fun character, but she really becomes interesting when paired up with one of the other ponies. When paired up with Pinkie Pie, we get to see how frustrated Rainbow gets when trying to deal with Pinkie’s eccentricities, as well as how she acts with a good friend doing some of her favorite activities. When paired with AJ, the two of them have a strong sense of understanding and camaraderie that comes from sharing a very physical lifestyle, as well as a strong competitiveness. When paired with Fluttershy, we see just how much of a bulldozer Rainbow can be when paired with an introverted character, and Fluttershy gets dragged into social situations which she wouldn’t be interested in ordinarily.

The chemical bonds between each of the mane six, as well as the chemical that you get when you put them all together, plays a huge role in what makes their group dynamic work so well, and why it’s so easy to feel connected to the whole mane six. The characters don’t exist as islands, but at part of a greater and more interesting whole.

To see a great example of how much aesthetic persona and chemistry can do, just take a look at Octavia and Vinyl Scratch. In the context of the show, aesthetic persona is literally all these ponies have. In both cases, the character design, facial expression, and action being performed by these characters is the whole of their existence. Yet, based on these aesthetic personas alone, the fandom determined that these characters would have great chemistry together, and as a result they’ve become one of, if not THE most popular fan pairing in the entire series. While each character is appealing on their own, their chemistry together is what makes them so fun to write about.

I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts on these aspects of characterization. Do you like deep and developed characters the most, or does aesthetic persona resonate strongly with you regardless of whether a character is well-realized? Are there any characters that you wouldn’t have cared about if they didn’t have such great chemistry with other characters? Remember there’s a link in the description to a text version of this video, where you can leave comments with no character limits, if you want to go in-depth.


91 thoughts on “Observations on Characterization (and the Aesthetic Persona)

  1. I would day I like deep characters but I contradict myself with the fact that I absolutely love aesthetic characters like Vinyl, Octavia, and Derpy. Now even though Derpy actually had dialogue the fact that it was taken from the show and that she was pretty much taken from it to makes her purely aesthetic. Having said that I also love deep characters. As you aid Rainbowdash is a great example of character development and of having a deep character. I have to say that Fluttershy doesn’t have to much development, everytime it seems like she learned something she always goes back to the exact same way she was in the first episode and every episode since. You would think after the whole Iron Will fiasco she would have changed a bit but it doesn’t seem like it to me. Meh, lets just combine the two and make aestheticly deep characters XD.

  2. My sleep schedule is all backwards right now so forgive me if this is a little confusing.

    Story time!!

    A few hours ago, I got into a fight with a friend of mine about what characters we liked. See, we both recently finished watching an anime called “Another”, and while it’s notoriously violent, my friend seemed to have REALLY enjoyed the characters. I did too, (kind of) but for some, strange reason, I hadn’t really fallen “in love” with the characters. I didn’t really grow too attached to them, (so I wasn’t even sad when they died) and the ones that I did like the very most, were all characters that he didn’t even bother to mention…

    So I mentioned off-handedly that I actually cared more about the characters in Higurashi no naku koro ni (mostly the first two seasons of the anime) than the characters in Another. He said he didn’t care for Higurashi because he just didn’t care about the characters, but for me, the characters were the only reasons why I cared about Higurashi at all!

    Also, he likes the characters in Persona 4 a lot, and thought that the characters in Persona 3 were just “so-so”. I didn’t tell him just how much that bothered me (seriously?! did he have to say “so-so” like it was a fact or whatever?) but honestly, I liked the characters in Persona 3 way more, even though there are some P4 characters that I adore..but a majority of them were kind of bland to me.

    Yeah yeah, “different opinions”, “you’re allowed to like different things, y’know!” etc etc….but why were our opinions so varied? Does he just have really bad taste? or is it me who has bad taste?? MAYBE WE BOTH HAVE BAD TASTE??? (or maybe neither of us have bad taste?)

    But after watching your video, I think I at least kind of get it. We both like Aesthetic personas, but we both have different taste in what we find to be aesthetically entertaining/relate-able/etc. Plus, I think he probably cares more about their aesthetic personas than I do. We both like depth and development, but because those things sort of encompass “personality”, we end up liking characters who have different personalities. (He tends to go for preppy types with great social skills, and/or dark & bad-@$$, and I tend to go for goofballs, hot-blooded folk and characters that are nice, quirky or eccentric…GENERALLY SPEAKING of course, sometimes we do like the same things! and I left out a lot! plus combinations..!)

    Anyway, I guess I care a lot more about depth and development, but it also kind of depends. He’s probably more into aesthetics, though that isn’t to say he doesn’t like depth/development either.

    If there’s one thing we both agree on though, is Chemistry. I know that when we create our OWN characters, we tend to be like the same kinds of combinations. “Wow, person A has great chemistry with person B, they bounce off each other nicely! so does A & C though, but like this!” etc.

  3. Seeing a text version of one of your videos this way, kinda shows me, how much work goes into these, even before recording …

    Anyways, I really think your summary of characterization pretty much covers most of the things, that make a character appealing, though “aestetic persona” could probably also be called “personal preference do to specific likeable traits on the character”. I noticed this a lot while talking with my friends about different characters and especially in the bronydom, when the question arises, who is best horse.

    I, for example, really enjoy watching rainbow dash and fluttershy, since these two kinda reproduce my personality rather well into the series. On the one hand, I am very shy and don’t jump onto the chance of talking to other people, but on the other hand I am very competitive and “like to kick some flank” in whatever situation is given to me. So these characters appeal to me, because of personal preference and reflection of my own character. Same goes for my friends, who respectively like the pony who is closest to their own character.

    Now, looking on the other aspects, I believe having “deep” characters isn’t actually all that important. While I know a lot of my friends love deep characters and personalities, that have great complexity, I personally doesn’t really care so much about that part. Of course characters that have multiple character traits are all in all more interesting, but a lot of times the simplicity of a character is very charming. In fact, most comedy only works with simply characters, since it’s intention isn’t to make you feel for the characters, than rather laugh your ass off of their silly interactions.

    When it comes to character realization though, in my opinion a deep character is very uninteresting if it isn’t played out right. Luna was a pretty good example here, as I watched the Episode Luna Eclipsed, before I really got into the fandom and I thought, it was awful. The character looked differently than in season 1, behaved really weird for a ruler/godess creature (heck, if she wanted to catch up on modern day behaviors she could have just “watched” every pony from her high guarding point in canterlot, or, well, just study their dreams for a while.) The character presented there made no sense to me and I started to actually hate the episode, because the character seemed very complex, but he was never realized well in the show and thus ended up in a surprising and very weird presentation.

    Development is not always important (at least in my opinion), but it makes a good character more well-rounded. Good example here are actually applejack and twilight sparkle and . On the one side you have applejack, who is a character that doesn’t really need development, because he is, like you said, the wisest and most reasonable character of the group. He is still a likeable character though, simply because he already is pretty awesome even at the beginning (though these characters usually die in bigger stories, due to their lack of interesting development throughout a longer story). On the other side you have Twilight, an already good character that kind of gets more and more awesome due to all the lessons she learns (yeah, twilight is actually the only one who learns ALL the friendship lessons and you really can see that she has a pretty clear understanding of what friendship means at the end of the series).

    And for the last point you mentioned, chemistry, I believe this is the bread and butter for any almost all stories. It’s of course always interesting to watch a character experience self discovery by doing stuff, but it will never have the explosive results and possibilities of a character interaction between two completely different personalities. “Look before you sleep” is actually one of my favorite episodes, because of the constant bickering of rarity and applejack. Especially the “polar opposite” interactions always struck me as either hilarious or deeply touching. The farmworker vs. aristocrat, clown vs. scientist, shyguy vs loudguy and of course DJ vs cellist just make unbelievably awesome character interactions possible. And if it weren’t for my pure personal preference of the characters of flutters and rainbow, I would probably like rarity a lot more, since her chemistry with most of the characters is actually really entertaining.

    All in all, every aspect kinda leans into the liking of a character for me, but the “aestatic persona”, as you called it, is still waaaay up above all of the other points for me. Also btw the reason I really dig Lyra over all the other ponies in the show. A mint-green lyre-player who dreams of becoming a human. How awesome is that?

    Also, holy crap, the last time I have written this much was in my last chemistry exam (go figure).

  4. Posted this in the comments section before you pointed out this place:

    I like Sombra. His motivations and personality may not have been explored, I felt that there was an actual sense of tension with him, he’s well established as a threat while the others are just sorta there. With NMD&C, I didn’t feel anything like that. As an example Nightmare Moon is a threat because she’ll keep the moon up forever. Sure you realize how bad it is when you really think about it, but it sounds kinda benign and the actual consequences are never really explored.

    To continue:

    Chrysalis was a smarmy bitch. She’s arrogant, unlikeable and uninteresting in alot of ways. Her threat was more obviously present than Nightmare Moon’s, but at the same time, there was no sense of danger to her, nothing that said to me “She might actually succeed!”, in spite of her defeat of Celestia.

    Similarly, Discord I just couldn’t take seriously. Maybe I’m being influenced by DeLancie’s portrayal of Q, who was never actively malicious, but I can’t see him as a direct threat. Discord isn’t evil, he’s just chaotic. He does what he does not TO RULE THE WORLD!!! but to have fun, and he ends up ruling the world anyway just as a side effect of that.

    But with Sombra, you know what can happen. Seeing the Crystal Ponies in a state of deep depression is just the tip of the iceberg, and Celestia lays it out right there at the start, “If Sombra wins, we’re fucked.”

    Ironically, I never actually felt the same about Sauron. Maybe condensing a similar threat into a shorter time frame more readily magnified what kind of problem Sauron/Sombra’s return.

    So yeah, Sombra’s my favorite (followed by Moony, Discord and last but certainly least, Chrysalis). I can forgive his lack of characterization. Also he looks badass. :P

    • Although I agree that Sombra is the most threatening, I mean he wanted to enslave the crystal ponies for Celestia sake, but we also must take into account that the antagonists of the show can’t be threataning for the sake of the younger audience. Sometimes we forget in our fan annalysis that even though MLP is a wonderful show built in layers of density that it is still a children’s show and can not contain too much that could be considered adult. That being said the show walks the line seperating the two beautifully and i think this is why the brony community can thrive on references or legitimate moral lessons while still enjoying the child like aesthetic.

  5. i certainly do like deep and developed the most, for every time i watch another episode with that character i start to love them even more, seeing them grow and change their personallity. Whereas i could of hated a character at the start of the show (Fluttershy.. Yeah.) but when i see more episodes with that character and just how shes changed in personailty, ive grown to like her a lot, i especially like when she’s being assertive and not a shy little crybaby. Other characters i like a lot include spike and rairty. For spike, at the start of the series i couldn’t really give two shits about him, but when i watched the episodes centred around him i started to like him a lot more for i got to know a lot more about him and how he can react to certain situations, id love to see just where he came from/who his parents were. As for Rarity, i thought of her originally as a stuck-up spoilt bitch at the start of MLP, but as ive seen her acts in different episodes, ive learnt just how generous she can be e.g. ‘sweet and elite’, ‘suited for success’. What i’d like to see in the future regarding character development is the return of previous enemies, such as Gilda, Lightning Dust, Teenaged Dragons and my most wanted: Flim and Flam, just to see how they may ahve changed, and whether they would get reformed as Discord did.(Although i didn’t really think of Flim and Flam as ‘Evil’ i just thought they were judged wrongly as they were litterally just business competitors, its not like they were planning to destroy Equestria, Enslave Ponies in a glass dome and crystal kingdom, Eat Ponyville or Create the Chaos capital of the world)

  6. While I see your points with Rarity being the most straightforward, but having a deep story in the middle. I feel like a character we neglect is Fluttershy. Sure, her main thing is too help animals after the Sonic Rainboom hit and she got her cutiemark..but..what else does she do? They never really gave an episode focusing on an episode with Fluttershy actually being useful. Animals need care but not all animals are important(rats, ferrets, racoons, and other species. I love all life forms but it’s true) so if she did have a big impactful stance to this whole thing..it’s really pointless..she’s not shallow but she isn’t deep either. I haven’t seen an episode where Fluttershy gets her side of the story explained and captured just so we know she has a purpose. I love her dearly but she basically the Luna of the Mane 6. She doesn’t do anything for the ponies, never really helped out in a dire crisis(by herself, that Dragon was a pussy), is the weakest and most flat pony when in conflict, and above all..she’s a cop-out..she’s just there to be cute and have a sweet honey like voice, where as someone like Applejack has to carry the ponies on her back when shit hits the fan and Twilight is double-taking measures. So in short.

    Fluttershy is a transparent pony.

    • I disagree with you assertion good sir or madam! First Fluttershy is shown as the leader of squad of ponies that wake up hibernating animals, Second in Keep Calm and Flutter On she successfully negotiates a truce between AJ and the Angry Beaver, and she was able to manipulate Discord into the light side of the force. Which brings up my second point, After the events of putting your hoof down and Hurricane Fluttershy I would argue she is no longer a pushover, but playing a pushover. In other words Fluttershy’s entire shtick in Magic Duel was an act, Her anger was to emphasize the necessary precaution needed when Twilight was handling her “Animal Friends,” this was backed up by her physical process shown in Return Of Harmony(Pulling the hot air balloon with AJ and Twilight still on it and keeping pace with RD) and Lesson Zero(When Fluttershy went all Zangeif on the bear.) Also during Magic Duel Fluttershy is able to sneak back into the domed off city with ease when to leave it took some elaborate plan, thus showing a level of tactical whit to her. And lets not forget her appearance in Just for Sidekicks when with ease and tact she easily gets Spike to take care of Angel and already had the gem she needed to bribe him.
      From all of this I can comfortably say that Fluttershy is in fact incredibly smart and a more flexible planner than Princess Twilight Sparkle.

      • I wouldn’t really consider Fluttershy that good of a character. In fact, I can see where he’s coming from. Fluttershy may look cute and all that, but she never showed any actual development, and when there was any slight development, she just forgot it and went back to being a doormat in the next episode. Maybe it’s because that said development enters in conflict with her standard character, but the rest of the mane 6 has shown bigger development than her.
        Also, if you’re trying to complain about Princess Twilight Sparkle, please remember that it has only been one episode so far and that we still haven’t seen her doing anything, so I suggest you wait before you say things like those

        • The big but irreverent point before I get to why you are wrong. It’s not that I don’t like Princess Twilight Sparkle, I don’t like Twilight Sparkle. Twilight has always been smart but she SUCKS at on the spot improving, coupled with a near crippling case of OCD, and apparently went from a Howard Hues style recluse to knowing everything about friendship in about three years and I call fowl. Let alone her compulsion to micromanage, act like an authority on everything, AND she shuts down if one little gear doesn’t work in her plan.2nd least favorite pony MOVING ON!

          I would argue that she does grow, but I doubt she’d ever give a speech in front of a crowd. In Just for sidekicks she unitizes RARITY’S tactic of getting what she wanted(Manipulation), and in Keep Calm and Flutter On she shows confidence in herself and her plan(Which WORKED!) to get Discord to value her friendship though kindness and manipulation. and in Magical Mystery Cure she is doing her “comedy” act in front of a tough crowd(Which is hard regardless.)

          So Fluttershy does grow as a character, just not as much as RD(Whom is worst pony) and Twilight( who is second worst pony). Oh and Fluttershy as caretaker of the animals is an important job as it pertains to the micromanaged world of Equestria, Think about it, The clouds have to be moved before rain, animals have to physically be awoken from hibernation. So a caretaker of wild animals is probably an important job in the dynamics of Ponyville.

          In Short, Growth for the sake of Growth isn’t everything, Logical Growth is.Fluttershy is important, and I might like Twilight as a princess more because hopefully I might see less of her.

  7. Well, I like deep and developed charakters more than those with good design. Because everyone can design a charakter, but then its just a hull. There are plenty of those and some of them are even popular in animes and other media.
    I like persons for thier personality, even if they seem to be lame they can be epic because they have a special life or are very brave or something like that.
    If you ever watched Buffy, you may know Xander. He is a normal dude, no design, no skills, no superpower or stuff like that, but he survives the whole series, THE WHOLE THING! For me he is the greatest hero of this show. Plenty, PLENTY of people died in that show, but not he.
    I love charakters that come up with unique phrases, that are thinking and acting like on thier own. Not just those that re-act to someone but someone that does his own thing, but also can react pretty great with others. I think that goes into the deep charakter part.
    Development is also very great. Ever watched “Castle”? That is a good example of “negative” developement, the show goes to shit because they developed. She got shot and got a trauma, then she wasnt tough and brave anymore and Castle worried about her all the time and began to lie to her. Everything was ruined.
    In Stargate SG1 on the other hand they fucking developed so great! O’Neill became the big boss and Daniel was even able to use objects with his fucking mind! OMG! xD so great.
    I try to bring depth and development into my charakters too. I send them on a journey, let stuff happen to them, and they change. Thats not so difficult, i just think: “what would that do to me?!”
    Facit: Developed depth, OriGht! Designed Hulls, neigh!

  8. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeelll……….
    I’ve often made it a habit to be determining my own little version of things in my head, as many creative people do. So when given such a detailed and well-written aesthetic character, it’s incredibly easy for me to get wrapped up in things. The story of Celestia and Luna when Luna became Nightmare Moon was pretty much hand given to creative people like us, what with them being so vague on it. Whether it’s the result of mistakes in developing the series or a secret weapon for some…thing.
    Imagine if season 4 would go all the way back in time and tell Celestia and Luna’s characters.
    Incredibly fucking unlikely but… I can dream dammit.
    I can even dream about season 4 being how the mane six would take a season of shenanigans and compelling character development as if there was a long period of time before Twilight found the answer. Even though in that episode it was… I think literally the same night…
    Where am I going with this…
    King Sombra was cool as hell, and I’m a puppy for any cool-looking male villain cause shallow yeah, so even as the Crystal Empire was playing and I was enjoying each second he was a menacing shadow, I was saying to myself, “Bronies are not gonna like this rawring villain…”
    So I guess aesthetics are what I prefer cause they leave a much bigger impact on me after watching the show than the mane six. I still love ’em all, and their development is fantastic, but once I’ve seen it I’m… done, apart from enjoying the songs with them.
    ..orsomething. This was all over the place.

  9. Dickens was a huge fan of “aesthetic persona,” as you put it. It’s part of the reason why his writing can seem boring after a while—too few axes to its understanding. Critics refer to the collection of traits he would emphasize or point out as “physiognomy” (a comment already points this out on the vid). The nose, the skin, the voice, the grimace, whether the face looks divine or impish, etc. The reason why I hesitate to use it in this context is because writers made sure that physiognomy thoroughly pervaded everything you understood about the character and how much they related to other ones, how much of a foil they were, etc. It was a huge part of theme. I know that the creators picked Celestia’s look and “feel”—I just don’t know how much evidence there is of specifically intended reactions or effects—other than she sounds nice (almost motherly?), and subjects bow to her. The motherly thing might feed into the mythological understanding of a ruler as teleologically “perfected” or even “god-like,” with the people as shades of him. A ruler, of course, would be a shade of the gods.

    You know my general opinions on character. I’m neurotic about relativistic realism, or whatever. However weird the story, if you can make me believe it, carry me along a thread, I can handle it. I don’t like “it just is” elements if I think they’d have a real influence on the societies and livelihoods of these characters. If you use real-world crap for a fictional story taking place in a completely different world, the onus is on you to ground it within the story. Otherwise, I’m doubting causes and influences left and right.

    I think realization is one of the big purposes of fiction. I guess “feeling nice” is an okay goal for a story, but so many stories purport to do more than “niceness” that I have to call B.S. in general. You want to actualize a situation, and to realize characters. Actualization is this sense of a developed conclusion from multiple causes and stuff—careful exploration of effects, taking a situation as far as it can go. You only need to actualize as much as “linear” character realization demands (remember MrBtongue). So an execution may or may not be featured in the story; you might stop just before it (like Camus’ The Stranger). If you do it the other way around, though, the characters start to go limp because there’s nothing more for them to do according to the thematic structure you set up in the first place. This is why many mistakenly believe that the Twilight’s story is over. But the thing is, friendship doesn’t end with rulership. Twilight hasn’t reached her endpoint yet, and I kinda “blame” the TV show for not making this loud and clear early on in the story. Celestia had at least a thousand years to reach her end. She still hasn’t reached it, because she’s a glutton (maybe this doesn’t matter). Twilight’s got her little globe of whoopass to spam—which is great—but just because she used it heroically well in a miraculous situation doesn’t mean she’s all set. Ohhh, no.

    In short: If depth is the situation or state of a character (say, f(x)), and development is the actual plot or/interpretation of growth between two endpoints (a function whose plot is reduced to a specific window), realization is not just revealing that “there is x and y,” but going on to the logical end of “multiplying the two” (if, say, the function were simplistic and we were plotting a horizontal line) and shading in that area under the curve or whatever. It’s the sleight-of-hand illusion of growth, even though we’ve only been given ideas, islands of setting or characterization.

    Calculus, sorry: the metaphysical implications of turning life into math are a bit creepy.

    Chemistry can be suggested; it doesn’t have to be obvious, because it can happen through interaction that is merely signposted. Or you can use objects/symbols to tie characters together—maybe two girls both own something, something embarrassing that they might have shared and become close over, but in defending their honor they continue to despise and humiliate each other. Sometimes chemistry can be merely hinted: characters might never really meet—only see or converse with each other once in a painstakingly-elaborated situation.

    With respect to the show, I don’t find chemistry very interesting, because so far it seems pretty boring to me. The only relationship I’ve really enjoyed is that of Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie. Headcanon really isn’t necessary for it. They’re both excessive, but in their own ways. So they both “suck.” This is part of why I love Wonderbolt Academy so much. Pinkie was obsessive (headcanon: those two’ve got somethin’ goin’ on), and Rainbow Dash was *fighting off* the dangers of excess. I don’t understand why people keep calling that thread pointless. Yeah, it was indisputably contrived. But it had a role to play, not just in the conflict, but in the theme. Rainbow Dash actually had something new to offer to Pinkie Pie after the shit she went through with Lightning Dust. It’s okay to be weak, if someone is cool with it. I don’t remember, but it probably made me tear up a little.

    Everything else is played as some kind of foil (characters emphasizing difference between them), which is just annoying. Trixie was supposedly a foil. Dragon was meant to seem like a foil. Iron Will was a foil. Discord was played as a foil in Season 3. Spike is a foil. Only some relationships here and there are not foils in some way. Gilda wasn’t, unless you want to paint Pinkie as uncool, somehow. Applejack/Rainbow Dash is interesting, but not really engaging, because there’s nothing to dispute. I think realization is really lacking, here, and we have to insinuate “too much” of it. Like, I think the Rarity and Applejack threads are awesome, but too many of them can be reduced to “we both have little sisters,” “we both came to an agreement that both of our personalities were tolerable.” Rather than being a growing relationship of some sort.

    I understand why they do this in this style, since kids watch the show and need to understand this stuff “thoroughly,” but it’s just weird, because kids can do better with fuller representations. And you know how I feel about the fact that these Great Men keep coming out of nowhere and manipulating the backwater masses. There are times where I feel that the writers need to be more careful about the patterns they’re spamming. I’m not thinking, “Oh, dear! The *children*!” I’m thinking, “Look, you guys say this matters to kids, so stop messing and get it right.” I’ve said this, before, though—that the effects of art aren’t direct, but are more like many, many stencils that leave a circumscribed pattern when you trace with them.

  10. Deep characters mean a lot to me. I’m a writer so giving a character something deeper than a basic look and idealism. I’m working on 3 story’s right that are completely different from each other, but I make sure there all well written characters. 1: is a horror with an obsessive, depressed, and and almost evil main character but he is how he is cuz he has been hurt. 2: is a pokemon oc who was lost in the woods with only a mightyena and a long since dead care taker but again he’s deeper cuz he has to learn new things and try to forgive the world around him for hurting him. 3: is a sad story where gild a is trying to apologize to dash, but it’s not just that I always believed had a few complexes and emotion issues which make her how she is and now she not just getting dash back but repairing her self

  11. Personally, I like depth, development and aesthetics equally, because they all play a big role when defining a character.

    As you said, Rarity is a perfect example of depth, because she has a lot of complex emotions that are similar to the ones we have. When I first started watching the show, I thought to myself “I guess Rarity is just another fashion diva”, but I was wrong, she wasn’t cliché in any way and I was surprised how they could take the fashion diva template and turn it into such a great character that I was actually able of liking.

    I don’t think I need to add anything else to development because what you said pretty much explains how I feel about it and Rainbow Dash.

    Now, the aesthetic persona is something that I also find important and I’m really grateful that the show nailed it with certain characters. Because of that, i love Sombra as a villain (Yes, I like King Sombra)

    Most people say Sombra is a bad villain because he had no personality and his motivations were never explained (Why did he enslave a whole empire?), but I feel like he did his job extremely well as a villain, because he was a character that invoked fear. Maybe it will be explained later since the writers seem to want to connect the episodes a bit more like they did with season 1 (Another reason why season 2 is my least favourite, the episodes feel incredibly disconnected from each other), but for now, we have to rely on Sombra’s design to understand him as a character. Now, as character, he’s really flawed and leaves some really big shoes to fill, but as villain, he does his job incredibly well since at no point whatsoever I felt any kind of guilt by watching him being blown to pieces. When making a villain, you need to make the audience “hate” him and want him to lose, because the main aspect of a villain in storytelling is that he’s bad. Even without saying any word, Sombra never made me feel any kind of empathy for him, because all I remember thinking when watching the episode was “C’mon, that guy cannot win”. If you think like that about any villain, it’s the sign that the writers did a good job.

    While we’re at it, I might as well talk about the other main antagonists

    Nightmare Moon, in my opinion, is the perfect example of how not to build a villain/character because she was not good as both. I did not feel any kind of empathy, but at the same time, I didn’t want her to lose, I just didn’t care about her.

    Discord….. I might need a flameshield because of what i’m about to say. Ok, let me say two things about him before I move any further:

    1- I find DIscord to be overrated
    2- Discord is not a good villain

    Ok, done, now to the actual rant.

    Maybe I’m the only one, but I don’t think Discord is that good of a villain because he does not feel like one. Yeah, he’s evil and tried to destroy Equestria, but there’s something about him that tells me he’s not a villain at all. After much thinking on the topic, I’ve finally found out what it is, his personality.
    I have to admit, his personality is amazing, he’s funny, mature and really smart, but he does not seem evil at all. At first I thought it was because of his goofy design (One reason why I never found crazy clowns in horror movies that scary), but then I realized that it was because I liked him. I felt empathy for him and I didn’t want him to lose at a certain point because his character was so appealing. In fact, because of that, I really enjoyed Keep Calm and Flutter On. Some people hate that episode for many different reasons. Is it the slightly rushed conclusion, the way the chemistry between Discord and Fluttershy worked or just the simple premise of reforming Discord, but I really loved that episode because of the lesson which relates to a dark time of my life and that it showed Discord can be a really versatile character.
    If you ask me, I think that Discord will become more of an anti-hero in future episodes, and I think that said alignment fits him incredibly well. He still has a certain need for chaos, but he’s willing to put a lid of that and help the good guys.

    Wow, that was a really big rant on Discord, now to Chrysalis.

    I’ll say this right now, QUEEN CHRYSALIS IS A F***ING AWESOME VILLAIN!

    She is the perfect combination of depth and aesthetics in my opinion, not only she looks evil, she is also evil as a character.
    As I just said, she looks really menacing, and that alone makes her a good villain, but the best part about her is how well her personality and emotions match her design so well.
    She’s smart, manipulative and cruel, three aspects that not only make me want to see her lose, but that also makes me want to see her come back even stronger just so that she loses again.

    TL;DR: Chrysalis>Sombra>Discord>Nightmare Moon

  12. There are a couple things i want to talk about. first is i am a big fan, and i love how you talked about depth+development and aesthetic and chemistry with characters. a character is rarely ever just their own being within the show, and while the depth and development is important, i feel that the aesthetics and chemistry gets over looked

    that being said, i’m also getting the sense that they are also being mistaken as being isolated themselves, and that aesthetics and chemistry are becoming assumed to be not part of the depth and development. I would argue that one could gauge a great amount of charactarization from how others react to them, and how they themselves look/act/ect. without giving too much literally about their origins and beginnings. I feel that some people are looking solely at what content is written and given, and not how it was written and given.

    To explain, I wish to talk about my favorite pony, Fluttershy, and Sombra, whom i think is much more deeply charactarized and more intimately real of a threat than most of the other villains, and, one i really admire.

    In one of your earlier videos “Keep Calm and Flutter On” you said that fluttershy was a confusing character, and that all her lessons are about getting over shyness, although she forgets and continues being shy. Now i think that this is doing fluttershy a bit of injustice, no offense, but in my viewing of the show, i feel that she is probably one of the better developed and interesting of the characters in the show, She is a pony that initially has a lot of anxiety and shyness, which is part of her name XP, but once she knows you and you are friends, then she is much more open. She cares about her animal friends, and would go to great lengths to help them (even stealing from Princess Celestia), showing that her caring and compassionate nature overrides her fear in dangerous encounters. from this I would argue her shyness and fear isn’t from the sake of her own well being (aside from a couple instances), but rather for fear of others being hurt by her actions or that of something else, like if she’s not careful herself, she will become a monster (as in Putting your Hoof Down). i’ll only talk on a few of them, cause of time restraints

    While her episodes usually deal with her overcoming some form of anxiety over another, except for Stare Master, they are different anxieties in relations to different situations and different areas of fear.

    In Dragonshy, she fears the dragon that is covering equestria in smoke, this is the one where she does fear the dragon for her own sake. But she overcomes it to talk the dragon down when her friends are being threatened. This has come up again several times, especially in the Return to Harmony episodes where she put all her gusto into pulling that balloon to catch rainbow dash, despite crying and being afraid of discord

    In Green Isn’t Your Color, she was in the spotlight and being a model,which are both things she doesn’t want to be at all, and hates. She wasn’t necessarily fearful or shy about being a model (although her pictures would say otherwise) but if that was her main concern, she would have just quit. Her anxiety came from responsibility to a friend and not letting rarity down, facing this road despite not wanting it period because she was afraid to let her friend down. This shows that she is more afraid to hurt others than for her own well being. and when she came over it, it stuck with her in future episodes to say no to her friends when her interests weren’t involved, like in Dragon Quest where she defied rainbow dash because she didn’t want to see dragons, or in Keep Calm and Flutter On, when she defied her friends because she felt that her method would bring discord around to their side.

    Putting Your Hoof Down was an episode that definitely showed why i think her fears are for others safety above her own. She learned to be a “bully” to assert herself so she doesn’t get pushed around, and at first she likes it because people were starting to respect her, but once she saw past her own ego, and saw what she did to other ponies. She literally had herself tied up and locked away to keep herself from hurting others again. Her defining lesson came from this episode into really developing fluttershy as an awesome character because she learned how to be firm but gentle, and how to be strong but also keep others from being hurt by her actions.

    and Keep Calm and Flutter On was the defining episode for Fluttershy, taking all that she learned from the previous episodes into Fluttershy’s full flourishing character. Where she stared down something that she feared greatly (Discord, Dragonshy), trying her hardest despite not feeling up to the challenge (reforming him, “Hurricane Fluttershy”), defying her friends when they wanted to just zap him (Green Isn’t Your color), being assertive with her friends and not taking Discords bullshit (Putting Your Hoof Down), and at the end proving that even under pressure, she can take control when need be (Stare Master).

    All the other characters are awesome, but for me Fluttershy is just totally awesome, and a perfect foil for Rainbow Dash, whom i consider the opposite in every way almost

    Now for King Sombra, i loved this guy, not in spite of not knowing alot about him

    but BECAUSE we know so little. this is what makes him such a great villain in my eyes, because we aren’t intimate with his origins outside of a few facts, He enslaved the crystal ponies, he was locked away for a thousand years, and that in the entirety of the crystal empire arc, he’s been on the edge of the city, only being held back by Cadence, and the minute he could get in, you knew he would fuck things up.

    now the reason why i think the less we know, the better, is because it’s what makes things scary. man is afraid of things that threaten his mortality, we are vulnerable and our fear is an evolutionary thing to make us avoid that which can kill us, and man is afraid of the unknown because the unknown could not only be harmful, but life threatening, and if man is used to a situation, a comfortable feeling is present, but things that are foreign and new change that and threaten that comfort. This is why i love survival horror games, because your character is usually vulnerable, and thrown into a situation where you don’t know what you are doing, and in order to figure out what to do, you need to stick your neck into potentially deadly situations.

    Games like Silent Hill and Amnesia are great at this. Silent Hill uses it’s atmosphere and environment to make you unsure of what you will encounter, always keeping you on your toes and tapping into your fears of unknown threats, the actual monsters themselves are not that scary, but the way the game feels is oppressive. Amnesia on the flip side is scary because of extreme vulnarabilty, you cannot defend yourself, and when you come across a monster, it’s just absolutely horrifying, hiding in a corner, despite losing your sanity, you don’t want to come out, but the music never stops, so it forces you to check to see if they are gone. really making the game feel oppressive and truly terrifying.

    relating this back to Sombra, while the effect is a bit dulled (considering it’s a show for kids as well as their parents) the idea of Sombra is still terrifying. You don’t know anything about this guy other than he’s bad and he enslaved the crystal ponies, as far as villains go, he’s done about the worst things, discord made things chaotic and bad, but his intent was in fun, not in the same sadistic vien as Sombra.

    So when it is heard that “he has returned” this sparks the idea that this mythic dark force has returned, it immediately sets up the feeling that the ponies have to deal with something really and truly bad, but what it is, still not known.

    Then throughout the episode, the only think that was keeping him from the empire was cadences magic bubble, but that was waining, which immediately puts a time clock on the fixit to the situation, so not only do they have to deal with this dark entity, but now there is a very real time limit to when they got to fiind the solution and save the day. And if they didn’t get the crystal heart and Shining didn’t cadence toss their way to victory, he could have easily won.

    that being said, i also believe that Sombra’s character was expressed in depth in the show, but not in the traditional story telling way, but rather in the environments of the castle, the reactions of the ponies to his name and story, and to his few actions. With the secret tunnels and rooms, as well as the access and full corruption of the dark magic, it can be infered that he was a smart pony at one point in his life, manipulative, and secretive. He was able to take over an entire empire and enslave the ponies, which while in his current state is rather easy, must not have always been that way since he’s just a unicorn. As Celestia stated herself “she never met a unicorn with such raw ability” when talking to filly Twilight. Celestia was around during the Sombra years, so she probably knew the power that Sombra had in relation to other ponies, so from this i deduce he wasn’t always so bestial. The dark powers of corruption also took hold of him, so i think that his exposure and use of the dark magics then rotted away at his mind, making him more animialistic, which is shown by his constant stalking and repetition of “Crystals”. Some people didn’t like the fact that he was like an animal, but while one can reason with Chrysalis or Discord, you cannot reason with somepony who’s rage overcame their sense of mind and presence.

    So anyways, that’s my two bits. While i like Discord more as a character, i believe that Sombra is definitely a excellent villain, and the lack of knowledge on him makes it work really well.

  13. When deciding whether or not i like a character, i do mostly look at the aesthetic persona, but i oftentimes find it hard to enjoy a character who has little depth. Let’s take Rarity for instance. I don’t like her very much as a “person.” By that, i mean, if i were to meet someone similar to Rarity in real life, i probably wouldn’t get along with them. But, i still find her enjoyable, even though i dislike her. Then there’s a character like Princess Celestia. I like her design and the way she presents herself very much, but i don’t find her to be as enjoyable as a pony like Rarity who has depth. Sure, i like Celestia, but i don’t find myself talking about her in conversations or drawing fanart of her. but also, i can relate more to rarity. i’m a generous, over dramatic diva. With Celestia, there’s not much to relate to.

  14. While I enjoy the term aesthetic personae, this term reminds me of something I learned in a college theater class. The term we used was “stock character”. There is something called Comedia del Arte (popular in France and Italy) where various stock characters (the clumsy servant, the jealous husband, the old fool, the sassy maiden, the boastful soldier, the pompous doctor, etc) would have very specific masks, walks, and costumes that would immediately be recognized by the crowd. The script writers would put these characters into different relationships and then watch events unfold.
    Example: (by Moliere) a hypochondriac wants his sweet daughter to marry the stupid son of a pompous doctor so that he can get free health care. The sweet daughter wants to marry her handsome music teacher. The hypochondriac also has a slutty, gold-digger wife, a hipster brother, and a nosy house maid. When we think about these characters, we immediately invest more in the relationships and action than in the individuals. We want to know what they will DO… we don’t want to read a biography of their past. Or, if we did want to read a biography, it would be so we could explore other relationships and better predict future actions.

    Cartoons and melodrama use stock characters (the villain in black, the attractive nurse, the spunky red-haired girl, the smart one wearing glasses, the crazy teen with the spiky hair, the manly hero in a bold colored costume, etc).
    My Little Pony just takes stock characterization to the next level: after the color pallet and the hair style they add… a flashy symbol right on the tush.

  15. Personal Story:

    When I was watching Friendship is Magic for the first time, I may have judged Rarity entirely on her ‘aesthetic persona’; the fact that she’s a fashion diva, makes duck faces, and was a jerk to her friends in Sweet and Elite.
    But over time, I began looking at the MLP:FIM characters more in depth.
    I was rewatching the scene in Sweet and Elite when Rarity measures the pros and cons of going to the derby instead on working on Twilight’s birthday dress. Suddenly, I had a revelation.
    I realized that I pretty much do the same thing with my homework; trying to convince myself to do it, but eventually watching ponies instead. Rarity’s procrastination woke me up a little, and I went and rewatched more Rarity episodes.
    And I noticed that Rarity really is a deep and developed character, and that she’s developed and grown just as much as Twilight or Rainbow has. She’s still not my favorite pony, but I appreciate and respect a lot more now.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some homework to not do.

  16. I feel that the aesthetic persona is what draws most people in ( ie luna vinyl and rainbowdash) but it is the character in them self in which allows the viewer to stay enthralled. For example when would you, before mlp fim, have thought that a overly happy pink colorful pony in a little girls show would have drawn your interest, but when mixed with her first layer of character she becomes a very like able cartoon character. BUT when the depth of pinkie is realized then people begin to grow more attached to her. In party for one we see a character that is loved change drastically, i feel that this pattern draws attention to the character and makes her more memorable. We see pinkie isnt a shallow happy all the time ball of sunshine, but instead as a complex character who very much depends on her friends approval and company.

    Another thing. Most new bronies favorite pony is rainbowdash. Whyy?? Because she is the closest to the male demographic. Yet as they get into the show she continues being their favorite, even after deeply analyzing and understanding most of the characters. Why? Because rainbow has a great character. Her character is what people want to see. They want to see her develop into a wonderbolt. They want to get a background on her. They want her to succeed because she is almost a human character. In conclusion the character is what most viewers in my opinion stay for while the aesthetic persona draws interest initially.

  17. Truth be told, Nightmare Moon and Discord (THE TWO PARTER DISCORD NOT THE OTHER ONE!) are my absolute favorite two characters. (Well them Pinkamena and Doctor Whooves, but I consider them fan made characters and you can decide what they’re like.)
    I love Discord because he’s intelligent and snarky when facing off against the mane six. When he’s facing off verbally with Celestia, not only is he trolling her but he does it with such a perfectly crafted air of nonchalance and familiarity that it makes him seem like a good friend teasing her instead of the complete ass he’s actually being to her. He even partially wins over Pinkie Pie with his jester-like antics. I see him as a not-a-villain. By that I mean, he’s not trying to be evil or even mildly bad, he’s just trying to live life how he wants to. But unfortunately his way of life clashes with Celestias, so he has to be defeated. A shame. Also the fact that he himself states that he is the embodiment of chaos (don’t recall his exact words) makes him resonate with me because I love chaos! Then there’s the fact that he was trapped in stone for resisting the end of his reign.
    Now onto Nightmare Moon. (Okay, so Luna is best pony. But only because of bronycurious’s headcannon for her. Seen at the end of his review of the canterlot wedding.) I love her because of the fact that… Well to put it bluntly, her story was a tragedy. One-Thousand years ago she rebelled against what she saw as an oppressor to make herself and her work more appreciated. She failed. She got sent to the moon. For trying to become known. Then she was freed. Upon her return, she decided to exact her revenge on her sister. Again she failed. But this time it was when her goal was mere inches away (metaphorically speaking). And then she died. It’s sad to think about it. It’s sadder to think that everypony rejoiced at her defeat and death. Her story, although amazingly short, was incredibly deep. And then abruptly ended.
    Also, if you haven’t picked up on it by now, I don’t like Celestia.

  18. As an artist, specifically one who enjoys CHARACTER DESIGN in particular, I have a huge bias towards the importance of a character’s aesthetics. I create so many characters that there is no way I could possibly write a story for all of them, yet it’s possible to convey a basic sense of who they are and what they’re about simply through visual details. One could assume what their life might be like simply by what kind of clothing the character sports.

    For example, if you take all of the infinite recolors of background ponies and gave them all riveting backstories, they still wouldn’t be very interesting because there still wouldn’t be much to set them apart. I find that in order for a character design to really be successful, there must be at least 1-3 visual details that set them apart from those around them. The mane 6 all have very distinct hairstyles that reflect who they are; in the case of Fluttershy and Rarity, their second detail is a distinct eye shape. I don’t know if you remember my Ask-Cymkin blog, but my OC’s three details are the gradient in her hair, her darker wings, and her square eye shines. It’s harder to convey “lifestyles” through pony designs, but you can still get a general gist of a personality.

  19. This video really hit strongly with me, as I’ve felt since I got into analysis and the like that there was something more to be said than just depth and development. And Aesthetic Persona seem to really connect with that idea. I’ve often found myself thinking about how ponies like Vinyl and Tavi, as well as Lyra and Bon-Bon have such MASSIVE roles in fanworks, while they literally have no character in the how, just some poses and faces. Now I’ve got a word (or two) for it, i’ll certainly be keeping Aesthetic Persona in mind when I analyze the show and other works from now on, and hopefully bring that to a logical conclusion of becoming a better analyzer. Thanks for the new phrase, and for bringing up those hard hitting points like you always do. Dare I say you really got into the bones of it and didn’t fuck it up.

  20. The thing that I like about the characters of MLP is what I can gather through the metaphor of their self-actualization.

    Because Rarity is supposed to be representative of generosity, it begs philosophical questions to me about the values that I hold versus the values of the talented writers. Sometimes I agree and sometimes I don’t, but in the end, I’m glad I took the time to think about what I feel is right.

    I would like to point out that I find the mane 6 fascinating as their greatest virtues are also their greatest flaws. Rarity is generous and yet her generosity wherein she wants to make everything better for the ponies around her drives her to selfishness. Applejack is devoted to being honest and straightforward but that comes at the expense of her being honest with herself. Applejack in particular I find fascinating because “honesty” seems so incorruptible but it’s so plainly obvious just how much she lies to herself.

  21. I applaud your analysis of characterization, and I would add one more element to the three (depth and development, aesthetic persona, and chemistry) you’ve covered: applicability.

    As (I think…?) Bronycurious noted, a story may be good or bad for a particular person, despite being generally accepted as good or bad. I have a utilitarian view of literature, and believe a work’s usefulness, or applicability, plays a large part in its success or failure. Having vicariously experienced a series of events alongside this character, what did this character teach me?

    For familiar examples, Luke Skywalker teaches us the usefulness of faith. The Batman teaches us the hardest experiences in our lives may strengthen us. Frodo and Sam teach us that seemingly insignificant people can make a huge difference in the world. Twilight Sparkle teaches us that bonding with worthy friends is better than living in a (literal) ivory tower.

    In sum, these characters became popular and successful almost overnight because of usefulness and applicability. This applies to villains too, and the best stories offer villains whose behavior and aesthetic make their very names epithets: Gecko, Vader, Ratched, Lecktor, Javert, Shylock, Gollum, and now Discord. Call someone these names at your peril!

    Having exemplified a particular idea, the almost-universally useful character becomes a kind of symbolic shorthand for that idea — an icon. The Crucifix, the Nazi Swastika, V’s Guy Fawkes mask, the Superman “S,” or the Star Trek “A,” whether historical or “storical,” (is there a difference in the long run? Did the ruins of Troy give the Iliad meaning, or the other way ’round?) each symbol conveys a wealth of meaning instantly. I would be delighted if Twilight’s Cutie Mark grew into an icon for the concept of friendship.

    Finally, I believe unprecedented and unexpected success (each of the examples above grew from humble beginnings!) follows logically from applicability. Didn’t you yourself say our society values “the accumulation of wealth and meaningless symbols of status” over friendship? How can such an atomized, destructively competitive, callous society help but need the Ponies?

  22. It’s strange. I find I’m more drawn to ascetic persona, yet I find having little depth is one of the worst traits a character can have. I think this is because I so often see depth being used the wrong way. I

    ‘m presently reading the Drizzt series and I hate Drizzt’s, an elf who is hundreds of years old, interaction with Dahlia, who isn’t even 30. The author makes it seem like she has far more life experience than he does, when even in the few books before her introduction Drizzt goes through a life changing emotional roller coaster, losing his wife and most of his friends. Then in the next book he loses his sole remaining friend and is left half broken. This is just in the immediate two books before she joins him, he is a far deeper character with a rich history, but for some reason Dahlia is supposedly far deeper because she was raped and impregnated as a child. This would be fair, however Drizzt doesn’t react in the way his character should have. Also, his own sister practically did the same to him when he was a child.

    My point is that depth is meaningless if not used correctly. This leaves me with a character’s ascetic persona to base my reaction on.

  23. I feel you brought up some fine points in this episode. I’m not sure I’d value any of the character traits you brought up above any of the others. Perhaps, I like Celestia considerably more than I care for Luna. While I love Luna’s design, I just can’t get past the fact that I really don’t know what Luna’s about. Perhaps I value Realization most highly, as it bugs me to know that there’s really no canon basis for assuming how Luna would act in any given situation outside of Nightmare Night.

    However, I wanted to leave a bit of a mention about Spike. You mentioned that you don’t particularly care for his episodes (in a reply to a comment you left me in your Season 3 retrospective video), which I found odd since I find his character to be very interesting. Admittedly, a lot of what I find interesting might be mostly assumptions on my part, but then again, what would Vinyl and Octavia (and many ponies) be without the excessive fan input?

    Spike, I admit, is not a deep character. He likes to eat and sleep and crack jokes at those around him. He has no long-term ambitions. I also admit his aesthetic persona doesn’t do much to attract. However, he has gone through a bit of development. Dragon Quest was a deep look into his psyche, I thought, as he realized who was most important to him and that his blood heritage could be set aside for his adopted family.

    What I think I like best about him is his Chemistry, and here I confess I’m getting into serious speculative territory. Still, I think that his relationship with Rarity makes both of them a bit more interesting. While I felt that Secret of My Excess was mostly a forgettable episode, introducing a bunch of lore that doesn’t make sense in the long run, I felt that just the moment shared between Spike and Rarity as they plummeted to their deaths was so touching as to make the whole episode worthwhile. Also, Just For Sidekicks became one of my favorite episodes in the series because, not only did he stay in character, but he was able to show different sides of his personality and grow a bit as a result of the varied interactions he had with the pets, the CMC, Granny Smith, etc. (Incidentally, Spike’s scene with Granny Smith is probably one of my favorite jokes in the series as well.) It showed him becoming a bit more humble and being forced to earn the respect of others, rather than take it for granted.

    But besides that, there’s his relationship with Twilight, which I feel the show has been treating rather neglectfully. Twilight is, for all intents and purposes, Spike’s adoptive mother, and yet there is a disparity of meaningful connection between them. Owl’s Well That Ends Well tried this, but simply didn’t go far enough. One scene that revealed quite a bit of depth (although, given how quickly the scene is passed over, I’m given to believe it was an accident) was from the Crystal Empire. Another episode I’m lukewarm about for introducing a bunch of new lore that doesn’t make sense and doesn’t seem to affect the rest of the world, but a spark of genius is shown at the Door of Worst Fears. Twilight is initially rescued from despair by Spike snapping her out of it, and then do you remember Spike’s worst fear when the door affects him? He sees Twilight, dismissing him. This seemed to be setting the stage for a big character moment centered around Twilight’s and Spike’s friendship, but alas, no. Instead, we are treated to wife-tossing and a happy song about passing a test that really made no sense (Why? WHY was Twilight not allowed to receive help in fixing things? Grrrr…..)

    I didn’t realize I had written so much. To wrap things up, I’d like to recommend this:


    You probably have already seen the above fancomic, but it really captures the Chemistry between Spike and Twilight I’m talking about, and is a much better ending than what Spike At Your Service actually had. I can rather see why you might be lukewarm about Spike, and he’s not my favorite character either. However, I’m still very interested in him, because I believe that he has a lot of potential for Development and Chemistry that the show has yet to explore sufficiently, and I look forward to seeing what they do with that.

    Sorry to go on so long. If you made it this far, then, well, thanks for reading this!

  24. I would like to start by saying I truly do think there is a word that means what you were getting at in regards to “aesthetic persona”, but I also can’t think of it so you’re word is as good as any other one. If there is one thing I’ve learned doing theory classes it is that you can make up as many words as you want as long as you remember to define them.

    Anyway, in terms of the things that you have discussed with,I think a good…no, I think I’ll say “an interesting” character at least is able to hit at least one of them. Preferably of course more than one, but that depends on the character and their role in the story. Obviously background characters don’t need a lot of depth or complexity, but it is nice if they have that aesthetic persona.

    Actually, I want to take a moment to talk about this, especially with what you said about Vinyl and Octavia. One of the things that I love most about the fandom is the ability to take these background characters who just look interesting and able to weave these fascinating tales and back-stories and adventures out of them. Doctor Hooves, Derpy, Vinyl and Octavia, etc etc. It’s just absolutely amazing really and shows just how much of an impact just the design of a character can have. Of course I’m probably particularly drawn to this due to my roleplaying because these sort of characters are the jackpot for me; their design gives us strong hints as to what kind of person, er, pony they might be but are also a blank canvas that I can put my own personal stamp on when developing them. It’s probably why I love writing background or small-time characters more than the Mane 6. Of course I guess that also shows the importance of needing some depth or background to a character because I’m not sure how much I’d enjoy them as characters without the fanon. Only character I can even think of that I enjoy purely on design is Semiramis from Fate/Apocrypha, but even then I wanted to know more about her: http://images.wikia.com/typemoon/images/a/a3/Semiramis.png

    Back to the other facets of a character. I think, to some degree, main characters need a little bit of everything to them. Lesser characters like Celestia and Luna can get away without meeting all of them, but when dealing with characters we are following on a constant basis there should be a higher expectation. They don’t all need the same level of, say, depth or development, but a protagonist with no depth or development is, well, a background character really.

    For me the best example is probably Pinkie Pie, and I’m actually looking at doing my own analysis on it. From my perspective I never truly felt like there was much depth to Pinkie Pie; she was weird, she was eccentric, liked parties and spontaneous musicals, but that was about it to me. Sure, there was Party of One, but that just reinforced in my mind that her main characterization was that she was “crazy”. Good episode? Yes. And it had some merits, but it wasn’t until the episode with the Mirror Pool that I actually began to like Pinkie Pie’s character because it explored her character in a way that didn’t focus on her crazy party antics or craziness. Of course some of this may just stem from my dislike of her actions in Swarm of the Century and Luna Eclipsed >_>. It’s not like she is a bad character; her design is appealing, and I wanted to like her. I just had trouble because I didn’t feel as if she was getting the right kind of depth or development I expected from a main character.

    Chemistry, however, is something I think has been done really well with all the characters. I feel that if I am going to watch these characters and their interactions among each other, they better be able to play off each other well. I think that the team has done very well at this; I can think of any two characters from the Mane 6, throw them together, and instantly figure out a situation I can place them in and have interaction that can be interesting. Again, considering my experience with roleplaying, that’s a really good thing (gotta start off threads and plots somehow).

    I better rap up this rambling because I think I lost any coherence after about that first paragraph Xd.

      • Hmm, no. When I think “glamour” I think of maybe a specific kind of appearance or style. Maybe I’m just thinking of the phrase “character design” *shrug*. Like I said, he created a phrase that makes sense and he gave it a clear definition. That’s good enough for me; do it all the time in theory papers after all XD.

  25. As a character designer I love combining all of these aspects, and so the characters I create will almost certainly have all of the qualities you listed, even if they’re known only to me and not to my audience. There’s a reason the Word of God is so thick (trope reference; I have no doubt you get it, but for others who don’t…to TV Tropes! I’ll see you in a year or so).

    As a fan writer and artist I do tend to gravitate toward some of the characters with less depth or realization because I have a certain amount of freedom when writing them. I can do what I want with them for the most part, but I still face the delightful challenge of making sure they’re still believable as the character they’ve been established as by canon. It’s not often that a character’s aesthetic appeal alone makes that character my favorite, but it has happened. For example, Helena from Storykeepers (a Christian cartoon series from the 90s) became my favorite character of that story simply because she shared her name with my hometown. Also, I was eight. Even though I’d been designing characters for a good five years by that point, I was still extremely easily impressed by references to my home state, apparent or perceived. But Helena’s character is by far the flattest and least developed of the main cast. Her only real role in the series until the last two episodes is that of Team Mom. We can piece together bits of her background using Word of God (which, in this case, is less than reliable as it features a glaring contradiction with one character’s age) and small in-series hints that an eight year old girl would never catch, but someone with a rudimentary understanding of ancient Near East and Roman culture might. But even so, a lot of Helena’s character is left up to interpretation. Thus she has been given a distinct personality, background, character development and even additional aesthetic persona in my imagination (for instance, I’ve decided the physical feature she likes best about her husband is the cowlick he has on his forehead).

    An example of a favorite character I chose because of her aesthetic persona AND her implied depth is Ms. Frizzle from Magic School Bus. Yes, I am thoroughly convinced she’s at least part Time Lord (she does only have one heart, after all, and it’s been established in-series that full-blood Time Lords are indeed born with two). She’s an enigma. She clearly has depth but as she’s meant to be Inexplicably Awesome (and is the former trope namer) it can be very hard to see that depth unless you know how to look for it. I took some time to analyze her character here: http://www.fanfiction.net/topic/10667/38727505/1/Canon-facts-Characters-family-names-traits (if you’re interested). Given the mystery surrounding her, a lot of her character is left up to interpretation, and that’s why she tends to be one of the most (if not the most) popular characters on the show, at least among fans who grew up with MSB.

    Scrooge McDuck is one of the best examples I have of a favorite character I chose for every reason you described. While there’s not a whole lot left to the fans to interpret after Ascended Fanboy Don Rosa REALLY fleshed the character out, there are still plenty of adventures fans can send Scrooge on, and the overwhelming majority of them are what-could-have-been adventures he shares with Glittering Goldie O’Gilt. If ever there were an OTP of Disney that fans will hold to until the universe burns, it’s Scrooge and Goldie. And getting to see the 80+ years of character development Scrooge has undergone in story, and 60+ years of it that he’s undergone in real life has endeared so many fans to him. His character development also lead to the development of one of the Big Three: Donald Duck. Donald, like Mickey and Goofy, is supposed to remain a very malleable character with only a few defining character traits, so that he can fit whatever role is required of him. Yet Rosa has managed to give Donald a background that does not subtract from that malleability, but rather enhances it. Seriously, Rosa is a genius. He has surpassed his spiritual teacher Carl Barks by quite a margin. I bet Barks would be proud.

    So those are my thoughts. Now to actual homework.

    • Oh, I forgot a great example of chemistry: David Tennant and Catherine Tate. Literally anything they lead in is excellent because of how well they work together. Whether it’s the Doctor and Donna, Lauren Cooper and Mr. Logan, or Benedick and Beatrice, they are the perfect team. Also, has anyone noticed that their names–both in real life and on stage or in TV–are alliterative to one another? Tennant-Tate, Doctor-Donna, Lauren-Logan, Benedick-Beatrice…further proof they are the best acting duo Britain has ever produced.

  26. I hate to be one of those types that says “I agree with everything you just said” without adding of much relevance, but… yeah.

    I suppose if anything I would have to gripe about would be your statement that character development and proper realization are “extremely overrated.” The thing is, in regards to different types of characters and their appeal, I enjoy all types of characters because I use a 3-tier system when judging them and can therefore find merit in all of them for their own reasons:

    1. Main characters: I expect the full gamut of depth and development from them. The Mane Six conform to this standard and by that virtue I find them intriguing on levels like depth of character, their development and their chemistry with one another among other things. It’s interesting to see them grow and develop and to find parallels in them to oneself. This is why most fans have a “best pony”; they relate to a particular pony of the mane six because they most closely conform to their ideals or traits and therefor become empathetic toward them and that’s why it’s interesting.

    2. Bit characters: I expect at least some characterization, but don’t mind when they’re not so developed. The Princesses, including Cadance, Shining Armour and even certain foils like Trixie and Gilda conform to this standard. They’re intriguing by way of their implied characteristics and personality, even if we don’t really get any sort of development or insight into WHY they are the way they are.

    In fact, in the mindset of bit characters, lack of insight can actually be a driving force for intrigue: you’re left guessing and hungry for backstory and development, which plays a big part in becoming attached to a character, especially if their implied character traits are unique and interesting and can play an equally big role in inspiration, resulting in fan work that expounds on and develops them in a way that tries to seem as believable as possible.

    Luna’s character, to steal your example, is interesting because her story is filled with implied drama and intrigue that isn’t overtly defined by much explanation in the actual show. She’s still interesting though and her story is still compelling by way of providing a solid foundation for what could be a very complex and gripping story, but is deliberately left undefined, creating speculation and leaving one wanting to know more about them. It’s just enough to grease the cogs and then they won’t stop turning.

    3. Background Characters: I don’t expect any characterization from them at all, but still like them for their, as you put it, aesthetic persona. Even if there is practically no development toward their character, there are still implications that can be derived solely from outward appearances, including character design, but also including things like body language, expressions, setting in which they’re introduced, etc.

    Using your example again (sorry), Octavia and Vinyl Scratch conform to this standard and all we have to go on are what few moments we see of them. However, using only their aesthetic persona, much implied characterization can be derived from them and can make for interesting takes on the same characters from numerous people.

    Take Octavia for example: she is seen in a posh and regal setting at the Grand Galloping Gala, playing fanciful music and showcasing a certain air of nobility with her expressions, posture and eloquent character design. How about Vinyl Scratch? She is seen playing upbeat music in party settings, headbanging to the music in a lively fashion and just by her outward design, with her electric-blue spiked mane and flashy purple glasses, gives off a sense of energy and rebelliousness.

    Some see Octavia as a stuck-up snob, whereas others might see her as sophisticated, but still reasonable and compassionate, while still others may see her as an introvert hiding behind the posh facade of a high-society cellist who is actually very insecure about her status in such a community or is even perhaps not confident in her skills as a musician. Vinyl could be seen as a hard-hitting DJ that just likes to party, whereas she could for instance actually be inwardly ashamed of certain failings she harbours of herself and resorts to partying as a means of escapism. Or, hey, maybe, just maybe she’s actually not one to enjoy DJing at all and only does it out of desire to fit in with the ‘cool crowd’ because she’s actually incredibly socially-awkward outside of that persona.

    The lists go on.

    The point I’m trying to make is that I feel I can enjoy all aspects of characterization without feeling like one style or another is “extremely overrated” as I can differentiate what makes them interesting without feeling like one type or another is more interesting or needs to be more interesting.

    Notice how my explanation of my three-point system for judging characterization shows that it takes longer and longer to properly describe what I mean to get my point across as I get further from main characters. The concept of main characters is something that a lot of people will quickly connect to and understand the moment I mention it, whereas “bit character” and “background character” require a deeper explanation as they are more ambiguous terms.

    That’s where the intrigue comes from: ambiguity. The mane six are perfectly interesting and likeable characters, but because they’re already fully realized, they don’t really require any sort of introduction, unlike the other two types I expounded on. I can still love and adore the mane six just as much as I would love and adore Celestia or Octavia, just for different reasons.

    And that’s the point.

    I like all types of characterization because they can always be done well and when they are, you feel it. You become attached to a developed character because you can feel empathy toward them. You become attached to a character with implied backstory because you become invested in knowing more about them. You even become attached to a character without any real characterization at all because their particular style screams “potential” to you.

    I don’t find any type of character depth or development to be better than another and I certainly don’t feel any are “extremely overrated” because I can like them all for different, though mutually-symbiotic reasons. Ya just gotta expand your viewpoint a little.

    • The main reason I call them “overrated” is that so many reviewers judge a character’s worth based on depth and development, when I personally don’t care that much if a character has those things or not. It’s not that I think those things are less important than aesthetic persona, it’s just that those things are traditionally held above it, and I’d prefer to regard them as equal elements.

  27. Thoughts on characterization in the MLP universe.
    You talk about a concept that you call “Aesthetic Persona”, which is a great term by the way, and to that I have to bring up my favorite pony: Rainbow Dash. Now I love Dash for so many reasons, but as a new crony first coming into the show it was her visuals that attracted me to her character. She is quite obviously the most colorful pony out of the mane 6 and it definitely draws attention to her. Her voice has this general scrappyness to it and she is a near-perfect snark. Her Aesthetic Persona drove me to her character. Even in the beginning before she had any real depth and realization I enjoyed watching her because I found her simply amusing, both in terms of visual and the excellent voice work of Ashleigh Ball. As she has developed as a character I have grown to love her more. So what had began as simply a physical attraction to this character, I mean that in the most platonic way, has become a deep desire to see her grow. Her maturity over the course of the series, especially in Wonderbolts Academy, has endeared me to her character even more.

    So I find that I am a person who appreciates well realized characters who have depth and development. This may be because I am a writer myself and I feel that I learn a lot from watching another person’s character grow. However, this was not always true. In the case of Applejack, her realization and development has actually made me like her less. She Is a character who has already come full-circle. There is very little room for her to grow. I love her character, she has depth, and realization; the problem is that it came too soon. By the time a person can become endeared to Applejack she has already completed her journey. She has then been pushed to the realm of supporting character, even though she is the one with the most development and realization in the shortest period of time. If it weren’t for her chemistry with the rest of the cast I fear that she may have fallen into obscurity.

    Rarity is also a character with depth, development, and realization, which you already mention so I will not repeat. However for the longest time I just didn’t like her character. This had nothing to do with her however; it solely rested on me not understand her. It took me doing impersonations of her and her character, really getting into her head to truly understand her greatness. Now I can honestly say that I enjoy her character, she represents the struggling artist and as an aspiring writer I get that.

    Now you talk about flat characters and I have to say on a personal level that if a character is created to facilitate the needs of the plot, with a general motivation of “Well it seemed like a good idea,” I’m not gonna like them. Although there are exceptions, I personally see King Sombra as nothing more than this hollow, empty threat wrapped in the guise of a evil pony. He has no backstory, no explanation, even his plan lacks any specifications. He is just an empty character used to facilitate the needs of the episode. On the other hand let’s look at The Flim Flam Brothers. They too are just characters created to facilitate the needs of that particular episode, and they too are given no explanation or backstory. However, what we do see is motivation. We see this guys roll up in their machine and you instantly get this feeling that something’s up. They sing their song and suddenly you know what these two are all about. Yes, there are still holes in the story, but we see the potential and it builds them to be more full characters than the hollow Sombra. Trixie lies in this strange grey area where she was given characterization but it really does nothing for her. It is her “Aesthetic Persona” that made people like her character.

    Chemistry is not really it’s own thing, how a character reacts to others is in a way a reflection of their depth as a character too. If a character has no depth and certainly no development, how do we really know how they would react to certain situations and people. The chemistry between Applejack and Rainbow Dash is so good because the have a set characterization. We know how they would react to each other because the show has given them personality, depth; and shown us how that personality is applied, development. Without those two things their chemistry would not be as entertaining, and certainly not as believable.

    Overall I think the idea of a good character is a very personally thing for people and they can find a good character within any of these categories. I for one find that depth and development trump all in making a good character, but I do admit that the aesthetic persona of said character can create a life all it’s own. As you stated with Vinyl and Octavia, who have had very little impact on the show, have created a major impact on the fandom; simply based on their look and the 3-4 actions they have performed. Really I think you covered everything in a very precise way. There’s no better way I can put it and I agree with you 100%. Thank you for once again making a fantastic video.

  28. One of the many reasons I love your videos is due to the various animations of your OC conveying your emotions.

    Placed side-by-side with Rarity for the majority of the introduction (Whom I can only discern is your favourite pony) I can see many striking similarities, ranging from mane color, to eye color, to skin color (Partially) to Cutie Mark implications.

    It subsequently fascinates me that you felt the need to enhance your videos with this additional graphical portrayal, similar to how Rarity would feel the need to enhance any existing creation that she might partake in to make it that much better.

    Anyways – To the topic at hand…

    My favourite character is Fluttershy. The primary reason for this is that she resembles my personality in a remarkable amount of ways. We’re both extremely shy, both feel an extreme need to care for animals (And both seem to have an understanding into how they feel – Further than what others might be able to comprehend), and would both stand up for our friends if the situation truly requires it (As in Dragonshy). Aside from that, she’s primarily Yellow, which just so happens to be my favourite color (A shallow reason, one might say, but simply a fascinating addition to the already growing list of reasons :P)

    Based off that, it might fascinate you to realise that one of my WORST episodes (Or should I say – Least liked) is “Putting Your Hoof Down” – A Fluttershy-centric episode. This is really due to the absolute turnaround of her character throwing away literally everything that makes her my favorite pony (Color aside). and similarly throwing away the complete child-like / harmonious concept that is one of the reasons I like the show in the first place.

    Whilst one might argue that something like “The Return of Harmony” might follow a similar aspect, you can counter-point that she was made intentionally evil beyond her control. Being forced (In the literal sense) VS simply choosing to go against what you would usually do makes the actions of the cast in this case “understandable”.

    As I depart, I just want to say that I find your YouTube series both high enjoyable and extremely fascination, and your insight into the show remarkable!

    Cheers for now,

    – Reelix

  29. I love the aesthetic persona thing, I love how to fandom created these characters. Like Berry Punch, or Doctor Whooves and Derpy. Or Lyra and BonBon. I think the show wouldn’t be half of what it is now if it wasn’t for the fandom. I love being part of the fandom. Reading fanfics and applying them to the show makes it so much more interesting. And then there’s developing your own personalities for the ponies. For example, having Luna be a gamer, I can relate to her because I, myself, am also a female gamer, which makes me love her so much more. I am also slightly socially awkward, and am shy with new people, but when you open up to me, I can be so much fun. That’s probably why Luna is my favourite character.

    I love your reviews btw, making me slightly want to review myself, but it probably wouldn’t be very good. Maybe I’ll do a response to this observation. Maybe not.

    But keep at it, and do more Digicasts~

  30. One of my favorite aspects of the show is the buck wild fan speculation on the background ponies to the point where picking Lyra and Bon-Bon out of a crowd scene then speculating on how they got there and what they are doing is a delight.

    The show persists in ignoring a goldmine of character depth in Big Macintosh. Think about it, after his parents “left” sometime after Apple Bloom was born and just before Applejack got her cutie mark he had to take on ALL of the farmwork by himself and he was still pretty young himself. This makes his sage advice in Applebuck Season all the more weighty. No wonder he doesn’t have a special somepony. Keep Sweet Apple Acres running has been his life since he was in his early-mid teens.

  31. My favorite pony is a tie between 6 ponies;Twilight, Rainbow, Applejack, Pinkie, Fluttershy, and Luna. I feel as if I can personally connect with each of these characters. With Twilight, I enjoy the feeling that the main character of the show is a bookworm. Rainbow, If I was doing something, and my friends were in danger because of it, I would probably stop. Applejack, I understand her because we both have to work with and occasionally direct sisters. Pinkie, we’re both insane, and Fluttershy, because we’re both shy and pushovers. Luna on the other hand, is a bit difficult to explain.

    Princess Luna is one of those characters that I liked when I first saw them. Like many background ponies, I enjoyed how she looked, especially when her mane and tale got an upgrade. I also enjoyed the fact that they made her real enough to be socially awkward after her stint on the moon. The fact that she isn’t realized further made me upset at the writers. Spike isn’t one one the mane six, and he got TWO episodes in season 3. Zecora isn’t one of the mane six, and she got an episode, too(‘Magic Duel’ isn’t really a Zecora episode, but a Twilight one). Luna herself has already had an episode. Why can’t she have one that better realizes her? Anyway, the main reason I like Luna is because I like the nighttime. I’m actually a night-early morning person, meaning I’m most awake around those times. Wake up a 4 in the morning, wide awake. 5, ready for anything. 6, kind of tired. 7, “Mleh, I don’t wanna go to school.”

    The reason Rarity isn’t one of my favorite ponies is because I can’t really connect with her. Yeah, she’s generous. You have to be at least a little bit to run a store right. But she’s a fashionista that’s obsessed with popularity, and my definition of fashion is not wear a long-sleeved shirt with shorts. I know I’m rambling a bit, but as a budding writer, I need to practice elongating what I’m saying. At least it’s not as long as some people wrote.

  32. I definitely worship at the altar of depth and character development, but you raise a good point that the aesthetic persona is also very important. Take Rainbow Dash, for example: She has the most striking appearance of all of the Mane 6, and so gets on a lot of merchandise and gets a lot of attention, despite the fact that she is arguably a rather shallow character at first. I, on the other hand, don’t find her aesthetic persona as appealing (she reminds me a bit too much of some bullies I used to know) and so she’s always hovered at the bottom of my list of favorite ponies, though her character development over time has warmed me to her as a character. In contrast, I love both Celestia and Applejack despite their lack of character development because they are well realized and aesthetically appealing (more on Applejack below).

    To look at the importance of aesthetics through another text, consider the anime Bleach. Bleach is full of characters who I find aesthetically pleasing and who are well-realized, but these characters are not the main characters. As a result, there isn’t much opportunity for depth or development, because the show is focused so heavily on Ichigo, who doesn’t interest me aesthetically at all. I stopped watching not long after the Soul Society arc because I realized that all of the characters I was interested in were never going to get any real screen time, and no amount of character development for Ichigo was going to overcome my lack of aesthetic engagement with him as a character.

    As far as chemistry goes, I think you are spot on that this is the fuel that runs the show. We rarely see much of these characters acting on their own because their appeal is so enhanced by the way they interact with each other. Episodes like “Sweet and Elite” and “Wonderbolts Academy,” where members of the Mane 6 are isolated from the rest of the group, are few and far between for this very reason. This is not to say that the characters are too weak to stand on their own, but rather that they are so much more effective in concert. Which, come to think of it, is basically the entire theme of the show itself.

    I think I would not like Applejack nearly as well as I do if it were not for her chemistry with other members of the cast. I’m usually not drawn to the “country” type characters as I find little ground to relate to them on, but AJ creates that ground by reacting to other characters in ways I can empathize with. So when AJ invokes a sense of fair play in “Fall Weather Friends,” or contrasts with Rarity’s meticulousity in “Look Before You Sleep,” or goes out of her way to help Fluttershy in “Dragonshy,” I see character elements that appeal to me that aren’t on display when she’s just puttering around Sweet Apple Acres. Heck, what endeared her character to me in “Applebuck Season” was not her stubborn desire to buck all the apples herself, but the fact that she was pushing herself to help all her friends despite being overloaded with her own work, something I can definitely relate to.

  33. Welp…let’s see.

    I suppose when I think of characters I like, it’s starts with how they talk. The qualities in their voice, their speech patterns, and what they talk about almost always grab me firs,t shortly followed by how they look. Note, even if the look isn’t the most interesting thing to me, if the voice grabs me, I want to know more about the character.

    it’s this wish to get to know the character that keeps me interested. The more there is to find out, the more I tend to like the character. However, there are rare occasions where the story has a character that catches my interest, but just drops them. In this instance, my mind searches for unofficial works that seem to resonate with the impression I got from said character’s introduction.

    Mileage may vary, but it’s these qualities that got me interested first in the Main 6…then in others like Princess Luna, then Celestia, then Spike, then Discord, and from there many of the OC ponies, Derpy being a prime example. Others, like Ms. Scratch and Octavia are interesting, though far from my favorites.

    Others, like Doctor Whooves, tend to play off of established characters I know and love, but then taking them in new directions that keep me interested and guessing since they diverge so much, but many write them so close to the source material it just makes me that much more interested.

    In short, many characters CAN interest me for a lot of reasons. Your idea of Aesthetic Persona certainly seems to capture this rather well.

    And as an aside, excellent work as always, I’m a big admirer of your work. And I eagerly await your next segment.

  34. I don’t have a log in so yeah this is miliazure from Twitter.

    I personally see Sombra’s character as being a great concept. Not so much a great character as I can’t say I know enough about him to care much, but his concept seems like it “could be” interesting and that possibility makes it feel interesting even if the “could be” is never developed beyond that.

    Luna is my favorite alicorn (yes, including Twilight) and is among my top favorite characters. Though that might be my old bias coming back. I used to have a thing for characters who switched sides at some point and in different ocassions played the part of antagonists and then became part of the good guys group, or started out with the good guys and turned into villains for a season, etc. This is ironically probably decause of all the depth, development and complexity that usually goes into making such a situation play out without seeming to come out of the blue. Even so, though Luna doesn’t present that, she makes me think about it. I might not have seen it, but I can imagine it and that’s enough to make her character intereting.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that theories have played a big part when it comes to me becoming interested in characters. It’s fun to look beyond the canon at what could have been. Though I don’t often write it anymore as I used to, I do enjoy thinking about it. Sometimes it’s a head canon and sometimes it’s something that I don’t actually believe could happen, but would still make an amusing story.

    Having room for speculation and theories… curiosity… That’s the word, I like characters that make me curious about them. There’s a charming mystery to characters whose appel lies in easthetic persona.

    Of course, I also like characters that I relate to and characters that amuse me in some way. Then again, don’t we all? Even if those same conceps will give each person entirely different answers. It’s like how Twilight reminds me a little of a younger version of me and Rarity of a more current version, not entirely of course, but there are certain key aspects that I can identify with even if the characters are still vastly different from myself. Pherphahs this is why I can never say who my top favorite character is, they all have little things that draw me towards them and end up in a sort of draw.

    I’m not great at explaining things, so hopefully my oppinion didn’t come out sounding too confusing.

  35. Thanks to your most recent video, I now think I have a better understanding of WHY Cadance is my favorite character–I still don’t get it, but I get it a bit more than previously.

    As for your comments on Vinyl and Octavia, I don’t understand why people seem to think they have “good chemistry.” I don’t oppose shippings/pairings of the two, but I certainly don’t support them; Octavia and Vinyl are complete opposites, where the only thing in common is that they are involved in music. And contrary to popular belief, opposites do not attract.

  36. I can’t help but agree on a lot of points. Everything from well developed characters giving us the base we need to assume things on other episodes. It’s also a time saver since we don’t have to be told why Rarity does this, we know. This if familiarity and it creates a feeling like an old friend.

    I think aesthetic persona is very important, as much if not more so than character developement sometimes. Especially with characters that will have few or only one appearance. For instance, I have argued that Discord wasn’t much more defined than Sombra. Both hinted or told at past conflict with the sisters and defeat. Both caused problems but neither are defined why. It is never told to us in either case. We assume entirely out of Discords look and initial actions he’s just a being of chaos. It’s all self assumed knowledge, there is entirely no background story to him. He goes straight into villainous action showing he is both powerful and manipulative. We can assume a lot about it, but in the end, it’s primarily assumptions.

    Sombra does much of the same, but he got less talking time than even Discord probably out of time constraints with a want to focus more on the six and in my opinion was supposed to be a ticking time bomb. He’s bad, he’s evil and if he gets here, it’s over. It’s impending doom. Yet even in his small bits we know he is willing to enslave a population, manipulative, and is smart enough to set traps that would deal with any single pony, even one as powerful as Twilight. Yet, that’s all we learn and that is not much more than Discord when you compare in that light. Why is he evil? How did he get here? I can ratchet off as many unanswered questions about him as Discord.

    In season four if they have a new villain for the launch it will be under the same time crunch that that all three seasons openers, and season 2 finale suffered from. 22 minutes roughly for each episodes so a whopping total of 44 minutes to do what could often be a stand alone movie. So they have to practically be all aesthetic persona. They have to pop up and with their mere introduction, like Chrysalis, bam, I’m here, I’m the bad guy. Fear. Know that I’m a challenge, you could lose and they have to do it in a way that they hope we will like. Sombra got sacrificed more to story of the six, and even Nightmare Moon in a lot of ways. Their screen time compared to Chrysalis(partially as evil cadance) and Discord was dismal. So the introduction, look, and how they carry themselves is really all they will have.

  37. Watching your video, I was reminded of a discussion I had with a few of my writer friends involving the pros and cons of stereotyping and what it means to writing in general. The both good and bad thing about characterizations in MLP is there brand requires stereotyping due to the idea of the cutie mark. Now, even though the more fleshed out characters of the series brake the mold of the stereotype placed upon them, it still gives a jumping off point for characterization. The “”aesthetic persona” as you call it is really a much nicer term for the stereotype the character creates. They don’t follow one so much as create there own. Celesta for example uses the calm demeanor with the bright colors. The calm demeanor says “Princess” while the colors say “Bright”. Bright meaning both intelligent as a mentor and lighthearted. There by creating the Celesta stereotype, a Princess that is both intelligent as well and kindhearted. Luna’s Stereotype is “Princess” and “Night”, calm demeanor but mysterious. By using these one or two-word character explanations, you start to see a pattern in MLP of relying on the stereotype but then adding words later to flesh the characters out. The biggest example is Derpy. Her original stereotype was “….oops” when she first appeared on the season opener. That became her character. A great writing exercise is taking 4 words and making a character out of them this way. It keeps you lose and stops you from always going back to the same type of characters over and over. So in closing, I loved the video and keep it up!

  38. Aesthetic Persona and Development are equally important aspects of characterization with me. Aesthetics provide a reason to notice the character in the first place while Development allows the reader/viewer to bond with the character. Without the Aesthetics, the character would go completely unnoticed but a character cannot survive solely on aesthetics.
    Take your example, Vinyl and Tavi. Yes, the aesthetics provided by MLP are all that we have , officially, while the fans have given us development. Without that development, Vinyl and Tavi would be two more background ponies, like Fancypants and Derring Do. Instead, we have a couple, each with a deep background (University Days, Vinyl Scratch Tapes) and different, often conflicting, interests, which makes them interesting. Unlike the other couples like Derpy/Whooves and Lyra/Bon-Bon. Derpy/Whooves have aesthetics and wouldn’t have really gone anywhere if not for the Doctor Who series and Lyra/Bon-Bon who have nothing but aesthetics. These two couples, without as much fan-development, are the epitome of background ponies while vinyl/tavi nearly have “mane 6” status.
    Anyway, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

  39. “On the other hand, Rarity is an exceptionally deep character. Her motivations stem from a childhood desire to dazzle people with her work, and a deep interest in fashion that developed out of embarrassment over her unfashionable parents. Her passion is to have others appreciate her work, and this sometimes gets in the way of her desire to please her friends, whom she loves because of their densely established connections over the course of the series. Her emotions and motivations are complex.”

    If what you said is actually true, why do Rarity’s parents still wear more clothes than she ever does?

  40. I kind of disagree with calling Princess Celestia manipulative, if only because she is a princess, she is a ruler and she is supposed to do politics. Politics consisting mostly of lying, cheating and manipulating. Also my benchmark of politics crossing over into manipulation is Lord Vetinari from Discworld, so my bar is probably set unreasonably high. (That or my misogyny meter is set to high today.)
    Speaking as a fan who writes fanfiction and loves discussing motivations, potentiality, or lack of solid characterisation, also plays a role in popularity. There’s nothing canon, so fans can go wild building and speculating on those four values until they have something they can connect to. Potentiality gives a fan the power to contribute to fanon and the fan community in a way that realised characters, with their depth, development, aesthetic and chemistry don’t. Which is why “Who is your favourite background pony?” is such a popular question. It tells such a lot about a person and what they care about and what characteristics are lacking from canon.

    I’d be really interested to see if, in Brony culture, female bronies/pegasisters are less invested in background ponies than male bronies. While they aren’t the target demographic, they do share qualities of the target demographic and I certainly enjoy the fact there are 6+ developed characters that I don’t have to develop much further to connect to. I don’t feel that I need to make my mark all over it to make it mine. I do like characters like Ditzy, Doctor Whooves, Luna and Shining Armour because they have unexplored depth, development and chemistry, but I don’t feel like I need to fill those gaps in to enjoy the show or greater fandom more. [Sorry for making it about gender.:(]

  41. I do like your term of Aesthetic Persona to define a character’s “Traits” essentially. Sounds like a fancier wording which sums up superficial character appeal. I would argue that it is an over-simplification of the summation of character traits, but it specifically works in this case due to the nature of the content. I’ll go more into that in a bit.

    Borrowing Sam Smiley’s “Playwriting: The Structure of Action” teminology, What Aesthetic Persona boils down to a certain superficial amalgamation of the first six traits of a character which are a character’s biological, physical, and, to a lesser extent, dispositional traits. To paraphrase Smiley. Biological traits are the most basic male or female and human or animal, physical traits are their actual visual presence in the given medium, and dispositional trait, as best I can describe it, would be their mannerisms and personality that shows through how they carry themselves.

    The reason I find this unique in this circle of fandom is the idea that a character is liked simply because they are who they are. Honestly, the thought hasn’t occurred to me to analyze in this manner because it is shallow ignoring the character’s deeper motivations, but because the characters we are discussing are more static, secondary, or even background blank slates characters, it’s one of the only ways we can begin to understand these characters and their fanbase.

    What I want to focus on for the moment are the true background ponies. Those with no point than just to fill up a screen or needed role in many cases. Think for a moment, why is it hard to nail down this Aesthetic term? Well, consider any other visual medium you’ve seen recently. When is the last time you can say that in scene 12, beat 4 during the action scene that someone completely adored the extra in a business suit carrying a Starbucks coffee mug among the twenty of the pedestrian running away from the monster? What about a play where Caravan Guy 2 that drops a milk jug that walks from one side of the stage to the other in the background? These attachments do not generally spark a phenomena. They were filler, doing a roll to add a sort of immersion to the work as a whole by reinforcing the idea that the characters exist in functional world.

    Because of the nature of this media and the mentality of its fanbase, I feel that this is not a new method, but specialized area of character analysis which becomes one of the few ways to talk about the appreciation of Octavia or Vinyl Scratch outside of fan creations. It also becomes apparent that this type of connection the to character exclusively comes from cartoons and other similar media. Sure you need to make sure everyone fits within the world through costuming in live-action driven media, but if you’ve gotta draw a lot of background ponies for a little girl’s show, why not have some fun with it? If the character is well-liked enough, you can even profit off of marginal popularity through toys or other promotional items.

    • (Hit the post comment button too early)

      Because these background ponies lack depth from participating in the action of the plot of the episode, they can only bear the first three traits, or if they are completely motionless, only the first two. It’s amazing to see people latch onto them despite the lack of knowing the character. Sure the tabula rasa nature of ponies with only the most basic of character traits allows for a lot of head-cannons and fanfics, but it has to go further than that. Aestheric Persona can be the only reason why I was excited when A Canterlot Wedding Part 2 when Vinyl briefly has her eyes open to see their color. I wasn’t even IN That debate and I was immediately pausing, rewinding, and leaning into my screen “to finally seez them eyez!”

    • This brings to mind Scott McCloud’s argument in Understanding Comics that people find the simplified, iconic style of cartoons more relatable than more detailed depictions. Somehow we find it easier to relate to characters drawn in a cartoon-y style compared to a photorealistic one (or perhaps even the “real people” of theater and film), and so it is a shorter leap to consider a background pony a “real” character (despite all evidence to the contrary) than a movie extra or random NPCs in a big budget game.

  42. I feel like these videos could be shown in some writing class or something, with all the definitions and deconstructions of “just a kids’ show”. People could really make some good entertainment with the knowledge and constructive criticism you provide with these XD

    I agree with one of the comments on Youtube, that *potential* can be a good hook as well. I suppose that also links with what aesthetic appeal they have. (Though I disagree with the reference to Somba, he didn’t seem to resonate any potential or persona with me, he was just kind of a filler character to provide a problem.) I wonder if anyone else thinks potential and aesthetic persona could be considered the same thing? Someone that seems to resonate strong characterization that you hope can be realized and/or developed.
    Personally, I think enjoy more official characters, that have really gone through arcs to confirm or even CHANGE their personality. Even more so when you can see the chemistry that they have with other characters (so many shipping opportunities <333). Not to say that it isn't fun to adopt a personality and a few headcanons about some background ponies from the fandom, but they just don't seem to resonate with me. I dunno, maybe I just feel obligated to add my own to cents to them, but I have no ideas.

  43. Dear DigiBrony,

    I absolutely agree with all of your points. However, I’d like to add another:


    For example, let’s use Luna. While I do like characters like Fluttershy, with lots of aesthetic persona (She’s adorable and who can not love such a kind character?) I can’t help but be a little sad to think that because of her relatively settled nature it would be difficult to put her in new situations in order to unveil undiscovered aspects about her. However, with Luna, because she’s so deep, and her character so unexplored, she automatically becomes a fascinating character. She sparks a sort of curiosity in the fans. Luna as a character, has the potential to become a more and more complex character, if her story were to unfold. This type of mystery and potential story makes her an interesting character; fuel for unexplored territory of the show. With the potential story of characters like Luna, we can expect that My Little Pony will continue to dish out interesting new episodes.

    While realized characters are great, and you can relate to them, mystery gives us hope that the series won’t die or become simply boring. Think about it. If all the mane six were to be fully realized characters, they would become less interesting because they no longer have anything to learn, therefore have no more story potential.

  44. Considering in-universe terms, I like all the foreground characters, for they are wonderfully deep and complex for a little girls’ show. But, I love, love, love the mid-tier characters and their storyline potential. I mean, delving more into a character we don’t see very much (e.g. Celestia), and exploring their characterization.

    But the thing is, this works as a double edged sword. On one hand, being attracted to a character because of potential is one thing, and liking the character because you can fill in the gaps of her persona is another.

    To put it in much simpler terms, I’d like the show to work more with them, BUT, maybe I’d rather not. Since I can do my part and fill out my headcanon. Such as what the fandom does with Overly Sad Luna.

    In the end, for me, the biggest thing that attracts me is the aesthetic persona. Not that I have no literary sense or something similar, it’s that this is just a kids’ show, and only has the advantage of being well thought out and complex. Yes, the characters are real and meaningful, but if this were any other kid show, were the characters any less deep, I would still like them.

    • i thought i would add his TL:DR here. basically for those of you who don’t frequent reddit the TL:DR is the too long didn’t read shortened version he goes kind of deep into this but here is the short version. He also goes way in depth about fluttershy so if your a flutterfan go check it out.

      TL;DR All i wanted to convey was that our perspective shapes how we interpret these characters. That out very struggle to understand these characters is a sign of how well done they are. I wanted to convey how much excitement I had that the story telling done here was so focused on the understanding I love so much. That MLP’s story and characters reminded me of what you began to see in art after photos came around. After you stripped away all the realism the canvas could be used to show something as meaningful or even more meaningful then any photo. The mane 6 are far more real for me then any human in any book set in any place on earth ever was to me.

  45. Deep, well developed, and well realized characters are straight up magnificent. Characters like Rainbow Dash I find that, although a quirky character, isn’t the type of character I wouldn’t normally like. She is athletic, pushy at times, and can be straight up rude and ignorant. But I have, over time, greatly come to like her because I was there with her (in the sense of being a viewer) and in a completely figurative sense I have developed commradery with her. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie on the other hand I connect with very well on a deep and personal level, so it wasn’t difficult or long for me to connect with these characters at all, yet at the same rate whenever the show would portray them in a way that I felt was out of character I was annoyed at best for what I conceived to be a misportrayal of their characters.
    Chemistry is also a fantastic tool. The movie Avengers, I believe, has the best friggin’ chemistry out of any movie I have seen recently, and characters I did not care for at all (like the Hulk and Captain America) became beloved characters from watching them work with each other.
    And then there is Aesthetic Persona… I personally believe creating a good aesthetic persona can be one of the most difficult things to make, and one of the easiest to completely trash a character, but allow me to explain: Princess Luna is a huuuuuge favorite of mine. What I love about her the most is the deep bond I feel we have, as I used to hate people as a child because I was an outcast. I would daydream about hurting, and even killing people to get revenge on how they treated me, and I even began having suicidal thoughts around age 10. I get Luna. Truly, I do, but as you said she isn’t truly realized. Like, at all. Now, in Sleepless in Ponyville I was pissed off as hell when she could magically go into ponies dreams, because I viewed it as the MLP writers trying to shoehorn fan loved Princess Luna into an episode, and make up a new magical talent she could preform to make her appear “cooler.” I was angry that instead of diving into her past and her story, they would just toss her in for a cameo (I actually feel very much the same about Discord in Keep strong and Flutter on). After watching your Thoroughly Analyzing video, though, I have come to realize that having Luna walk through dreams (which you would think would have been mentioned BEFORE the episode) was indeed the best scenario for Scootaloo’s dilemma. When you have a character that is entirely aesthetic, like say, Derpy, and you portray her correctly, fans will rave and love her. But stray from what the fan based believes (fix her eyes and changer her voice and redub her) then fans get angry as hell because the character wasn’t portrayed as the fan base deemed them to be. Although the fans would love to see more of Octavia and Vinyl Scratch, MLP:FiM developing them could be catastrophic to those ponies’ fan base.
    Being able to create a well developed, well realized, and deep character is a show of literary and creative mastery, especially when done with multiple, very different characters. Creating chemistry shows love and true understanding of the created characters, and a talent to have them function correctly in a given situation, which is also a literary feat. Aestetic Persona, on the other hand, I personally believe to be a fantastic thing that, more often than not, is merely a fluke. BUT it can backfire immensely if the writers take a risk to try to develop a character that exists on Aesthetic Persona alone. If they do it right, though, they can completely win over a fan base.

    • And to add on: As a story writer, I GREATLY appreciate developed characters and story, and consistency in the story (I was so annoyed when Pinkie’s Tail didn’t Twitch when spike got hit by the door in The Crystal Empire Part 2), but at the same time, being a story writer, I love undeveloped and unrealized aesthetic characters as well because with them I can imagine and create their stories and past (like how I believe Zakura should be from Zimbabneigh). Is one type pf character better than another? In my opinion, no. BUT a healthy balance of all characters is bound to be loved and received by a large base, instead of a niche market.

  46. I love your thoughts on this, and agree with you on all points. On the topic of “characterization”, have you read the official comics? In the last couple, the Nightmare Mist that had corrupted Luna has returned and corrupted a different pony. I don’t want to spoil anything if you haven’t read them yet, because they are VERY well written and VERY entertaining. With that being said, I would very much like for you to analyze this new villain. I wrote some of my own thoughts on the matter, so … *spoilers*

    *spoilers for the comics*

    I don’t think they’re handling Nightmare Rarity right. Yes, I know it’s their story to do with what they want, but I don’t think the writers understand the original concept. Nightmare Moon wasn’t just “Luna possessed by darkness”; she was “The embodiment of Luna’s darkness.” Everything we know about Nightmare Moon points to the fact that the Nightmare Mist enhances a pony’s inner evils. It twists and corrupts a pony’s heart, but the character is STILL the original pony.

    Nightmare Rarity is just a vessel for another character all together. Rarity’s “inner darkness” doesn’t manifest in any meaningful way. The Mist just used her inner demons to get a foothold, but the entire thing is being treated like a simple possession. The character is just the Mist … with a host body. I don’t even know why they gave the Mist ANY personality, actually. The writers of this comic have no idea what they’re doing here.

    A PROPER Nightmare Rarity would quickly become what Galadriel feared that SHE would become in Lord of the Rings. “In the place of a commoner you would have a Queen! Not simple, but grand and beautiful as the night sky! Generous as the Seas! Stronger than the foundations of Equestria! All shall adore me and despair!”

    She would still be bad news, but it would be RARITY being bad news. THAT would have been awesome!! As it stands, we get a fairly generic villain that’s trying to (you guessed it) take over the world. BOOR-IING.

  47. i am interested in non-deep char. because you can make a story behind them and when you do so other people have diffrent opinions and create other stories backing up the char.

  48. I do like deeply devolped mlp characters like Rarity, Twilight Sparkle, ect. But I also like the Aesthetic Persona Like Luna. When u look at look at Luna (or at least when Ibdo) We see a few traits based off of previous seasons.
    -She’s a younger sibling
    -She has a charming night themed design throughout her first appearance (sort of a twilight design) and her other appearence (a more midnight design)
    -she is socially akward
    – she basically has had the altiment grounding on the moon for jealsousy of her gaurdian (Celestia)
    – She wants friends more than anything (which i can safely assume it was the ability to walk threw nightmares and people thinking she was a wicked sister to celestia and the other ponies didnt want to be her friend)

    Now I also like other Aesthetic Persona Characters such as Princess Cadence and Shining Armor (WATCH IT THIS ONES A DOOZY)
    -Can Heal to ponies relationship using a love spell
    -foalsitted Princess Twilight Sparkle before she was a princess
    -has a crystal blue heart as a cutie mark
    Shining Armor
    -Is Twilights Older Brother Best Friend Forever
    – Is pretty hot in pegasister terms
    – Is Captain of the Royal Guard
    – Is Princess of The (charming) Crystal ponies

    In Conclusion I’m neutral but more Aesthetic Persona if I had to choose.

  49. Well I also saw your best princess video and partially disagree.Yes, she is a good help to the characteristics of both Twilight Sparkle and Shining Armor and most importantly is NOT Celestia / Miss perfect pants.But Luna is the one and only character that I love for more than personality because for my favourite pony it is just her cute personality (Fluttershy).Whilst she is the least known about, she is still a good enough pony to be the best princess in my opinion and of course you have an opinion too so I guess I cannot change your mind. Luna has a job that makes me a Luna fan, raising the moon at sunset.

  50. I think i prefer ponies that are not really important. Like Vinyl, Octavia, Derpy…. When the ponies are not popular in the show i really want to know more about them and I can imagine who they are and how they earned their cutie mark. Colgate, i imagine her being a dentist and she takes great care of her teeth. Dr.whooves, i imagine him trying to build a time machine or he already travles by time by the looks of his cutie mark. Aaaaanyways. Ill talk next time!

  51. There is a difference between characters I resonate with, and characters I ‘like’. For example, Fluttershy is my all time favorite pony, and I like her, because every time she speaks, in my head I see an outline over her spouting out very blunt and bold things. I am not like this. Twilight is much more like me, and thus resonates with me. She cares for her studies yet is not without a life, and stresses out under pressure. Albeit I’m not as dramatic, but I feel that way.

    With this is mind, I would say it takes what you call “aesthetic persona” to ‘like’ a character, because what I like about Fluttershy requires absolutely no character development, she started out as manipulative to me. However, Twilight required character development into her flaws for me to resonate with her.

    For anyone who will say “but Wolfy! Isn’t making Fluttershy manipulative already character development?” Well… yes… in a way. However I had based that on SOLELY from aesthetic persona and previous favorite characters in anime. It wasn’t until later when I could actually make an argument that Fluttershy being manipulative is cannon. Where as for Twilight, I absolutely hated her, and it took episodes like Lesson Zero before I started to resonate with her.

    Thus I would find it hard to say which one is better. I personally think undeveloped characters are better for the fandom (gives everyone a chance to develop them in fanfics), however having a show with undeveloped characters would be literally boring. And developed characters offer a baseline for fanfics without the necessary need to develop the characters from ground-zero. Gun pointed to me head, I would have to pick aesthetic persona because I’m going to be frank, if a show doesn’t look good, I won’t watch it. I watch anime because I enjoy the music, the voice acting, and the character (and world) design. If it doesn’t have it, I won’t watch it (thus there are very few anime I’ve enjoyed or even tried watching, even though I love them). Character development seems more important to me in a story, where the only thing you can relate to is the character itself. So it depends on the medium.

    Agree? Disagree?

  52. First of all, this is my favorite episode of yours by far, and I would probably go as far as to say that this is the best analysis that I have seen ever. I just want to say that it would be so cool if you did a series of analysis videos on each pony’s character development, aesthetic persona, ect. individually, fully going into detail about each one. Also, why isn’t Fluttershy a major part of many episodes? It makes it harder to like her (at least to me) as a character when she has little to no character development. I think that even though she is a great representation of generosity, she could use more depth.

  53. hello DigibronyYT my name is nissa also known as rioulufairy “on youtube” and ive ben watching you vids for a while now and I agree with you on king sombera on being a shallow type of character but he doesn’t have the motivation of being “just” evil he also has another goal of taking control of an entire empire witch is the crystal empire and also I love the characters “depth and devolpment” like rarity and the things that you have told us about her were excellent I agree 100% percent with you on that and lastly my favorite epi of yours has to go to the magical mystery cure I too have enjoyed that episode that the epi is by far my fav epi period.

  54. I’ve found that my favorite character aren’t based on the show at all, but in fact on what chemistry, depth, and development other people make FOR them. i use the aesthetic persona and then using other peoples fan art, fictions, songs, whatever, i can continuously revise that character, so that it is always new and interesting. following this pattern, my favorite pony is luna, as she has the greatest aesthetic persona, but is still largely a “blank slate” in the show, leaving the fan works about her so largely varied, that there is always new things the keep the character interesting, so that every time i look at something, i see how to fit what i like into a complete character, with the original aesthetic person, but with a collaboration of depth, growth, background, ect.

  55. I think that Aesthetic Persona and Chemistry are most important to me, also to a lot of people.

    Look at the changeling queen for an example of how important they are. She has a massive following because of her Aesthetic Persona and the chemistry she had with the characters in just the one show.

    The amount of changeling art is more abundant if not the most abundant art of all the villains because while Discord had chemistry to spare he wasn’t really aesthetically pleasing or visually appealing and that detracted from his character.

    I think it was the flawless performance of his voice actor and the chemistry it implied which carried his character in spite of his illogical and incongruous character design.

  56. I Love how you pointed out all those points in a good Charater. Would you have advise for people making there own OC? A reply would be nice ;)

  57. I don’t care too much about aesthetics, but they will sway my opinion if I cannot find anything else. I think chemistry and depth are the greatest reasons why I like the show. Development doesn’t really matter all that much, it’s almost up there with aesthetics.

    I love Luna purely for Aesthetic reasons. Fluttershy is mostly aesthetic, but I do think she has gotten a sufficient amount of character depth and development to qualify for that side. Twilight, Rarity and Rainbow are also characters with sufficient amounts of depth and development, and Twilight is the one I can relate to the most, except in intelligence.

    Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for Pinkie or Applejack. This doesn’t mean I dislike them in any way, but I prefer the others. This is really sad for me to say, too, as Pinkie was the whole reason why I got into the show in the first place. I watched a music video with her being Pinkie, and it got me interested, then I saw a wallpaper with her and 11 party canons going off behind her, and I just had to watch the show.

    Anyway, I can’t really explain it right now, but Pinkie just doesn’t seem to do much except be random. She’s hilarious, but that’s pretty much it. The few episodes that told her not everything was fun and games seem to me like the only direction her character can go in. Maybe a future episode could have her deal with her family, and she doesn’t like them, which is why she moved out. I don’t know, the only things I can come up with for her have already been done.

    Same with Applejack. While I respect her character, and I enjoy her chemistry with the other ponies, but other than her stubbornness and tendency to take things too seriously, there’s not much depth to her character. Maybe a future episode can bring up the dilemma where she wants to lie, but it obviously conflicts with her element of honesty. Like, telling Applebloom what happened to their parents…perhaps. That’s the only thing I can come up with.

    And, actually, Fluttershy is very much like Applejack and Pinkie. There’s not much going for her, other than she’s shy and timid. I would love to see her become jealous of Twilight being a good flyer in a short amount of time. Maybe Twilight, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and Scootaloo (Scootaloo is mostly optional) all go and practice flying and Twilight picks it up pretty quickly, earning respect and admiration from Rainbow and Scootaloo, respectively, and Fluttershy feels conflicted. She wants to be happy for Twilight, but she is instead envious of her. That envy then turns into jealousy, and Fluttershy’s internal conflict causes an external. One that requires her to become the hero….hopefully. I am biased towards Fluttershy and I really wish she could be the hero, for once, and actually perform a great physical feat. You know, like flying as fast as Rainbow to save Twilight? Or anyone for that matter, just throwing out ideas. Or, even better, she ends up going off by herself after hurting someone or just because she’s jealous, and having to fend for herself in the wild where her animal taming skills are useless, and Twilight finds her and they have to escape the mess, and Fluttershy ends up having to save either herself or Twilight, or both….I am really over thinking this right now, aren’t I? Damn you, inspiration!

    That’s just the Mane Six though. For the CMC, I think Sweetie Bell has all the elements of characterization going for her, and she’s so adorable. Applebloom and Scootaloo also have great chemistry with other ponies, but I don’t feel like they’ve been explored much as characters.

    The single most desired episode I wish for season 4 is a Luna episode. I would like her to retain her Old English style of communication, but without the Canterlot Voice (It’s not the accent she uses, or the words, but the tone and volume of her voice that makes everypony afraid of her in Nightmare Night, IMO). I don’t know what would happen, but even if it is another Nightmare Night, except with epic shit happening, I will be pleased.

    I like her above Celestia for aesthetic reasons, and Cadence kind of just falls off the chart, like with Applejack or Pinkie.

    Wow, I didn’t expect to write a book here. I could try to keep going, but this comment has gone on long enough.

  58. Honestly Im 50/50 on this while I do enjoy a character with depth and development because it make them more relatable it is also fun to have characters who are great based on aesthetic Persona and chemistry because it gives them a chance to grow and expand on the characters instead of already having established their characters, take derpy for example, she spoke in the last roundup for about a minute and everybody who had not loved her character before had after that moment but we don’t know much about her other than the fact that she is a clutz, so this gives the writers room to grow, for example, they could tell us why her eyes are like that, and what are her origins, I know the show should mostly stick to the mane 6 but it would be great if we could learn more about some of the popular backround characters.

    as we all know, depth and development go hand in hand. I think a perfect example of this is Pinkie Pie, now then most people just see her as an ecstatic, hyperactive pony that can defy physics, and this is what I saw her as too, until I looked deeper and noticed that during the cutie mark chronicles episode she might have had some hardships from her past weighing her down, and so I thought, maybe, just maybe, she uses parties and her friends as a defense mechanism against those painful memories, because if you notice, In party of one when she thought her friends hated her she became depressed, and for some reason, started to lose her sanity because she didn’t have the defense mechanism of her friends and without her friends she couldn’t have parties so she tried to create a substitute because she didn’t want to remember whatever happened but it didn’t work so as a result it drove her insane , I think pinkie pie suffers from Bipolar disorder, in which she has manic high points and depression low points or she suffers from a dual personality disorder in which she has two sides, the one where she is happy go lucky and the other where she is sad and insane, at this point I instantly latched on to Pinkie Pie as my Favorite Pony because I too suffer from Bipolar disorder in which I go through these mood swings in which sometimes I am hyperactive and talk ALOT and these other times when I am sad and not interested in anything as well as I go crazy to the point of having thoughts of mass murder and I use my friends as well as gaming as a defense mechanism against these depressive lows so as you see I suffer from the same conditions that pinkie pie does which does lead me to believe Pinkie Suffers

  59. I noticed that season one has stronger, more noticeable chemistry between characters. Particularly I’m thinking of Rainbow Dash and Applejack. They always seemed to have had some kind of relationship (friends or competition) before the group as a whole was formed. AJ seemed to know RD well enough to easily predict when RD was about to pick a fight with somepony and then AJ jumps in and grabs (bites) RD’s tail, holding her back. This happens a lot in season one, and I was sad not to see it so much later on. AJ and RD aren’t just competitive in the iron pony competition episode (and I love the hoof spitting thing btw) but also the Ticket Master not only are they the first two ponies to compete over Twilight’s spare ticket but they get into a hoof-wrestle over it (as if this is something they often do to settle arguments). And even before that there’s their conversations about how RD skipped out on helping AJ with collecting apples. These two seemed to have a history together. I don’t see much of this any more in later seasons.
    I also felt there was a lot of tension between Applejack and Rarity, shown particularly in Look Before you Sleep where the two of them are trapped together waiting out the storm. I don’t think that episode was just trying to show that they’re two very different ponies. I felt that it was a consistent relationship those two shared – that where Applejack has history with Rainbow Dash (again, either friendly or competitive) Applejack and Rarity have most likely been avoiding each other completely and know each other only by reputation (which is why it’s so awesome so Applebloom and Sweetie Belle are such close friends). This is all brought together well in Sisterhooves Social where Sweetie Belle abandons Rarity for a new sister and goes straight to Applejack, Rarity’s complete opposite. But again, this was mostly season one.
    (Actually, odd observation. In the Equestria Girls movie these two seemed oddly close. There’s even a scene with Rarity hanging of Applejack’s arm when they’re outside the dance.)
    Poor Fluttershy, of course, is timid and kind and usually gets dragged into situations without asking her opinion. Particularly I’ve noticed two. 1 – Rainbow Dash. 2 – Rarity.
    Rainbow Dash needs another pegasus pony and often that’s all she sees Fluttershy as – another pegasus. She sees the wings and says “You’re coming to train with me / fly with me / cheer at my awesome flying / etc” and doesn’t realise that Fluttershy is more down-to-earth than Pinkie Pie at times.
    Rarity looks for another ‘graceful, beautiful, fashionable pony’ and grabs Fluttershy (because, really, there’s no one else). Sometimes this works. Fluttershy does seem to have knowledge of sewing and fashion – but then it goes too far with Rarity dressing her up for photoshots and suddenly Fluttershy is a fashion model (uh-oh). I do wonder however if Fluttershy is actually okay with getting dragged along to the spa and other Rarity-approved activities.

    My overall point is that going back to watch season one again I was startled by the strength of individuality (and partner pairing chemistry) that each pony (or pair of ponies) had compared to later on. Certainly in later seasons they all start to feel a little more homogenised. Where once they would get into fights over actual personality differences, now it’s just temporary insanity or a big misunderstanding or they don’t even fight with each other any more.
    If this is character development (learning to get along better) it’s a little over the top. When friends have been friends for a long time they still get into fights, or they still bond better with some friends than others.
    (or maybe this is due to a writing change. I don’t know…)

  60. I personally like characters based on depth and development a bit more then based on aesthetics, but I can also really like characters like Derpy, Vinyl and Octavia. But what I like the most is when a character is at first likeable because of their looks, actions, etc. only to then slowly develope into a character with great depth. A good example for this, at least in my eyes, would be Kamina from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. At first he seems like a rather shallow character, just your typical “manly hero” who does before he thinks, but as the series goes on his actions and the way he acted are explained. (SPOILER ALERT just to be sure) The best example of this in the series is a flashback to a moment where he and Yoko, one of the main female characters, are talking to eachother in all honesty. In this scene he basicly admits that all his ridiculous acts, him seemingly being fearless and his “do first, think later” mentality are simply ways for him to deal with his fear and his sence of uselessness. Kamina is because of that one of my favorite characters in any anime and gurren lagann my favorite animated series off all time.

    Progress like that can be such an unexpected, interesting twist that you cannot help but love the character for it. Well, that’s my two bits, hope it wasn’t just me fanboying about Gurren Lagann :P

  61. Is it okay if i prefer both? I mean, yeah it means alot moar for a character to have development and depth, but when you come a cross a character like Vinyl or Octavia, you cant help but fall in love with them. Not only that, but you can create a story for them. You can manipulate a character like that, giving him/her a rich lifestyle or to be a bum on the street. I love characters like that! Lets take Minuette, for example; she only really noticeably appears once and then, all of a sudden, she’s Colgate! The wonderfully cute pony with toothpaste for a mane! Characters like that have potential to be something moar than a background pony and thats why we love them. Now don’t get me wrong, i love characters with depth and development. To see a character go from one state to another in the span of a coupe seasons strikes a feeling beyond any other that only a character of that magnitude can produce.

  62. I like characters that I understand the most or can connect to the most for example: I love Vinyl Scratch because I have a love for music and I myself am a DJ, I love Fluttershy because there are a lot of times in which I will practically become her (socially awkward, being a pushover, letting others make decisions despite what I think of them and at times taking control and being assertive only to then shy away after) and I love Luna because I understand her in a way that one would think that she was real if they didn’t know about the show and I was talking about her (I could go into extreme detail here about how and why but I would end up writing WAY too much). While I do like characters with some development and deep emotions, I think that each character is designed and written in a way so that they will connect with different people and therefore forming a bond between the show and the person in question. Luna, for example, seems to relate to people who have maybe moved country and are trying to fit in or are just socially awkward for personal reasons relating to their past while Celestia relates with people who have always been like the structure of the group, never being bias if they can help it and always making sure everyone feels welcome and happy. On that note though of the connections, some characters connect with people because of the way they act or because the character that they connect to in personality seems to have a bond with them (going back to your chemistry theory) for example people who can relate to Twilight may then have a love and/or connection to Celestia because of the relationship between the two of them. Characters can also effect the person that they connect to with their development such as people who connect with Fluttershy may end up being more assertive and less shy (voicing their opinions and joining in with others in a conversation) as Fluttershy starts to develop into doing that. I could rant on more but it would probably be a waste of time.
    Have an opinion about my theory? Email me it at:officialdiesmiling@gmail.com I’d love to hear your opinion!
    Have a nice day!
    -Die Smiling

  63. Honestly; I think that both types of a character are an excellent way to connect.
    On one hand you have a type of character, say Twilight Sparkle for instance, that goes through the Depth and development process. This rather anti-social bookworm, who felt she had no need for friends or any real social activity, slowly becomes a nice, caring and understanding individual when introduced to her situation. She grows as a character because she realizes to have a complete life, you need to have people (ponies) who will love and care for you, but won’t be afraid to express how they are around you. Also over time, she truly shows a combination of aspects of the other main five; and deep sense of being true to herself and others, a concept of depending on others as well as being their when they need it, which in itself counts as being generous, as well as showing a great sense of kindness, which overall let’s her fulfill her true destiny of being the princess she is today.
    Then you have characters like Celestia or Sombra, where the aesthetic persona (which I’m convinced should be the term for the type of character), really comes into play. It’s one of those psychological concepts, where the less you know about a character, the more your mind comes up with the concepts and theories on why the character is the way he/she is…Like Sombra for instance; we never truly know why he’s such a dastardly or terrifying character, or why the crystal empire was so terrified of him. While most people would just call him another “Villan of the Week” for the series, I believe it’s up to the viewer to decide what he has done to deserve such a title of “Tyrant”.
    Either way I like both characters, as it allows me to connect with them in ways that really allows me to study, and both theorize my own ideas, which leads to great writing material…

  64. I’m only now finding this after scrounging the YouTubes for Applejack.

    I guess you can guess who my favorite pony is with that comment. So, let me get to it. Of the four qualities you mentioned, AJ has two of them going for her in spades: “Aesthetic persona,” and “chemistry.” They do scream ‘potential’ and being one of the Mane 6 with the least amount of love, your videos give me hope that somehow, other bronies will understand why a few of us have AJ as best pony.

    Her aesthetic persona is simple and unique at the same time. Orange, yellow, green, and red actually go great together and are pretty easy on the eyes. Throw in the accent and trademark stetson and you have a character that already stands out in Season One. The only other mane character with a discernible accent this early in the show is Rarity. When the Gala dress came out, it only heightened her aesthetic persona all the more. It reached new heights. Southern Belle accent and warm colors with one contrasting color made for great times in that department.

    Now, the ‘chemistry.’ This is a tough one, I’ll admit. I’d like to make examples of the rest of the Mane 6 if my head is screwed on right.

    AJ and Fluttershy. Both have a great love for nature, however, it’s not all peaches and cream. While AJ’s focus tends to be on apples(plants in general), Fluttershy’s focus is on the animals of the forest and surrounding area. Those two can and will come into conflict often, especially if AJ’s farm is threatened. They come together peacefully to solve both their problems and give each other ideas on how to prevent the same thing in the future, if possible.

    AJ and Pinkie Pie. Both have a love for baking and spreading the merriment. While AJ focuses that on her family and close friends, Pinkie Pie counts everyone as her friends and acts accordingly. They have no problem helping each other out, but not all the time. AJ has her farm to take care of, and Pinkie Pie is sometimes off making new friends(or partying).

    AJ and Rarity. Both run small businesses, at least for now, and both have younger siblings. However, Rarity has parents to fall back on for the raising of Sweetie Belle, while AJ only has the very elderly Granny Smith.(Something’s has come up so I need to Writer Wrap-up)

    AJ and Rainbow Dash. Both have a competitive streak and very athletic habits.

    AJ and Twilight. Both are leaders in their own right and they keep to their ideals. They also have great knowledge in their respective fields. The apple field and magic field.

    It’s not evident currently that AJ harbors no ambition, it may be only delayed with the prospect of taking care of the family orchad and raising a younger sibling without parents. Very similar to what I see currently happening in my own family. So, yes it does scream, “POTENTIAL!” Only time will tell and when the writers actually get to Applejack’s story, it may be the greatest one yet.

  65. It’s too late for me to go on and on, and I will most defiantly not compare to what other people have to say. Not meaning to offend anyone, but I personally would not care much for Applejack if Rarity didn’t keep her interesting. The sheer difference between them is the only reason I would like her to stay. I literally like Applejack’s family more then her as a character.

  66. I like characters who have a lot of development. And like you said in another video, I think Fluttershy has the least development. She temporarily can overcome situations, and then she’s just Fluttershy again. You should go more into this concept.

  67. I say all the mane 6 had character development. Yes even applejack. I admit it was very hard but I can get a chance to prove it here. Applebuck season we see her trying to keep a promise. In the last roundup she runs away. A loyal pony would comeback no matter what. Applejack was mostly embarrassed about having twilight see her faint from overworking. She most likely didn’t want a repeat of that episode. So she couldn’t return, what’s next? Run away. Now we get to the episode with the filmflam brothers. Applejack asks for help. And in apple family reunion it’s a moment of realization for applejack. Her first friends are family but you can always have family friends. Applejack didn’t know it at the time but she did. And she said so herself.

    I did it applejack is a well realized character! What do you think?

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