An Animated Dissection: Thoughts on Equestria Girl’s Sunset Shimmer
Last year’s release of My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, was one of the first signs of Hasbro trying to spin off their uber-successful television series/toy line into other realms where they might be able to profit from.
Of course, the Friendship is Magic fandom had those who ran around screaming that that ‘the end is neigh,’ but the movie did very little to put a dent in people’s love of the series.
Along with adding an alternate universe to the mix, the film introduced a new character to the mythology of the show: Sunset Shimmer.
Sunset’s background information was kept to a minimum in regards to the film, but one key fact was that she was Princess Celestia’s star pupil before Twilight Sparkle. However, when she didn’t get what she wanted fast enough, she eventually left through a special mirror in the Celestia’s castle.
Returning through the portal in the film, she makes off with Twilight Sparkle’s crown, which leads Twilight to go after her.
On a first-impression basis regarding Sunset, it’s very easy to just say she’s the typical “high school mean girl,” but I feel there might have been something more to her than the way the film simplified her. I decided to outline them in this posting below.
*Keep in mind that this dissection does not take into account the story from the My Little Pony Comics Annual from 2013. To me, that exists in an outside story realm that is not really related to the TV/movie continuity.*
Mean Girl…or Genius at Work?
From her attitude and looks, many firstly assume that Sunset Shimmer is the equivalent of the “mean girl” in high school (and that’s me being polite for this dissection).
But, if she was once Celestia’s star student, one has to figure she was chosen because she had a studious way about her.
Some have pointed out that Sunset definitely has a way for making others feel inferior to her, and that made me consider this: what if Sunset is not so much a “mean girl,” but one of those “super-genius” students?
We’ve heard of them: the kind that are on a mental level that makes them feel like the world around them is going too slow for them, or is unable to understand just how smart they are. Word is Steve Jobs had that mentality, and for those who watch The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper is a character in this same boat.
Sheldon on several occasions, has been of the persuasion that his intelligence and projects in some areas, are worthy of being considered above those he feels are not worthy of such attention.
One could definitely see this thinking related to Sunset, and how she demeans those around her. One video analogy online mentioned how Sunset would apologize in some cases for what she is doing, but it almost sounds like she’s just saying, “sorry you’re in my way, but I deserve this more than you do.”
Plus, there are those who wonder why Sunset doesn’t just steal the real crown back, but if one considers her to be an all-knowing genius, she figures that she’ll get it eventually, given her thinking that Twilight is too new to this world to understand ‘how it all works.’
Gradual takeover…and boredom?
It seems many assume Sunset Shimmer came through the portal from Equestria, and immediately separated the school. However, I think there’s enough evidence to show this wasn’t the case.
One example is Twilight Sparkle. Twilight herself had some trouble adapting to her new form in this world. It’s a given that Sunset Shimmer would also have gone through this “awkward” phase.
Another example, is when Rarity shows the ears and tail accessories she made to the girls later on. She mentions how they were “very popular during freshman year.”
Though a prime example, is the trio of pictures of the Fall Formal Princess in Principal Celestia’s office. The first image shows Sunset looking rather innocent in a white dress, with a shocked look on her face. Then, as the photos go on over the next few years, she seems to get cockier, until the last where she seems almost power-mad.
Plus, keep in mind how her wardrobe begins to build in purple coloration in the 2nd and 3rd pictures, from the more ‘pure’ white dress in the first. Why purple? Well, some places online mention that “the color purple is often associated with royalty, nobility, luxury, power, and ambition.”
This bit definitely paints a picture of how Sunset may have let the idea of power within this high school system corrupt her.
In order to maintain a sense of power, she then chose an opposite measure than what one would normally do: she began to segregate the students in school into their own groups. Some claim this may seem odd, but look throughout history, and one can see how certain reigns/regimes went about separating people into different castes in order to maintain some form of ‘order.’ Heck, even the recent film Divergent mentions a separation system in its future society story, as a way to keep the world in some form of ‘perfect order.’
And of course, it was very rare for anyone to express dissent or unite under the circumstances, which seems largely what Sunset was about. After all, what she engages in is largely a form of school bullying, and yet, she seems to never have been ‘snitched’ about to the Principal or Vice-Principal.
Plus, this does bring up another thought: could Sunset have used movies as part of her “high school research?” After all, one could almost say she is emulating many of the “Queen Bee” cliches of high school, even using Flash Sentry as little more than arm-candy…though the film does keep that bit rather vague.
Did Sunset Shimmer know about the girls’ connection?
This is something that some have managed to make me think about in our discussions. Sunset made it through the portal before the events of the first episode of Friendship is Magic. The girls in this alternate universe who represent Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and Rarity, are considered to be friends. However, the Twilight Sparkle (and her dog Spike) of this universe, live in a different part of the city, and doesn’t (if ever) interact with the 5 girls.
Another key factor, is that magic does not exist in this universe. There are no Elements of Harmony to defeat an evil power. The 5 in Canterlot High were probably good friends before entering high school, but were just normal victims of Sunset’s plans for “power through separation.”
How did Sunset know about Twilight and her crown?
This theory requires a little imagination. It does seem odd that Sunset Shimmer would know how to easily get around the Crystal Empire’s castle (a place that has just returned from a 1000-year disappearance!), let alone where Twilight was staying.
I feel, that Sunset did make little dips back and forth between worlds. Probably too arrogant to simply come back and beg forgiveness from her powerful mentor for up and leaving, Sunset would probably just dip through enough to sneak around, and overhear what was going on, before returning to the human universe.
The mirror was previously kept in Celestia’s palace in Canterlot, so one can assume Sunset overheard enough information to know of the Mane 6’s exploits, and what had been going on since she left. As well, once the mirror was moved to the Crystal Empire, she continued to possibly overhear conversations Princess Cadance had with Celestia about certain goings-on in the world of Equestria.
This could explain how she also knew about Twilight’s title of “Princess,” let alone just what Twilight’s crown looked like. It may also be that in the human world, she had a say in how the crown for the Fall Formal this year would look, and fashioned it to resemble Twilight’s to avoid suspicion.
“I’m not a monster, Twilight!”
One of the keys to most villains, is that many never think of what they are doing is inherently bad.
All of the things Sunset does, are largely because she is trying to achieve a goal, which is get the crown. Of course, when she gets it, it acts on her almost like the artifacts on an Indiana Jones villain.
Some have been of the persuasion that Sunset Shimmer knew exactly what she was doing with the crown on, but many discount several of the expressions on her face.
When she first puts on the crown (below, left), there’s an expression that seems to say, “…this isn’t right!”
As well, we get a close-up of her face with tears streaming down, before they seem to vaporize (center, above). As she continues to turn into her demon form, we get this last expression (upper-right), before she completes her transformation:
Obviously, this isn’t the kind of in-control transformation we’ve seen from the likes of Princess Luna, or Queen Chrysalis.
One thing I’ve seen in several animated shows and series from Japan, is the idea of certain items or talismans bringing out what someone is on the inside, usually turning a person’s personality inside-out.
This to me explains the aftermath scene, where Twilight tells how Sunset has shown “everyone what was in your heart.”
We often say or think things deep down that we never express, or that our better judgement holds back, but it seems in the case of Sunset wearing the crown, it broke down those barriers, and let her deepest thoughts spill out into reality.
First example: Taking over Equestria.
Sunset seems moreso someone who wanted more power, and after she had seemingly conquered Canterlot High, she then decided to go after Twilight’s crown. Her base desires may have been to achieve the power she felt she was entitled to as Celestia’s student, but deep down, that desire festered into something more, which resulted in her ‘teenage army’ plot. Though I think this was moreso the crown magnifying her base desires ten-fold.
Second example: attempting to kill Twilight and her friends.
This to me is that darker side of Sunset rearing its head. While she was more apt to break apart friendships and divide people, she wouldn’t consider actually killing anyone in this world. We saw her attack Twilight for the crown, but other than that, she wouldn’t kill for something. However, with the moral switches off, the demonized Sunset didn’t think twice about attempting to eliminate Twilight.
“I’m sorry…I’m so sorry!”
This line with Sunset’s teary-eyed face incited a lot of people to consider this scene nothing but a quick cop-out, or mediocre copy of Princess Luna’s redemption from The Mare in the Moon 2-parter from Friendship is Magic.
However, remember the look of confusion and pain on her face during the transformation? My belief is that with the inner-demon of her personality coming out, the good side of Sunset was trapped inside, forced to be witness to her innermost thoughts coming true.
Having been exorcised of these “inner demons,” along with forcibly being shown the error of her ways in how she sought power, this to me, is the reason for her aftermath appearance/apology. It’s almost like an addict finally coming to grips with their problem, thus at the end of the film, Sunset is almost back at square one, having to figure out just what she is going to do next.
Sunset Shimmer once again, is not one of the best characters in the Equestria Girls universe, but she’s definitely intrigued me with what scant information has been given. And after all, there have been plenty of other fan-loved characters that have been embraced given how sketchy and less-informed their backstories are (The Great and Powerful Trixie, anyone?). Talking about this, some have said I’ve looked too far into the character of Sunset, but it’s no different than other in-depth analysis/speculations I’ve seen on other characters.
With the recent release of the follow-up film Rainbow Rocks, early word is that much of the shallow characterization that plagued Sunset Shimmer in the first film has been worked on, making her a little more grounded, and easier to understand and relate to. I may visit this topic down the line after the film is released wider.