Reviewing the character of Fluttershy is certainly no easy task. After all, she's arguably the most-loved character within the show and the certified fan-favourite for many, so much so that criticising her character would lead to a lot of dissent amongst the masses. Indeed, finding something mean to say about Fluttershy would be reductive and not terribly necessary, as anyone who has watched "Friendship is Magic" for more than ten minutes knows how adorably sweet she is. And, in a show that actively promotes friendship, kindness and positivity, it would be counter-productive to insult Fluttershy, when she is the greatest embodiment of everything that the show represents.
But what is it about Fluttershy that makes her so appealing to many? It could be her graceful appearance: a subtle and soft yellow with the trademark long, pink tail and mane which serves as a protective barrier that she can frequently hide behind. After all, that namesake, Fluttershy, is not without merit, for her shy tendencies make her character. It is not unusual to find her hiding behind her long locks of hair to avoid contact with others; this can be seen in early episodes such as the Pilot, where her shyness is exaggerated for the purpose of introducing the show to these characters, but even during "Green Isn't Your Colour", Fluttershy still retreats behind her mane when Rarity makes demands of her that she finds difficult to accept.
If her shyness is her greatest foil, it is also the reason why many love Fluttershy. In "Dragonshy", Fluttershy's timidness is enough to make her jump at the sight of her own shadow, cowering in a bush for safety. In the same episode she struggles to gain the attention of the others, failing to raise her mellow voice above its gentle minimum in order to get people to listen to her. However, it's something of a miracle that Fluttershy does not come across as being a pathetic character in spite of these things. It would have been easy for the writers to make her an embarrassing character, and yet through inspired acts of bravery and triumph, Fluttershy's shyness is overcome in order to fulfil greater purposes. Although her personality does not explicitly change, it does undergo various alterations at the behest of her friends and the careful life-lessons that she experiences. When the eponymous dragon in "Dragonshy" attempts to harm her friends, Fluttershy plucks up courage from the depths of herself in order to verbally reprimand the dragon, in a way that none of the other ponies could. Her natural shyness belies her inner-power that, during various points throughout the season, are unsurpassed.
For example, Fluttershy is one of the most honest characters from the mane cast, having astonishing sincerity in her convictions and conversations. During "Suited for Success", it is Fluttershy who, when pressured by Rarity, goes on a large, breathless rant about the lack of quality in Rarity's dress for her, stomping her hoof and lifting her head with pride...only to suddenly remember her usual behaviour and insist that Rarity can once again retain creative control. It is these sudden bursts of passion that Fluttershy carries that makes her character more than just a petty individual. It is, quite simply, adorable when she threatens to shout and kick vases in frustration, only to have a very weak capacity to actually cause any major damage, and yet it provides evidence that she does have more outgoing emotions bottled up inside her, even if she doesn't often vent them.
In "The Cutie Mark Chronicles" we learn of Fluttershy's past, where she informs the audience that, as a filly, she was, quite understandably, shy. In filly-form, she is even cuter than her latter-day self, and the song, "So Many Wonders" that she sings, although her only solo performance in the season, is excellent in its execution in summarising her natural compassion. Fluttershy is interesting during this sequence and song, because we learn that although she struggles to interact with other ponies, she is more than comfortable to interact with creatures that she has never spoken to before but are in need of comforting. I'm sure that many of us can relate to the sort of character that Fluttershy is; the nervous and quiet sort who has a great love and passion for many facets of life, but cannot always express themselves adequately in a public forum. This is not to imply that Fluttershy's character suffers from any form of emotional repression: throughout the season, she appears to be quite level-headed, even if she at times seems to have a one-track mind when it comes to wildlife. As neurotic as some characters can be in the show, such as the spontaneous actions by Rarity and Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy is one of the more grounded characters, granting her an air of realism.
It is clear that Fluttershy loves animals; whether she's helping ducks cross the road or spring-cleaning Twilight's apartment with Angel in one of his many appearances during "The Ticket Master", Fluttershy rarely strays from her established love for all of the critters around her. This extends into her lyrical parts during songs such as "Winter Wrap-up" and "At the Gala", wherein during both songs she mentions a love of creatures and critters, and being gentle and kind to nature. Indeed, her incentive to attend the Grand Galloping Gala is so that she can meet the unique wildlife there, and it comes as no great surprise that during "Swarm of the Century" her love for the parasprites causes the commotion in Ponyville. When she decides to keep one remaining parasprite after Applejack and the others have helped rid Ponyville of the creatures, the fact that it duplicates itself and causes even more havoc is not a detriment to Fluttershy's personality: after all, everything that she does, she does out of love and kindness.
Fluttershy's love for animals is perhaps only matched by her adoration for the other ponies within the mane cast. There are some that she clearly has closer bonds to than others. In "Green Isn't Your Colour", it is revealed that Fluttershy and Rarity are best friends, a quality that is evident throughout the entire season and continues to be apparent in subsequent episodes, such as when it is revealed that she is the only one who can take care of Rarity's cat, Opalescence, when she needs grooming. In "The Stare Master", Fluttershy becomes the only pony who can control the Cutie Mark Crusaders and their turbulent, tenacious tendencies, relieving Rarity of the duty of having to look after the fillies whilst she fulfils a particularly difficult order. It is clear that the interaction between Fluttershy and Rarity is a great focus of the show, which is perhaps quite interesting given that their personalities are incredibly different. Whilst Rarity is very much a natural in the spotlight, lavishing attention, Fluttershy is the polar-opposite, spreading the message that diversity can lead to great friendships if both parties are mutually considerate towards one another's opinions and perspectives.
Some ponies, such as Rainbow Dash, initially appear less forgiving of Fluttershy and her timid ways. In "Dragonshy" particularly, Rainbow Dash grows angry at Fluttershy for dragging the team down, wishing that they could just leave her back in Ponyville. When Fluttershy slips up, such as tripping down the cliff-side and taking the others with her, it is Rainbow Dash who delivers a sarcastic quip to put Fluttershy down. In "Sonic Rainboom", their friendship seems to be a little tighter, and although Rainbow puts her down for not being able to cheer well, she at least respects that Fluttershy is trying her best. Twilight Sparkle, on the other hand, often seems impatient when it comes to Fluttershy at numerous points within the show, such as when Fluttershy drops a frog on her during "Feeling Pinkie Keen" whilst on the way to take them to Froggy Bottom Bog. Twilight does not at all seem amused by Fluttershy's behaviour, which is also evident in "A Bird in the Hoof" where Twilight discovers that Fluttershy's natural compassion has resulted in her stealing Princess Celestia's pet, Philomena. Although Twilight freaks out during this scene perhaps not undeservedly it is impossible to disapprove of Fluttershy's actions in this episode, especially when, after having potential punishments described to her by Twilight, she contends that the only thing she really cares about is making sure that Philomena recovers. It is noble and brave to have such a focus on helping others, even if it means making personal sacrifices, and it benefits Fluttershy's personality astronomically.
It's not just Phoenixs that Fluttershy has the power to interact with. All sorts of fantastic creatures cross her path, including a Manticore during the Pilot. Whilst the other ponies attempt to slay this beast, it is Fluttershy who finds the compassion to speak with the creature, during which time she learns that there is a thorn stuck in his paw. By removing this thorn and showing her kindness and generosity, the beast befriends her, and Fluttershy proves that violence is never as productive as understanding. Furthermore, Fluttershy, who against all odds enters the Everfree Forest in order to rescue the Cutie Mark Crusaders encounters a Cockatrice, and has the natural knowledge to overcome the creature, using a method similar to how she toppled the dragon previously. Seeing as the cockatrice was enough to overcome Twilight, a well-read and studious pony who would like to think that she knows a great deal about the dangers of Equestria, that Fluttershy and Fluttershy alone can overcome the beast through perseverance is no easy feat.
It is no great surprise that the fan-community have taken Fluttershy under their wing, adoring all of the subtle nuances that make her the cutest, cuddliest character in the show. On the surface she has the soft qualities of a shy Pegasus, but by digging deeper, we can see that Fluttershy has great strengths. She can keep promises to Rarity, despite hating having a career in fashion; she can retort to Pinkie Pie, arguably the most upbeat character, that she is a 'a year older than [her]' at the end of another of Pinkie's quirky comments. And, although a lot of people make a huge fuss over Fluttershy's behaviour during "The Best Night Ever", it honestly doesn't come as such a huge surprise to me that she behaves in this way.
"You're...going... to LOVE ME!" is perhaps Fluttershy's most infamous line, simply because it's so out-of-character. But is it really that odd to imagine Fluttershy growing frustrated when her dreams are not realised? Like all of the ponies she cares deeply about something in her case, animals and she has spent the entire season dreaming of what might await her at the Grand Galloping Gala. When it doesn't come true, she is understandably upset, and so her behaviour near the end of the episode, complete with squirrel-in-her-mouth, is merely a logical vent of her frustrations. The phrase, "It's always the quiet ones", seems fitting here; just because Fluttershy is inherently a generally quiet and reserved character, why shouldn't she be allowed to explode once in a while? It is refreshing to see her in this way, because it shows that, like all the other ponies, when pushed she is quite capable of becoming as impulsive and abrasive as anypony else. Ponies and people are never simple, and this episode reveals yet another side to Fluttershy's complex persona.
It is not as if Fluttershy will change because of this episode. In "Griffin the Brush-off", Gilda has the power to make Fluttershy burst into tears by bullying her, showing that she is still a vulnerable character at times in need of protecting. And protected she is! As divided as fans can be about who their favourite pony is, when Fluttershy is in trouble, the entire audience unite in looking out for her. She's the character that you want to protect and defend, and give a big hug when she's down. I can truly support this, and throughout the season there are so many occasions where she maintains her extreme cuteness: lines such as "Huffy the Magic Dragon" and "I'd like to be a tree" are so simple, and yet effective, that they show a humorous naïvety to her character.
It is therefore no great surprise that people of all ages love Fluttershy. Although there are some excellent fan-made Fluttershy plushies ensuring that we can finally give her the snuggles she deserves, it's a shame that she doesn't at the time of writing have her own blind-bag pony model, instead serving as a Rainbow Dash recolour. It's unfair to Fluttershy, because she is in no way a minor character. And hell, she's not even that shy; just look at her stare-down those chickens in "The Stare Master", or stand up to the bullies berating Rainbow Dash in Cloudsdale, just as Rainbow Dash protected her during their filly years. She takes on a dragon all by herself and wins and risks potential banishment in order to help her fellow creatures. She is truly an altruistic character, the kind that we can rely on as always delivering the purity and honesty in "Friendship is Magic". To view her as merely a timid character would be an utter injustice; Fluttershy is so much more. She is brave, responsible and adorable. At times she can be overly emotional, short-tempered and yes even too shy for her own good, but her strengths lie in how she overcomes these behavioural traits.
There is no pony like Fluttershy the sort of pony that everyone loves and adores. She may not be the hardest worker, like Rarity and Applejack, and she may not have the academic interests of Twilight Sparkle, but she carries the heart of the show firmly on her hooves: that of kindness, generosity and purity, of giving and sharing and loving and, most importantly, reminding us that the greatest pony does not need to be the conventionally bravest and strongest; they can be a beautiful, shy little Pegasus hiding bright, bubbly eyes behind waves of mane, nestled in a field with all of her animal friends, as represented by the three butterflies on her flank. To love Fluttershy is to love everything worth celebrating about love and life, with both the ups and downs embodied flawlessly in this one little pony.