And tell that big dumb scary face to take a hike and leave you alone and if he thinks he can scare you then he’s got another thing coming and the very idea of such a thing just makes you wanna… (Pinkie ApplePie)

Oh wow, I’m really sorry about this one. I fucked up and queued it for the wrong day, and because I was staying with family overnight and all day I didn’t notice that it didn’t go up. I’m putting it up now, then once my service successfully picks it up and posts it to the various social media, I’ll backdate it to where it’s supposed to go.

That, or Pinkie’s been wifing in the club.

It’s January 11, 2014. The top song is still “The Monster,” and the top movie is something called Lone Survivor, which I’ve never heard of despite it spending the next five weeks in the top five. In the news, Australia beats England at cricket to reclaim The Ashes, as far as I know the only major international sports trophy to originate as a joke; Janet Yellen is confirmed as Chair of the Federal Reserve by the U.S. Senate, becoming the first woman to hold the position; and Spain invites the Sephardim, a large Jewish ethnic group exiled in 1492, and who now comprise the majority of Jews in North Africa and Western Asia, to return.

On TV, we have “Pinkie Apple Pie,” a very strong first effort by new writer Natasha Levinger that sends Pinkie Pie along with the Apple family on a road trip to discover if Pinkie is actually a distant Apple cousin. The episode weaves two strands together, Pinkie’s eagerness to be a part of the Apple family, and the Apples’ own struggle to keep up a good image of their family.

Then Slender Man shows up.

It’s an obvious move, really. The show’s been throwing sly references to pop culture over the target demographic’s heads for nearly its entire run, and has also incorporated at least two characters invented entirely by Internet fandom, Derpy Hooves and Dr. Whooves. It’s also been spending much of this season feature alien intrusions into Equestria and the pony’s lives, from the physical to the conceptual.

Slender Man, meanwhile, is public domain character created entirely by his own Internet fandom. Originating in a Something Awful thread about photoshopping old photographs to add ghosts, he is an impossibly tall, tentacled, faceless figure in a black suit, standing in the background of a photograph of children happily playing on a playground, his position and the composition such that he isn’t immediately apparent on first glance.

He quickly became memetic, and as image posts, CreepyPastas, and eventually blogs and YouTube serials about him proliferated, a consensus of a few core concepts accreted around him. He is silent, and rarely actually seen to move, but can apparently move tremendously quickly or teleport when not being observed. He causes video and audio distortions in cameras when he’s nearby, most often visual tearing or loud droning static. He seems to focus on particular people, being seen by or near them, and the people he focuses on tend to develop coughs, delusions, hallucinations, obsessions, and paranoia. Supposedly his preferred targets are children, but nearly every story has him stalking young adults in their early 20s. He tends to be found in liminal spaces such as forests, porches, windows, doorsteps, and hallways. He has no known weaknesses, has never been harmed, and was created by a Something Awful thread about photoshopping old photographs to add ghosts. Slender Man, you see, is a fictional being within his own stories. The more stories are told about him, the stronger he becomes.

He is among the most alien intrusions imaginable,  short of going completely Lovecraftian, and both a physical presence and a concept. This is the perfect season for him to cameo in.

Like most creatures of horror, Slender Man can be read as expressing a particular set of anxieties. He has the appearance of a faceless, anonymous being clad in the ultimate symbol of adult responsibility and tedium, the office worker’s suit. He destroys children, which is to say childhood. He is encountered in spaces that exist on the edge between two adjoining realms–the forest that lies between civilized regions, the hallway between rooms, the door and porch and window between the safe, contained Inside and the vast, unknown Outside. 
Slender Man is adulthood itself, and so of course he is stalking Pinkie Pie, who is probably the most childlike and childish of the Mane Six. Alone of them, Pinkie neither lives alone nor is the head of a household; she frequently appears to not understand serious situations such as Discord’s disruptions in “Return of Harmony”; and appears motivated almost entirely by pleasure-seeking.

Or is she? Because in this episode we see something new in Pinkie Pie. In discussion of past episodes, I’ve noted that Pinkie Pie has a severely stunted remembering self, and as such generally neither plans for the future nor dwells on the past. But here, right from the start of the episode, she is already intently interested in a particular aspect of her past, her ancestry.

The reason becomes clear when we consider what, precisely, piques her interest, and what it is she doesn’t want to remember. Pinkie Pie was miserable as a member of the Pie family, as shown in “The Cutie Mark Chronicles.” (This statement is complicated, but not negated, by “Maud Pie,” as I will discuss further when we get to that episode.)  She loves them (as, again, shown most clearly in “Maud Pie,”) and does not want to stop being a Pie, but if she can acquire an additional family with whom she fits in better, that is a major gain for her. Joining the Apples, in other words, is Pinkie’s first real attempt to fix the misery of her childhood rather than hide from it, and as such is inherently an attempt to regain her remembering self.

To that end, the efforts of the Apple family to seem “perfect,” and the high importance Applejack places on making the Apple family welcoming for her, are intriguing. Applejack is, in a sense, the anti-Pinkie Pie, in the sense that, while her case is less severe, she also suffers from the stunting of one of her selves. Most obviously in “Apple Family Reunion,” where she focuses so much effort on making the event memorable (the goal of the remembering self) that she forgets to make it enjoyable (the goal of the experiencing self), Applejack has a tendency to be too willing to sacrifice the present for the sake of the future, to focus so much on goals that she ignores her experience of the present. That she is so eager to invite Pinkie Pie into the close-knit Apple clan is primarily because of their friendship, but it is also suggestive of Applejack trying to invite some of Pinkie’s immediacy and fun into her life.

If so, then it follows that Pinkie is trying to accomplish much the same, deliberately seeking out an opportunity to build good memories as opposed to simply enjoy the present. Her constant snapping of photographs throughout the episode, and construction of a scrapbook at the end, strongly imply that her purpose in this journey is to remember it after, and her speech to the Apples–that she feels they are a strong family because they can get angry at one another–shows a much greater understanding of relationships than Pinkie has demonstrated in the past. Ultimately, her argument is that the Apples are a good family because even though being together isn’t perfect every single second, in the long run, they cherish one another. That is a very remembering-self type of argument.

Slender Man is, thus, not an alien presence at all. The specter of adulthood is present in the scene where Pinkie Pie makes her speech to Applejack, not because he is an invader from a realm of horror far outside the conceptual spaces of the show, but because the specter of adulthood is present in the scene. One important part of growing up for most people is leaving one’s family (generally not entirely, but at least partially) and finding a new family in the form of (traditionally) a romantic partner and children, or (frequently) close, lifelong friends. (Often both, of course, and sadly sometimes neither.) Pinkie has found a family in the Apples, possibly not a family by birth, but definitely a family by choice. This is probably the most adult thing she’s ever done.

Slender Man vanishes as quickly as he appears, never to be seen stalking Pinkie again. He doesn’t need to; the specter of adulthood has been met, and matched, and accepted, and thereby defeated and absorbed. There is, perhaps, a lesson here for all the other qlippothic invaders we’ve faced this season. Fighting them went rather poorly in “Princess Twilight Sparkle.” It might be better–and more in keeping with the spirit of the show–to invite them in. It worked for Rarity last episode, and Pinkie now–who will it work for next?

6 thoughts on “And tell that big dumb scary face to take a hike and leave you alone and if he thinks he can scare you then he’s got another thing coming and the very idea of such a thing just makes you wanna… (Pinkie ApplePie)

  1. Interesting. Heard of the Ask Tumblrs, but I stay away from them on the grounds that they're an intractable maze that require reading multiple blogs of wildly varying quality to have any hope of following.

    So, the reason I don't read mainstream comics, basically.

    Like

  2. Wow, that is a blatant error on the part of the courts. And possibly of the law itself. There's a reason I stuck with the term “originated with” and not “created by” above–the Slender Man mythos has grown enormously from that initial blog post, and it seems ridiculous to give credit for an entire community's work to one man just because he happened to start it. I mean, it would be one thing if he introduced a well-defined character and others ran with it, but most of what we “know” about Slender Man was established by others.

    Yeah, this pisses me off. Still, thank you for the correction, and I'll make sure to correct it when I revise the article.

    Like

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