Analyzing “One Bad Apple”

Note that this is a full analysis, unlike my first impression post on the same episode.

Here’s the script of this analysis:

One Bad Apple seems to be a somewhat controversial episode, and one which I was unsure about at first. I’ve watched it three times and come to my own conclusions, and I hope that I can help you to reach your own through this video.

This episode was written by Cindy Morrow, who seems to have a thing writing about bullying and social situations. She previously wrote Griffon the Brush-Off, which I haven’t made a video for yet, but you can read my text analysis of it linked in the description. It’s another episode about bullying, which tackles it from more of a teenager/adult level, whereas One Bad Apple faces the issue on a child level. Additionally, Cindy Morrow wrote The Show Stoppers, Sisterhooves Social, and Family Appreciation Day, so she’s been behind a lot of the development of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and explored their social situations multiple times. She wrote Hurricane Fluttershy and Read It and Weep as well, which were both episodes about overcoming social pressure in one way or another, so this really seems to be something she focuses on.

The controversy over this episode comes from how it handles the issue of bullying, which some people strongly disliked. Personally, I found it to be very clean about the whole affair, but when I noticed so much public outcry over it, I decided it had to be addressed.

The problem seems to be that Babs Seed gets away scott-free in the end, in spite of all the terrible things that she put the Cutie Mark Crusaders through. A lot of people have said that Babs deserved to be punished for her actions, but I completely disagree. The way I see it, as long as Babs has learned her lesson and changed her ways, there’s no reason to punish her any further. It won’t make her better as a person. And besides, the Cutie Mark Crusaders already forgave her, so there’s really no winner in punishing her any further.

Some would argue that the CMC being so quick to forgive Babs is a case of bad writing—but let’s think about the CMC as characters. Up until the point where Babs steels their clubhouse, the CMC desperately wanted her to be their friend. Even during the Babs Seed song, they ask, can’t we be friends? because they hate that things are turning out this way. When they finally snap and seek revenge on Babs, it doesn’t take much to remind them that they aren’t vengeful ponies, and they had always wanted to be friends with Babs anyways.

As much trouble as Babs gives them, they never really reach the point of being depressed. They have strength in one-another, after all, and are guided more by frustration than anything else. All three of them are so mortified by what they tried to do that I think they just wanted to put all of the negative stuff behind them, and I think that’s excellent.

Another problem that people have with the episode is that its ultimate message seems to be, if you’re having trouble with a bully, you should tell an adult. This message is a little more complicated and does have its own problems, since it’s not always a good solution in real life. That said, I don’t think it’s a bad message—I don’t think you should tell kids *not* to tell an adult, anyways. But more importantly, I don’t think this was the real point of the episode. The point was that the best way to resolve a conflict is to understand one-another better.

Does the episode resolve this understanding too easily? Sure. Is anything ever this easy in real life? Of course not. This is ultimately a kid’s show trying to teach a message, and for my money, it handled that message as well as it possibly could have in this capacity. Had it been handled realistically, there would’ve been a lot more ambiguity and a lot less resolution, but this is MLP, not Freaks and Geeks, and I don’t expect it to be completely true to life.

The only problem I have with the episode’s plot is the mediocre conveyance of Babs’ insecurity throughout the middle part of the episode. At the beginning, they did a good job of making Babs seem shy and overwhelmed, and at the very end they did a good job of making her seem like she regretted what had happened. However, throughout the middle section, she was just being a complete ass, and at no point showed any remorse or doubts about what she was doing. The only time her insecurity peeks through is when she hides her cutie mark while doing the sugar lump rump with Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. It’s not enough. They did too good of a job making Babs look like a bad apple, and not enough of a job making her look like a bullied, scared filly. And the sad thing is, all it would’ve taken was a couple of brief shots of her looking nervous or regretful about what she was doing.

There was plenty of time to fit this stuff in, because the episode has a loose pace that doesn’t come together very well in my opinion. It seems to fill in for the smallness of its narrative concepts by including weak and needless sections (such as Applebloom’s horrible “is that her?!” joke towards the beginning), and superfluous dialog that repeats the same points about what’s happened again and again. The entire Babs Seed song, for instance, is mostly unnecessary, though it’s a catchy, fun little experiment in putting a music video in the middle of an episode, and is better than a quick montage of Babs’ bullying would’ve been. I just can’t help feel that the time could’ve been better used strengthening the core narrative of Babs’ insecurity.

Anyways, now that I’ve explored the main narrative, let’s look at some of the smaller details that make this episode fun.

First things first, god I love Applejack. Her scene at the beginning is probably my favorite part of the episode, especially the line, “you know your cousin is supposed to sleep in here!” Yeah, I just love Applejack.

The establishing scenes of this episode use some interesting visual cues to convey the sadness that the CMC feel over Babs’ betrayal. The entire time that the CMC are touring Babs around, all three of them are constantly clustered together, taking up huge portions of the screen. However, just after Babs betrays them, they are shows spaced apart, with a huge amount of background, which easily conveys the sudden desolation that they all feel.

By the way, just as a note, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon were godawful in this episode. I can’t decide if it irks me because DT was so much cooler in Ponyville Confidential, or if I’m okay with it because hearing them say “lamekin” makes me lose my shit.

I noticed that during the big parade, the background music is the same song which Pinkie Pie used to lead the parasprites out of town in Swarm of the Century. As you may know, in the Brony community, Parasprites is a term used to address haters and bullies. During this scene, the CMC are trying to get a bully to leave town through their antics. I wonder if this is a coincidence.

I think Berry Punch may have replaced Derpy as the episodic cameo character.

Is it just me, or did Pinkie Pie seem really stoned in this episode?

Babs is having fun in that apple.

What’s up with the camera kid? Is this gonna come up in another episode?

All three of the CMC voice actresses turned in superb performances in this episode. My favorite part is Sweetie Belle reading Scootaloo’s indoctrination script, even though they seem to have accidentally reversed the dictionary joke.

Babs’ last line to Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara is kind of weak, but I think it’s probably the best they could get away with in a kids’ show. In my fanon interpretation of this scene, Babs actually says, “I’MMA POP A CAP IN YO SADDIDY ASS, DIRTY OLD BITCH”

Anyways that’s all I got.


One thought on “Analyzing “One Bad Apple”

  1. It’s a good thing I rewatched this.

    One realization I had was that the three Crusader fillies *are* dorks. You see this, for example, in Diamond and Silver’s reactions to Sweetie Belle’s awkwardness in front of the float. Sweetie Belle’s really earnest and *terrible* at lying or hiding her feelings—which is a recipe for teasing. I’m really hoping for a Diamond Tiara ep that shows us a deeper or more basic dislike of the Crusaders (I suspect their excitement turns her off, or makes her emotionally bitter). No sappy backstory would be necessary.

    Pumpkin/lamekin? Fun/fun-ny-looking? Facepalm.

    Which brings me to add that the facial expressions used here aren’t necessarily “richer,” because the ones in Too Many Pinkie Pies rival or surpasses it (had we *ever* fucking seen Applejack bite her lip from relief/pleasure, before?). But they’re a whole different set of expressions, because they’re kids. It makes me think about the fact that, oh shit, the Mane Six really are adults. We tend to treat them like *unstable* adults, like the characters from Kodomo no Jikan or something. Which they are; but they have moments of strange stability, one that just makes us blink our eyes as if we’d just realized we were high.

    About Pinkie—that whole joke thing was pretty weird. It was tough for me to read. “Lettuce in,” caused her to react, “What the hell kind of context…why would they even…I mean, my float’s made of…but…” Then her mental impulse shrugs and concludes, “JOKE!” She, as is typical, proceeds to latch onto the joke to the point of absurdity: we get a pseudo-moe moment of pointless bullshit and starts eating her float (Apple Bloom later goes, “Seriously?”). That moment was all “PINKIE PIE ZOMG” and little logic. Which was why Apple Bloom’s metafictional, 4th wall joke works.

    An interesting complication here is how the problems are explicated so that they can be solved. It’s totally understandable that Applejack didn’t tell her sister about Babs’s history; did ever she talk to Babs? I want to know. Otherwise, that’s a pretty bad lapse. That’s tying into your statement about Babs’ insecurity, though, I guess; we should be able to see why she keeps doing what she does. I kind of…well, not dislike…but raise an eyebrow at…Applejack’s “holding all of the cards.” She knew the truth, but there were no situations where the Crusaders intimated weirdness in Babs’ actions. Viewers did, though, which counts for something.

    The fillies were confused, but they presumably rationalized it all by concluding that Babs was a mean person. I wanted Applejack to make actually questionable calls, but she’s just too good, lol. I can settle for that; when discussing similarities at the beginning of the episode, there is the fact that she seems to zero in on the very thing Babs doesn’t want to be defined by or teased about. I did, however, dislike the fact that the “snitch” aspect kept being swept aside. The option’s suggested by Sweetie Belle, because she’s the person who *would* back out, which discredits her. Somehow that seems kinda cheap to me; I think more plot or context or whatever was necessary. Maybe make Applejack’s calls a tiny bit more questionable. Definitely show us Babs’ weighing of options, so that we see why she’s acting so extremely to make things spiral out of control. Legitimize the “snitching” option.

    Other than that, yeah, I think critics were making too much of this. The episode works fine.

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