Analyzing “A Friend In Deed”

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My OC is designed by Mizuki Takashima:

Ponyville Statistical Trivia: Population:

Dunbar’s Number:

As an artist, one may sometimes feel as though they are at war with their audience. An artist has an exact creative vision which appeals to them, and ideally they can find an audience who is on-board with whatever they’re trying to do. But it can be tough, especially if your audience and your subject matter are mismatched. I think of someone like Drowning In Horseshoes, whose abrasive, crass humor is often rejected by the more fragile sensibilities of many of the bronies his videos have to try and appeal to.

It can be soul-crushing, to give your all to something, only to find that no one understands you, and even more so when you put out something low-effort that people turn around in love. For many, it is only through accepting their fate, that they will have to appeal to an audience if they want to succeed, that they can find solace. If the fans can’t appreciate your hard-crafted comedy, and only laugh when you fall on your ass, then you’ll just have to learn to love falling on your ass. Hell, in some cases, if the work is being made for the audience more than for the self, then discovering an appeal like this can be downright enlightening. Yes, I’m actually talking about the babies scene. This is gonna be a long video.

After catching up on My Little Pony back when I first watched it all in 2012, A Friend In Deed was the second episode that I got to watch on its TV broadcast, and it rocked my god damn world. It was the first episode which inspired me to write about it, and to start making My Little Pony analysis on my old Digibrony tumblr. I’d even credit this as the episode which solidified Friendship Is Magic as my favorite TV show of all time, and affirmed my place in the brony community.

To me, this episode was a blast of all the most memorable and mind-blowing things I’d seen. The Smile Song dug its way into my heart and took root. Pinkie Pie’s infectious happiness and energy gave me chills every single time I watched the episode. I remember one of my first musical contributions to the fandom as a member of the chorus in Forest Rain’s Massive Smile Project. I remember how this episode took the bronyhood by storm and gave them an anthem to live by–a coda of happiness to carry in their hearts. I remember walking into the lobby at Bronycon and hearing a chorus of the Smile song and knowing I was in the right place. The way Pinkie Pie shattered through the show’s walls, pulling entire other artistic mediums into her world felt to me like it was bridging the gap between the show’s universe and my reality.

In this episode, I found out how Pinkie Pie was one of the most relatable fictional characters to myself that I’d ever seen, as well as one of the most interesting. I even wrote an analytical fanfiction in which I wrote as Pinkie Pie analyzing herself, in my voice. It was weird, but I’m basically going to explain the points I made in that analysis below, some of which I’ve touched on heavily in my Pinkie Pride video, but will explore more fully here.

Pinkie Pie, to me, is obvious a manic-depressive. By this point, her mane-deflating sadness has been proven not to be a one-off joke from Party Of One, but a full-on aspect of her character. Pinkie Pie is capable of living in an incredible high most of the time, but her high is completely predicated on feeling okay with the world around her. She needs to believe that certain things are true about herself in order for her to be happy, and if those things are not true then she will flip into a completely opposite state of mind.

I have dealt with depression for more than half of my life, but the weirdest thing about my depression is that I have always considered myself one of the happiest people around. When I experience something good, it is absolutely euphoric. When I love, I love intensely and with all of my heart. When I speak, I speak with fervor and passion. I take my interests very seriously and I want to make everyone’s lives better. I go through life with a big smile on my face and a skip in my step.

And yet, lurking just behind that feeling of intense pleasure, is a dismal loneliness and pain that can make me anxious, depressed, and suicidal at the drop of a hat. All it takes is a little bit of fear. Fear that things aren’t going according to plan, that I’m not doing anything with my life, that the people around me don’t really like me, that I’m not making people happy, and that I’m not really making myself happy. I am writing this video within twenty-four hours of producing four other videos and having the worst panic attack of my life. At this very moment, I’m walking the tightrope between the Smile Song, and Party of One.

But it’s not the manic depression that I see in Pinkie Pie which makes her so relatable to me: it’s how she controls it. Pinkie Pie’s greatest engine for happiness, her crutch against the darkness waiting just behind her eyeballs… is herself. It all came to me in that one moment when Pinkie Pie lifted an after-image of herself out of the darkness and brought her into the light. It’s true, some days are dark and lonely, but the only pony who knows how to show her that it isn’t that bad, is herself.

And who else could it be? Pinkie Pie understand happiness better than anyone. She knows what it takes to make herself happy. When she falls apart, it’s because she knows that she can’t be happy living that way. She has decided to predicate her happiness on the love of her friends, and without that, there is nothing left to save her. I have predicated my happiness on my ability to subsist on my passion. I have never tried to imagine living differently. If something happened to this channel and I couldn’t live off of it anymore, I would just keep banging away at making it work until it did.

Pinkie’s Pie’s mind is miraculous in more ways than one. This episode teaches us about how Pinkie’s mind is possibly even more impressive than her incredible physical makeup. But to give you an idea why, I’m going to have to bring up some theoretical studies.

Self-proclaimed math geek deviantart user dziadeki1990 wrote a statistical analysis of Ponyville’s probable population in 2012. His final estimation of Ponyville’s population was between 3,100 and 4,300 ponies.

Meanwhile, Dunbar’s Number is the suggested cognitive limit to how many people one can retain stable social relationships with. It is estimated to be between 100 and 230 people on average.

Pinkie Pie claims to be friends with every single pony in ponyville, and appears to have a functioning knowledge of all of them and how they relate to one-another. Ergo, her cognitive ability exceeds that of the average human by around 300 times. That shit is nuts.

Now, what a lot of people don’t understand about memory, is that individual memories do not exist in a solid state inside the mind. Rather, every time you remember something, you are recreating that memory again. When you try to remember something, your brain takes the cues that it’s given and tries to construct a memory of what you’re looking for.

So, for instance, my mind is a database of an insane number of names of people who worked on various anime series. When I try to think of the name of ‘the guy who directed FLCL,’ the main cue that my brain remembers is that his name starts with a K. The first name which comes to mind is Kazuya Nakai, which I know is incorrect because Kazuya Nakai is a voice actor. My next cue is that I think his other name starts with a T, so I think Kazuya Tsurumaki, which is correct, but for a second I’m not sure if that’s the guy who did FLCL, or the guy who did Toradora. The latter is named Tatsuyuki Nagai.

There is no solid memory in my brain that says “guy who directed FLCL: Kazuya Tsurumaki,” but both halves of the data are filed along with cues to help me reconstruct the memory.

Not unlike Pinkie Pie, I am confident to a degree that I have far exceeded Dunbar’s Number through sheer force of the numbers of people I keep up with. If you leave comments on a lot of my videos, I probably am vaguely aware of you. If you’re one of the two hundred or so people who still message me on skype, I’m at least vaguely aware of who you. If you ask me a lot of things on tumblr, or you make something that I like, or this or that, then I’ve probably got some info filed away on you somewhere in my head. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m maintaining social, stable relationships with this many people by any means, I do think that I have the kind of vague callback memory capabilities to recognize an insane number of people and how they relate to one-another, as Pinkie does, if not to nearly that extent.

I have always considered Pinkie Pie to be a genius, with an almost endless wealth of knowledge that she simply isn’t adept at accessing. The difference between Pinkie’s brand of genius and Twilight’s, is that Twilight’s is the product of an incredibly well-trained and honed mind, while Pinkie’s is a chaotic mess of a mind crammed with as many errant signals as it can fit.

Twilight Sparkle’s highlighter example from Testing 1, 2, 3 actually provides a great comparison. Whereas Twilight is concerned with separating the wheat from the chaff, Pinkie Pie simply consumes all of the knowledge in her path like a vaccuum, with no idea how she’s going to use any of it.

That’s why Pinkie Pie is so random. She doesn’t have any idea where the lines exist between the thoughts and knowledge she has that is useful, and that which is useless. Everything is called back to on a moment-to-moment basis. It’s why sometimes she seems weirdly knowledgeable about random topics, or can remember the exact page number of the exact book that has the exact knowledge that Twilight needs, but other times she seems to spout non-sequitors and be completely thoughtless.

So in just this one episode, there is grounds to establish Pinkie Pie as not only a manic-depressive with self-perpetuating energy, but also a mad genius with an endless wealth of untapped knowledge. But even without diving deep into the layers of Pinkie’s psyche, this episode still stands as a glorious manifesto to her character’s most basic elements within the storyline. Pinkie Pie’s ethos is explained in such a straightforward and powerful manner that you could just show someone the Smile Song and they’d know what she was all about in a heartbeat.

If you haven’t seen grant beaudette’s analysis of Pinkie Pie’s unique walk cycle from the Smile Song, I absolutely demand that you do so. Not only does it show you just how much work the animators put into making Pinkie Pie’s radiance stand out perfectly, but it shows you just how much Pinkie Pie as a character explodes into being with her every action. Something so simple as a walk cycle expresses so much about her character that it could be probably be used as an educational tool for animators and artists in general.

You know, over time a lot of people have asked me, why analyze my little pony? Why take the show apart like this and obsess over every detail like that? THIS IS FUCKING WHY. This one episode communicated so much to me on so many levels. I’ve watched this episode a great number of times, and while there are things to be said about the Cranky Doodle Donky storyline which actually makes up, you know, the majority of the episode, there is so much fucking detail to be drawn out of just the earliest part of the episode–just this one song–that it can be more relatable, enjoyable, and downright brilliant to me than many entire shows that I’ve watched.

The episode’s central storyline is a lot more straightforward with less to pick apart than the early bits, but it still brings to mind some interesting thoughts. Many have commented on the strangely unclean moral of this episode, which i find is interesting BECAUSE it’s unclean while still succeeding in the context of the narrative.

Pinkie Pie incessantly torments Cranky Doodle Donkey with no respect for his wishes or personal space, and despite the advice of both Cranky and Twilight to leave him alone, Pinkie persists and is even successful in the end. The message it seems to send is that you should just keep beating your head against a problem until it’s solved, even if the people involved legitimately want you to stop. Kind of a dangerous message to send, but it’s funny because it DOES work in the episode, and it’s not like this is something that could never work in reality.

Honestly, this is such a complex issue that trying to say that one thing or another is right wouldn’t do it justice. If you know that someone has a problem and they tell you that they don’t want your help in solving it, does that mean you should give up? What if it really is a cry for help, or if your involvement really will help them in the end? Where is the breakdown between your responsibility to them, and their responsibility to themself? It’s such a moral grey area that it’s fucking frustrating to think about, but the fact of the matter is that in the show, it all works out. And now it’s even BETTER because Pinkie Pride exists almost as a companion piece to this episode, showing us a case where Pinkie’s incessant meddling DOES get her into trouble, and she has to learn a lesson about personal responsibility. The duality here is so fucking good it HURTS!

All in all, I think A Friend In Deed might just straight-up be the best fucking episode of My Little Pony. At the time it came out it had the most advanced animation and experimental art in the series, and while it’s been shown up in following seasons, it’s still gorgeous to look at, and the ingenuity of the Smile Song visuals alone make it one of my favorite pieces of animation ever. It’s hilarious, it feels good to watch, it makes me think on ridiculously deep levels, and it even touches me personally. It’s pretty much the greatest thing ever and I’m incredibly fucking glad I finally took the time to talk about it.

I don’t know what my next video will be. My life is a ceaseless clusterfuck of insane passion and anxious explosions. Really, it’s always been that way, but right now it’s crazy intense. All I want to do is burn brightly with passion. To make as many videos as I can, make my channel grow as big and glow as bright as I can make it, and finally reach some modicum of stability in my life. If the Smile Song is Pinkie Pie’s personal manifesto, then take this video as mine. This is what makes my whole life worthwhile.

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