Analyzing “Pinkie’s Pride”

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I’ve always found Pinkie Pie to be the most interesting character in My Little Pony, and most of my favorite episodes center around her development. A Friend In Deed was the first episode I ever analyzed, and Too Many Pinkie Pies was the first one I made a video for, so getting another Pinkie episode this rich with things to think about was an exciting experience. This episode takes everything that My Little Pony does well, and executes it perfectly, making it one of the best episodes of the show, and certainly the best of season four.

I’ve talked on this channel before about how my favorite episodes of MLP tend to be the ones which are the most dense with things happening, and Pinkie’s Pride is certainly up there. Dialog and visual gags are a constant throughout the episode, and the animation quality has either reached a brand new height, or at least is as good as it’s ever been. A lot of the episode’s small, memorable moments were talked about in the new Two Best Brothers Bitch About Ponies video, which I recommend along with their show because it’s quickly becoming my own favorite way to follow up the new episodes each week. I’ve got a few small things to take note of myself, though.

Cheese Sandwich can apparently use photoshop. Gotta love those gradients. I like that we’re comparing Cheese’s professionally designed banner against Pinkie Pie’s hoof-drawn one, becuase this is a sound parallel to the real-life conflict between letting a friend plan your party for free, versus hiring a professional party planner.

There’s a nod to Over A Barrel at the start of the episode, which is great because there’s been no mention of those buffalo since their initial appearance. I’m in the crowd that actually loved Over A Barrel, so the callback is welcome.

The song which Pinkie and Cheese perform in their goof off is an obvious nod to Weird Al’s famous polkas, which are my and many others’ favorite Weird Al tracks. For those who don’t know, on each album he releases, Weird Al includes a four-minute polka song in which he sings a bunch of the most popular songs to have come out in the time between his albums. They’re almost like musical pop culture time capsuls, which often bring out the catchy flavor of the songs even better than the originals.

During the goof off, one of the bridges in the song is one that appears in almost all of Weird Al’s polkas, and at one point he even sings Pinkie’s Smile song, calling back to the format of said polkas. If that wasn’t noteworthy enough, though, it’s worth pointing out that Weird Al did not actually write any of the music or lyrics in this episode. It was all Daniel Ingram, with Amy Keating Rogers collaborating on some of the lyrics. That means Ingram basically created his own Weird Al polka, for Weird Al himself to sing on, and I think that’s pretty dope!

I also love the build-up to the goof-off itself, wherein Pinkie and Cheese are having an old-school western standoff with a build in tension, right before completely dispersing it as they break into song.

There’s also these -oh god. Oh god!
Is that… Sky Watcher?!

Make A Wish was a fantastic pop song that I’d love to have a full version of to play on actual birthdays. I love how it sounds like the kind of song Weird Al would actually parody.
Moving along to the plot of the episode, we need to talk about Pinkie Pie for a moment, because I think her character is a lot more open to interpretation than most. A lot of people have their own idea of what Pinkie’s “true” character is, and like to make claims about whether or not she’s “in character” on an episode-by-episode basis. I think the whole idea of determining something like this is massively biased, which is okay, but really needs to be identified as such. The fact of the matter is that Pinkie has been all over the place since the very beginning, and trying to suss out an exact character for her is almost an act of selective memory.

My own interpretation of Pinkie Pie is that her psyche is fundamentally fractured, but not in a necessarily bad way. I’m fond of the way that in modern psychological practice, there’s a trend of moving away from the idea that any non-neurotypical person is necessarily disabled or abnormal. There’s a movement to considering neurosis less as a disorder, and more as simply an atypical, but equally valid, way of living, so long as the person is able to be happy and function in society in their own way.

Pinkie Pie has always been the most relatable character in MLP for me because she interacts with the world in the exact same way that I do. At her core, Pinkie Pie is paranoid and depressed. When you peel back the layers of things that make her happy, she can easily lapse into episodes of not only depression, but even elements of paranoid schizofrenia when you go down deep enough.

Pinkie may even be considered a manic-depressive, spending most of her time in a manic high, that can be undercut into a depressive low with little provocation. This mania might explain the way that she acts so erratically all the time, putting on almost different personas across different episodes. I don’t think this is terribly far from reality, either. I think we can all relate to acting very differently depending on our mood or the situation we’re in. I know that characters in media are often expected to be consistent in their characterization, but I think it’s more realistic, and often more interesting, to show how a character can act very differently under different circumstances.

Now, I’m not paranoid-schizofrenic nor manic-depressive myself, but I can tell you that what I see in Pinkie Pie is, if nothing else, a certain fragility. Her empire of happiness is predicated not on a core ability to be happy, but on things which she’s built to make her happy, such as friendships, roles in society, and things to be passionate about. If she loses these things, her happiness can evaporate, and she’s a little bit paranoid that this can happen all the time.

The first time we saw Pinkie’s psychosis was back in Party of One, when she thought that she was losing her friends and completely bottomed out. In A Friend In Deed, we learned about how Pinkie combats darkness and loneliness through talking to her friends and making them smile–the one thing that makes her happy, and makes her whole life worthwhile. When she feels that she’s caused pain for her friends, such as in Too Many Pinkie Pies, we see how she will get depressed and frustrated with herself.

All of these elements, and all of these episodes, culminate in Pinkie’s Pride. As the one pony who’s passion and her element are one and the same, the examination of her element ends up being the actualization of her character as a whole.

The episode starts by reminding us what Pinkie Pie is all about, and then introducing us to another character who is all about the exact same thing. At first, she’s excited to have a comrade, but then she starts to wonder if Cheese Sandwich has actually rendered her obsolete, which sends her into a self-identity crisis.

Every single creative person on earth has had this experience at least once. It’s that moment when someone else in your field is doing their job so much better, that you wonder what the point is of you doing anything. The problem is that it’s a false contest. Sure, every field of work is competitive, but there’s also room in this world for more than one creative vision. It’s why competition thrives in the first place, and in many cases competition isn’t founded on quality so much as it is on individual taste.

Rainbow Dash’s phrasing is interesting, because she doesn’t necessarily imply that Pinkie’s parties are any worse than Cheese’s–only that they’re different. She says that Pinkie’s parties are fun and cute and all, but that this party is going to be epic. It’s like the difference between going to fast food for a burger, and going to a high-class restaurant for a steak. Many people will say that the steak is definitively better, but I think it’s more true that the steak is simply a different thing. The price is not necessarily reflective of tasting better, it’s just a kind of meal that happens to be more expensive, and I think that we can easily have just as much of a good time eating fast food. After all, some of my best memories take place in a McDonald’s, and I can’t think of any great memories I’ve had at a fancy restaurant, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like going to those restaurants every once in a while for a taste of something different.

Rainbow Dash isn’t really trying to insult Pinkie’s parties, but what she means is that she’s been to a million of them and she knows what to expect. As Pinkie puts it, Cheese makes a great headliner. I think if Cheese was the one throwing big extravagent parties every week, Rainbow Dash would’ve been saying “you know, I love big parties as much as the next pony, but for my birthiversary I just wanna have a small get-together with some close friends.” Maybe I’m speaking as someone who would feel lost at Cheese’s party, and whose idea of a party is to invite the same six friends I always have at my house over, drink shitloads of booze and belt out rap lyrics, but to me the validity of Pinkie’s parties in the face of Cheese’s is obvious, and I think it is to Rainbow Dash as well.

Pinkie’s Ballad has a certain tragic irony when you rewatch the episode, as I’ve done twice so far. It appears to be a triumphant song about Pinkie Pie achieving actualization. The first half is her realization that she doesn’t understand anything other than throwing parties, which is interesting because so far in the show, we’ve never really seen a pony outright question the validity of their talent outside of What My Cutie Mark Is Telling Me.

Pinkie is the perfect pony to explore this concept with because she’s the only pony whose job, if she even has one, isn’t tied to her natural talent. Rarity finds rare things and makes dresses with them, which she sells. Applejack bucks apples. Rainbow Dash controls weather at top speeds. Twilight is a goddamn princess of magic and friendship. Fluttershy takes care of animals. But Pinkie Pie doesn’t clearly have a job, other than being an apprentice baker. You could say that she bakes things to bring to her parties, but if her main thing is throwing parties in itself, there seems to be no indication that she gets paid for it in any capacity. With such a fuzzily defined career, it makes sense that Pinkie would be the one to stand back and ask, just what IS my talent, anyways?

She then looks back on all the memorable parties that she’s thrown before, which ends up being a great way to work callbacks into the structure of the episode. Pinkie realizes that yes, she IS a party pony, and seemingly comes to a renewed understanding of her purpose, which is cleverly turned on its head in the proceeding scenes.

As it turns out, Pinkie remembers that even though throwing parties is her primary vehicle for generating the happiness of her friends, the ends are actually more important than the means. Her prideful desire to proclaim her self-worth ends up being her primary concern, rather than actually making Rainbow Dash happy, and she realizes that just because getting to throw the party would’ve made her more satisfied, it doesn’t mean it would do the same for Rainbow Dash.

It’s interesting to compare this against Rarity and Rainbow Dash, whose elements and their ambitions have a more contentious relationship. Both of them desire a life that would ultimately take them away from their friends, but seem to be coming to the realization that their friends may actually be more important to them than their ambitions. Meanwhile, Pinkie Pie’s realization is more that her ambition IS her friends, and has less to do with herself. All along she’s known that her endgoal is smiling friends, but in this episode she appreciates that she doesn’t need to be a part of the equation, as she’d thought in A Friend In Deed and Too Many Pinkie Pies. For once, she realizes the value in taking a step back and letting friends have fun on their own, or at least without relying on her.

I love that Cheese Sanwich actually got his inspiration from Pinkie Pie in the first place. He could easily have been a one-time character that just acted as a foil to Pinkie Pie, but instead he’s more tied into her narrative, showing a significant connection between the two of them. He ends up feeling like more than just a device to generate the episode’s narrative, which is helped as well by Weird Al’s fantastically lively performance of the character.

Pinkie’s Pride is an episode that really took me back and reminded me why I’ve loved this show for the last two years. It’s been almost exactly that long since I first marathoned the show, ending on Read It And Weep, which was the newest episode at the time. Two weeks later, I was already diving headlong into the fandom, and when A Friend In Deed came out, it rocked my face off. It was the first time I got to be a part of a big internet reaction to how awesome the episode was, and it inspired me to think about Pinkie Pie on an analytical level and relate to her. That episode might even have been the moment that MLP became really important and significant to my life.

When season three started that November, I’d spent most of the summer more involved with video games than My Little Pony, but the premeire started to grab me all over again. I wrote about it at great length, and then decided it was time to finally episodically blog the show. When I wrote about Too Many Pinkie Pies, I was so proud of my intricate reading of the episode that I wanted actual pony fans to see it. I’d just bought all this equipment to start making analytical youtube videos about video games, so I used it to make one about ponies.

Fourteen months later, I’ll admit that I’ve gotten a bit jaded. Back in season two, I had the excitement of someone just discovering for the first time, something I could call my definitive favorite show of all time. In season three, I had the excitement of achieving the most success I’d ever had as a media blogger, and I was the most positive voice in the fandom while others were calling season three the worst one yet.

Things have changed. Season four brought in a flurry of new and exciting analysis videos, as well as more than a few less-exciting ones that I still had to watch. Other people were feeling the excitement and energy that I had back when I started, before an episode that I didn’t really want to talk about meant a pay cut for that month. Before I was under constant scrutiny as some kind of fandom figurehead. Back when I could read and respond to the majority of my comments and private messages before both got out of control. Before I’d ever been embroiled in fandom drama or seen daily threads on message boards about how awful I am. Before anyone gave a shit whether or not I liked an episode, and before anyone ever used the word “obnoxious” to describe the fact that a few episodes bothered me.

Would I have been so hard on these episodes back when I started? Probably. Most of the episodes of season one that I thought were lackluster, I’ve just never done videos about. On this channel, I’ve deliberately covered episodes I felt I could analyze on a deeper level. Back in season three, I was critical of nearly half of the episodes, despite the perception that I’ve always been a stalwart defender of the show’s utmost quality. Early on, some of the most fun I had with the show as ragging on episodes like Boast Busters, and I used to talk with Misfortune-Dogged about how unclean the show’s morals tended to come out all the time. Hell, I thoroughly enjoyed writing my review of Rainbow Falls.

What Pinkie’s Pride reminded me of, more than anything, is a state of mind. It wasn’t of a time when My Little Pony was a better show. It wasn’t even a time when I was a better or worse analyst. It just reminded me of how excited I could get for a new episode of this show. Maybe it’s because for the first time in January I was in a really great mood and not stressed about anything. Maybe because Pinkie’s infectious energy is always the quickest way to brighten up my day. Whatever the case may be, Pinkie’s Pride is one of my favorite episodes of My Little Pony, and I’m very glad it exists. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to blasting Weird Al Polka Megamixes and playing old Kirby games.

2 thoughts on “Analyzing “Pinkie’s Pride”

  1. Agreed. Best episode of MLP S4.

    As for Pinkie not getting paid, I think that in this universe that a favor is even more of a valid tender than bits – and as the ponies like to celebrate for every occasion… Pinkie’s rich! But lets not analyse Equestrian economics, those are dangerous waters.

    Which kirby games are you playing?

  2. This felt very much like some kind of Magical Mystery Cure 2: Weird-Al-oo. Heck, even the story structure is somewhat similar:
    -A Happy “Status Quo” Song
    -A Game Changer Song.
    -Sad Part
    -Photos remind the main character about the past and encourage them to act.
    -The character & acts and the story resolution happens (here the 2 episodes are completly different, though)

    I looooooved MMC and I really, really like this episode too. HOWEVER! However, I have noticed a few… “issues”. Apparently these things are not issues to 99.9% of people because out of all comments, reviews and everything I have only found A SINGLE negative opinion. But here it goes the stuff I noticed. Three problems: (which I guess I don’t mind that much… question mark?):

    #1 – Everyone’s attitude after Cheese’s first song. – how is it that no one noticed there’s something wrong with Pinkie? Twilight kind of did but decided to not ask further questions which was a bit odd after what she did in Rainbow Falls.
    Rainbow Dash – ok, just saying “No offense” to someone who’s drinking their own tears in front of you is not going to solve the problem.
    Applejack – “Don’t know what got into me”. Yeah… that’s the second time she used that excuse, after Pinkie Apple Pie.

    #2 – Cheese’s “superior planning skills”. As far as I’m concerned the only adventage he had over Pinkie was the fact he had all those gadgets and attractions (and a hippo!) which would cost a fortune in real life. Where did he get all of that? Do ponies pay him for the parties? This show almost never talks about financial problems ( I think the only time was in SSCS 3000) so I don’t know what to make of this.
    And then there’s the “Pinkie’s parties are sweet and all”. There’s one problem with that. The Canterlot Wedding party, which felt very much like RD’s birthday in this episode. And that was all Pinkie’s doing! Of course the actual CW party looked nothing like what PP presented to the Fake Cadance earlier. Hmm…
    CW party does indeed feel like the odd one out of the bunch in comparison to The First One, Welcome to Ponyville and Gummy’s Birthday parties.
    But the same thing can be said about the giant rainbow piƱata compared to PP’s circus act, bubbles and balloons, Gummy and the Party cannon.
    [Actually… what if Cheese actually charged ponyville for the party? Then the moral would be that expensive gadgets and gizmos is not what really matters on a party, but how much effort your friends put into it. I know, I know, I’m not a writer, it’s probably a very sh*tty idea, but still. Just putting it out here)]

    #3 – why did Cheese lie about his past? To impress everyone? I guess so. Why not just tell PP straight away you’re here to show here how much you’ve learned? Was he even going to tell her that? Also – if that was so important to him, how is it he didn’t notice Pinkie was absent from the party preparations? A tiny scene where he looks around and seems sad for some reason would’ve done the trick.

    Whoah, that turned out to be… a bit longer and more negative than I expected it to be. Yeah, sorry about that. Anywho, as I stated before I DO like this episode. A lot. So, onwards to the things I liked;
    – the songs (duh!) – It’s Pinkie’s MMC and it’s great.
    – the western elements – there weren’t all that many but I loved the cameo of Appleloosa and it’s residents. Then again, I’m a big fan of Over a Barrel (One of my S1 favs). And Al has a great serious voice. :P Speaking of which…
    – Al’s performance – dare I say it – it was his best voice acting role in a cartoon. Adventure Time with their Banana Man should be ashamed for wasting such a great actor.
    – Three keys down, three to go. But I’m kind of suprised we’re getting such a concentrated dose of the overarching story now.
    – The live action bits, while out of place, DID fulfill their role – suprise us, which was kind of one of the points of the Goof Off.
    – the episode felt very emotional, not just for PP, but for Cheese as well. Again – great voice acting.
    – Twilight used her wings again, yaaay.
    – The midnight atmosphere during the birthday party felt very much like the Canterlot wedding (as I stated before). And the atmosphere itself was kinda cool, a… “frosting on the cake”, so to speak, leaving you with a nice, fuzzy feeling at the end like CW did.

    So, um, yeah. Really nice episode. And I am trurly suprised how well received it was compared to MMC. It’s a bit sad for MMC’s sake since people, even now, while commenting on P. Pride, still bash the S3 finale. But let’s not dwell on that.
    Let’s be happy this episode was (almost :P) as good as MMC and people are not divided this time. It’s a win-win. Suprisingly.

    Ps.: Why are the writers hating Spike so much in S4? :P
    He got his 22 minutes of fame in Power Ponies but besides that they’re just making fun of him. :P

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