Image Source: Newbie Dash
Rainbow Dash has always been a dichotomous character. She is a braggart – a show off hellbent on trying to get the world to recognize her awesomeness. However, beneath her arrogant exterior is a profoundly insecure pony. Over the years, we have been shown time and time again that Dash’s arrogance, in reality, stems from her need to compensate for her insecurity. That is a huge part of what makes Rainbow’s stories compelling. From her fear of public failure in Sonic Rainboom, to her shameless idol worship in Daring Don’t, to her thirst for validation in The Mysterious Mare Do Well, Dash is a pony who is constantly struggling – always walking the hairy line between narcissism and crippling self-doubt.
Perhaps the most profound window into her psyche came in Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3. We see a Rainbow Dash who has spent her entire life practicing her strengths – her flight – but actively avoided confronting her weaknesses. She chases the thrill of feeling good about herself by winning, and by breaking records, but actively writes off any area where she lacks talent as being totally devoid of value. Dash actually says that she believes that eggheads “invented” academia as a scheme to keep good flyers down. Think about how extreme that is! It’s a minor line, but it carries with it an entire history. Rainbow Dash isn’t simply bad at academia. Her hatred of it comes with bitterness, pain, and resentment toward “eggheads.”
What does that mean? Well, we already know about her trouble with her peers as a filly. Almost all of her flashbacks deal directly with jock bullies. In this moment where she professes a frustration that eggheads are “keeping [her] down,” it is not difficult to imagine a young Dash who was equally put upon by smart kids.
When you put all of these facets to her character together, you see a pony who is constantly showing off simply to prove her worth – to justify her very existence. A lot of people didn’t care for Newbie Dash, but personally, I found it inspiring. In Newbie Dash, you see Rainbow finally reach her lifelong goal – to become a Wonderbolt – the best of the best; to wear a uniform that proves that she’s a winner. When Rainbow gets there, she finds her perfect dream spiraling rapidly into her worst nightmare. “Rainbow Crash” is more than just a hang up she has. It is a repeat of the experience she’s spent her entire life running away from. The reason that she goes off the rails, and becomes reckless again like she was in Season One – the reason that she lashes out in anger at the other Wonderbolts – the reason that she goes to the extreme of trying actively to be anyone but herself (her infamous impersonations of her five friends) – is that, after a lifetime of training and achievement, she’s all of a sudden that scared little kid all over again. Rainbow couldn’t deal.
Now here’s where it gets good. Here’s the part that I found inspiring.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a show that, by its very nature, encourages sensitivity. However, this episode makes a bold choice in the end. Rainbow never tells the other Wonderbolts why that name upset her so much. She doesn’t make a plea for sympathy or sensitivity. In some social situations, that is simply not the way to win respect.
Realizing the spirit in which the nickname was assigned to her, Rainbow accepts it. It was her problem, not theirs. She had been projecting her own baggage onto the situation, not the other way around. The beauty of this is that becoming a Wonderbolt is suddenly no longer a shallow achievement meant to validate her insecurities. By embracing the name Rainbow Crash, it can never, ever, ever hurt her again.
Now obviously, it doesn’t always work out like that. I’m not saying that survivors of bullying should simply walk it off. I know I will never forget the terror I experienced during my middle school years. I am saying that self-actualization happens when you stop running from yourself – running from your pain and fear – and that that milestone of personal progress can take a thousand different forms. For Rainbow Dash, it was this.
Rainbow Dash finally owned her fear, and her pain, and her insecurity, and she let it all go.