As a Rarity fan, I often cite her complexity as one of the reasons to like her. That complexity comes about because there are some flaws which Rarity has and that need to be acknowledged. Fans like myself, and anyone who uses her complexity as a reason why she is a good character, can’t have our Fire Ruby and eat it too. We simply cannot try to explain away all her flaws, because then we’re implying she is perfect, and that isn’t what makes a character interesting and likeable.
That being the case, I now want to look at her flaws, the ones I think need to be acknowledged. There are also come criticisms that fans may level at her that I don’t think are entirely fair, and I’ll explain why I disagree. So let’s have another look at Rarity, our flawed little diamond.
Oh, for a certainty, Rarity uses her beauty and charm to get others to do what she wants them to do. In The Best Night Ever. she charmed some stallions into pulling the carriage to the Grand Galloping Gala. She successfully relieved Spike of his precious Fire Ruby in Secret of my Excess. Speaking of Spike, she often gets him to carry her things, and if he’s reluctant, she only has to bat her eyelashes at him. She flattered a decidedly unhandsome pony shamelessly so as to get his asparagus away from him. She expressed a desire to have someone eternally in her debt so that she could get them to do things for her in Spike at your Service.
The thing is, even though I can acknowledge this as somewhat ignoble, the more vociferous among Rarity’s detractors tend to make more of this fault than it actually warrants. They mistake manipulation for selfishness, when it often isn’t the case. Let’s look at the examples above.
The Carriage Incident in “The Best Night Ever”
Twilight had enchanted mice into horses to pull the carriage, but they were chased away by Opal. There was a problem facing her friends, and Rarity is the one who knew exactly what to do. She simply asked some of her neighbours for help. They were quite happy to do so, and it was for the good of the whole Mane Six, not just Rarity.
The Asparagus Incident in “Putting Your Hoof Down”
First of all, many fans seem to forget that Rarity’s intention was to help Fluttershy, who had been unfairly deprived of her asparagus. That isn’t selfish, it’s supportive. Sure, poor Poindexter lost his asparagus, but how many fans notice that she actually paid him back the coin he had spent? She didn’t leave him short, even though he was eating out of her hoof and seemingly wouldn’t have cared if Rarity were to steal both his kidneys to go with the asparagus. She could have taken advantage of him far more than she did. Heck, he’ll probably remember the time a pretty girl pony flirted with him with a warm fuzzy feeling for the rest of his life. In my fanfiction brainspace, that incident actually made him braver and more confident about his looks, and led to him being happily married to a lovely pony lass in the future. (Hands off, fanfiction writers! This idea is mine! )
The Fire Ruby Incident in “Secret of my Excess”
Anyone who accuses Rarity of being selfish or greedy in this scene is not giving it enough consideration. Let’s do a play-by-play, shall we? She originally enters the library in order to ask Twilight for a book about fashion. Before she can do so, she is distracted by the sight of the Fire Ruby, and gushes over how beautiful it is. At this point, there is nothing to indicate she wants it for herself. She is just appreciating it for its beauty and even turns away from it when Twilight asks her why she is there in the first place. Then she realizes that Spike called the gem “totally delicious”, and when he confirms that he is going to eat it, she looks devastated, not avaricious. This is the thing that some fans (perhaps willfully; perhaps not) misunderstand: she doesn’t want the gem as a pretty bauble for herself. She wants it because otherwise Spike will eat it and destroy its beauty forever. Rarity lives for beauty and the thought of something so lovely just being eaten and destroyed is unbearable to her.
Twilight gives her the book she needs, and again, Rarity turns away from the gem and talks about other plans she has. Then she remembers that Spike is going to eat it. At this point, we see she wants to get the gem, and even bites her own hoof to stop herself from asking for it. In fact, she never does ask for it, even though she clearly wants it. She mentions again how beautiful it is. This is the point where Spike himself notices that she wants it. Eventually, he offers it to her as a gift. From her expression, it’s clear that she is taken aback by this: she actually shows surprise that he is giving it to her, and is genuinely delighted, pronouncing it as the most generous gesture she has ever experienced.
None of the above is at all congruent with a callous and selfish manipulation. Any fan reducing this intricate interplay of motives and events to “she wanted it, so she manipulated him into giving it to her” is doing not only Rarity, but also Spike, a grievous disservice. It was a meaningful gesture of sacrifice and generosity on Spike’s part, motivated by the desire to make the one he loves happy. That Rarity got what she wished from it in the end is not an indication of her selfishness or manipulative tendencies. The fact that she continually turned away, kept herself from outright asking for it, and didn’t act like it was a foregone conclusion when she finally did get a hold of it, shows that she wasn’t single-mindedly dedicated to seducing the gem away from him.
I often hear this repeated about Rarity. She’s greedy.
One of the very few times I would call her actions greedy is when she was under Discord’s influence, and that was clearly stated to be the opposite of her true self. In Castle Mane-ia, she again showed that she will go to great lengths to preserve something she considers beautiful. Like with the Fire Ruby, she wanted to preserve beauty for its own sake, not for her personal edification. That fans point to that as greedy is something that really boggles my mind. At most, she was hoping to gain some inspiration, and she is an artist, so seeking inspiration is perfectly all right. She wants things, yes, but those things are not generally material possessions. She’s pretty free with her jewels, as well. I don’t know how else to defend this point, since I can’t see where the fans who say this are really coming from. The only other example of pure greed I can remember is in “Dragonshy”, where she was focused more on getting a diamond than their actual reason for being there.
A snob is someone who acts as if they are superior to others. Rarity does not act (usually) like she is superior, she simply has a certain standard of behavior and decorum that she strives to maintain, and she urges other to do the same. But she doesn’t allow the fact that she is more sophisticated than most keep her from maintaining friendships with the rest of the Mane Six, which is what a snob would do. A snob would not associate with those who do not act as upper class as they do. And let’s face it, her friends can sometimes be a bit lacking in the social graces. “Sweet and Elite” illustrated this quite neatly. The Mane Six invite themselves to an extremely exclusive party (second only to the Grand Galloping Gala itself, which required tickets and a guest list months before the event) and proceed to wreck the place like a band of hooligans. Yet Rarity not only acknowledged their lack of sophistication, but then stated that it didn’t matter, calling her friends “the most important ponies I know.” Again, snob certainly does not fit.
She was being deliberately whiney to annoy the Diamond Dogs. That’s all. She doesn’t even really complain all that much outside of that single episode, except for saying “Gently, please!” in “Dragonshy” when Applejack was pulling her harness too tight.
As I pointed out in Part 1, this is probably the least appropriate word to use for Rarity. She works really hard on her appearance, as well as her chosen line of work. She is extremely hard-working. The fact that she doesn’t carry her own bags doesn’t make her lazy. She expects that as a lady, she shouldn’t have to carry her own bags. Same with Sweetie Belle in “Sleepless in Ponyville”. In Rarity’s mind, she’s done enough just to be out camping, an activity she despises and only agreed to out of her love for her sister, and in line with what she learned in “Sisterhooves Social”. In both cases, I see it more as a matter of her feeling entitled to have someone else do the heavy lifting rather than a sense of laziness. Is that a good thing? No, it’s one of her flaws, but one that shouldn’t be mislabeled as laziness. If anything, it should fall under the snobbish category.
Right, so now that the false accusations are out of the way (boy, doesn’t that sound defensive? ), I want to discuss what I feel are the legitimate failings of Rarity.
Entitled / Selfish
Following on from the previous point above, Rarity does have certain expectations. That Spike should have to carry her bags; that Prince Blueblood should have been treating her as a lady in “The Best Night Ever”; that Sweetie Belle should have to do everything she can to make her own camping experience as luxurious as possible. This is a fault, even if the characters concerned seem anything but unhappy to do it, and it’s clear that sometimes, Spike does mind. She also forced her friends to work through the night, have a late dinner, and finally miss a show they were really looking forward to in “Rarity Takes Manehatten”.
She has been particularly selfish where Sweetie Belle is concerned. She’s been getting a little better about it as of “Sisterhooves Social”. She still wants things for herself. She wants success, the adulation of the fashion world, and she wants a stallion to sweep her off her feet. Sometimes she has to struggle between this and her need to be generous to others. It’s a definite tug of war, but she usually makes the right choice in the end, even if she wavers along the way.
Obsessive and over-dramatic
Much like Twilight, Rarity can sometimes be so focused on the little details that she misses the big picture. A prime example is the nest-building in “Winter Wrap Up”, where she lets her need to correct Twilight’s nest overwhelm her (to the point of tears) where it would have been much more sensible to trash it and continue building more. A rather more disturbing example comes from the recent episode, “Simple Ways”. Apart from her creepy shrine to Trenderhoof, she also becomes fixated on being “country” so as to get him to notice her. It takes a crime against fashion to bring her back to herself. There are other instances of this as well. Consider “Magical Mystery Cure”. She clearly had the power to rearrange the weather properly; it was just that she insisted on placing the clouds in lovely but useless patterns rather than uniform and practical ones.
She also has a tendency to histrionics, often making a big deal out of the smallest things. I find these outbursts more amusing than annoying, but I can understand how fans could take the opposite view and see it as a flaw. (“I forgot the plates for the picnic!” Cue fainting couch and self-pity!)
Oh, so much. Sometimes she seems self-aware of it, but at other times, oblivious to her own hypocrisy. Self-aware examples come from: “Lesson Zero” where she has the gall to call Twilight a drama queen, when she was driven to the point of a teary tantrum over not being able to find a ribbon; in the same episode, when they think Twilight is going back to magic kindergarten, she uses the same line as for all the other really small issues, but at least she notices, and clarifies that this time it’s justified; being jealous of Fluttershy’s success even though she earlier stated that “a lady is never jealous” (she has the good grace to acknowledge to Twilight that her feelings are inappropriate); and snooping in Sweetie Belle’s saddlebag, but feeling betrayed at having her diary read without permission in “Ponyville Confidential”, even turning her own shortfall into an object lesson for Sweetie Belle.
Speaking of that episode, it also has an example of the oblivious kind, where Rarity is quite content when others get embarrassed by Gabby Gums, but flies off the handle when it happens to her. Halfway through saying that “maybe they deserved it”, to boot. She also was oblivious when Discord asked for someone to provide him with a fainting couch, which Rarity seems to have on permanent stand-by (in case of drama emergency ), prompting her to answer everyone’s glance with “What…?” She was also jealous of Applejack getting the attention of the stallion she liked, and even tried to change her personality to suit someone else, which she later chided him for doing (although that was more like her putting into words for him the lesson she had just learned for herself, so maybe calling that hypocritical is being a bit harsh).
She definitely is. Sometimes she can get so entranced by her own beauty, that she forgets everything else, and sometimes even becomes the stereotype of a self-centered, vapid bimbo that she usually manages to avoid. The most prominent example in the first season comes from “Sonic Rainboom”, where her magical wings went to her head, as it were, and ended up causing a lot of distress for Rainbow Dash, whom she herself had been most vocal about supporting. She also put a number of other ponies in danger due to her actions. In the end, it warped her character entirely out of true. The evidence for this: first, the laugh she gives when everyone praises her wings sounds rather unhinged; second is the utterly garish outfit she ended up wearing in the Best Young Fliers Competition. In her normal state, Rarity would never have dressed in something that tacky. It’s nearly as bad as any of the ugly dresses she ended up making in “Suited for Success”.
Even in more normal circumstances, she still can be a bit of a Narcissus, in an almost literal sense. She often becomes absorbed in her own beauty when there is any available reflective surface in which she can gaze at herself. She again forgot what she was supposed to be doing in the Crystal Empire, having a self-indulgent fantasy of herself as a Crystal Pony, and bemoaning the fact that when she did get turned to Crystal, it was only a temporary effect. Luckily Applejack was there to make her feel better.
And that concludes Part 2 of “Looking at Rarity”. Did your list of Rarity’s faults match mine? Do you think I let her off too lightly in some areas, or was too harsh in others? You’re welcome to leave a comment and let me know what you think.
Part 3 is going to expand out from Rarity herself and delve more fully into her relationships with the other characters in the show, including but not restricted to the rest of the Mane Six