Now here's a controversial pony. I have to admit, I don't really care for Starlight Glimmer that much myself, and I thought I may as well use this space and responses below to talk about why. Of course, if you happen to really like or even love Starlight Glimmer, that's great... I don't think that you're wrong to do so. I'm not looking to convince you otherwise, and feel free to skip reading my issues with the character. I just hope that you enjoy this artwork of her, in honor of the day dedicated to her over on Equestria Daily.
Ultimately, there are various things about her and the way she has been included in the show that just don't really work for me, and certainly make me understand why she's been a controversial addition to the show:
--I do feel that her reformation was poorly handled. The audience was asked to go from hissing at her and rooting for her defeat to cheering her at the center of a friendship parade within a few minutes of screentime. I think for a lot of audience, having her completely avoid any comeuppance for her actions left her villain arc feeling unresolved.
--I find that her backstory is confusing and contradictory. She's a super powerful unicorn with no explanation of how she got so powerful. The one thing that we do know about her history is that she definitely *didn't* go off to magic school. Why not? It's unclear... especially as further flashbacks show that she had magic potential as a child. She blames Cutie Marks for her friend leaving her behind to attend the school, but it's not as if she needed a mark to go as well... Twilight didn't earn hers until after her exam. She seems to rival Twilight in power, and yet Twilight has many explanations for her abilities (a childhood skipped in favor of study, personally being tutored by the immortal founder of the magic school, infused by the magic of Harmony, having magic itself be her special talent, and finally ascending to alicornhood) where as Starlight only has one minor reference where she says she studied a spell "for years" (from what, where, with whom? She hardly even had any books in her house when we met her. And yet she still had time to found a town and recruit a bunch of followers, then act as mayor.)
--Her personality is hard for me to nail down. We were introduced to her as the confident, charismatic leader of a group of ponies (cult), very much focused on a core belief of equality. Yet by Season 6 she's an anxious pony reluctant to engage with others, despite everyone apparently being legitimately happy to see her and treating her like a friend. Most MLP characters are painted in broad introductory strokes, letting the audience know what makes them tick in short order and then adding nuance to those broad strokes with each appearance thereafter. The Mane Six were each introduced with the core of their characters on display. Starlight, on the other hand, has always seemed a bit more ill-defined with each new appearance, as it's hard to find a through-line to her personality. They eventually displayed a repeating quirk for her... a tendency to resort to magic to often... but does that make up her personality?
--Most importantly, I feel like she doesn't complement the existing cast so much as replace it... Instead of actually interacting with the Mane Six she more often than not sees them shuffled off to the sidelines so that she can have the lead by herself. (This is true even in her one episode interacting with the others... they're all hypnotized out of their usual personalities.) She especially overlaps Twilight's role a great deal, something stressed further when the Season 6 finale was about her learning to believe in her leadership abilities again... but lead who? The Mane Six aren't lacking a leader figure... so once again, any chance to exert that aspect of Starlight will need to be in replace of the existing cast. Even her role as Twilight's student doesn't seem to come with a lot of chemistry with Twilight herself... they are usually split from each other, and Twilight does not often come out looking better for those episodes.
I'm ultimately curious about the behind-the-scenes evolution of the character from the villain of the Season 5 opener to becoming a recurring lead character in Season 6 (and seemingly beyond.) Was this always the plan for her from that first script? Or was this something that evolved over the time of writing that season. It seems like her story arc was tweaked and altered on the fly rather than carefully designed from the start. I have wondered before if her addition to the show was in response to the development of the MLP movie coming later this year. That film has been in the works for years now, and if the characters in it are to line up well with the versions currently in the show, it likely means that there were limits on how much change the Mane Six could go through during the last few seasons. Perhaps the behind-the-scenes appeal of adding Starlight was having a character who could go through big changes in these last few years expressly because she wasn't in the film at all, and therefore not locked down in any way. As such, I could see how they might play fast and loose with her creation a bit more if the point of including her was to add a bit of freedom in storytelling to the show... however I don't think it has made her a stronger character for it.
So in the end, do I think the character is beyond salvageable to me? No... many of my issues with her could be resolved with the right kind of focus. (And that doesn't even include my favorite (though unlikely) fan theory that Starlight = a time-displaced Flurry Heart.) The problem for me is that the character has already had many episodes revolving around her without winning me over, and so the prospect of even more is not something I meet with a lot of enthusiasm. Still... we'll see how the new season goes.
I did actually enjoy drawing that picture of her above, after all.