One of the major reasons any show can catch on is its depth of characters. Realistic characters, each with their own goals, strengths, and weaknesses, provide the opportunity for realistic plots. Fortunately for MLPFiM, the main cast does a very good job of demonstrating all of these.
First, unlike many shows for girls, the characters demonstrate a wide variety of strengths. Even unlike earlier incarnations of My Little Pony, there are athletes, there are eggheads. The party pony and the shy one come into occasional conflict. This stems from one of Faust’s (2010) stated messages she wanted to convey with the show: “There are lots of different ways to be a girl.” The diversity among the characters ensures little girls will see something of themselves in at least one of the characters; however, this has also wound up applying to the older fans. Even the somewhat stereotyped characters are presented in a more positive light. For instance, the main cast does include a fashonista. However, rather than the typical shopaholic, Rarity is a designer and owns her own boutique. Her independence allows her to still present the beauty expected of such a character without the accompanying “objectifying restraint” (Moongazer, 2011, Meet the Ponies section, paragraph 3), and makes her a real character rather than a caricature.
However, the other half of why these characters work so well is their flaws. Moongazer (2011, Community, Diversity, and Pony Equality section, paragraph 1) claims that this is a crucial part of their characterization: “patriarchal media usually denies women the personhood that would enable us to be represented as flawed human beings and/or comical characters.” One of the best examples of this is Rainbow Dash. On the surface, she appears in many ways to be the stereotypical jock, with an overinflated ego and no concept that there might be something she can’t do. However, when examined more closely, it’s apparent that she is hugely afraid of failure: episode 16, “Sonic Rainboom” (Faust, 2011) does the most blatant job of showing Rainbow’s descent into neurosis when confronted with her own seeming inability (although of course this being a children’s show she succeeds in the end). In fact, all of the main cast have their own moments of feeling like their own talents have completely deserted them. Overcoming this loss of control provides a source of conflict that the “monster of the week” approach some shows take cannot match.