Don’t you see? When I was a little filly… (Pinkie Pride)

Yes, I’m deliberately not speculating on whether anything
here is autobiographical for Yankovich.

It’s February 1, 2014. The top song is still “Timber,” and the top movie is still Ride Along. In the news, Edward Snowden is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, penguin populations are declining, an California’s record-setting drought conditions lead the State Water Project to issue a zero water allocation for the first time in its half-century history.

In ponies, we have “Pinkie Pride,” story by co-director Jayson Thiessen (his first and to date only writing credit on the show, though as always it’s important to note that “story by” can mean anything from “suggested the idea” to “wrote a detailed plot treatment,” and comments by Thiessen and Rogers on Twitter suggest this case was closer to the former) and teleplay by Amy Keating Rogers.

The most obvious point to make about this episode is that it is the second “key quest” episode in three weeks, and follows the established pattern: Pinkie Pie faces a test of her Element of Harmony, confronts the Hermetic qlippah associated with the sephirah that “Princess Twilight Sparkle” assigned to her, teaches someone else about the importance of her Element, and receives a souvenir that glows with rainbow light.

All of which happens, of course. In this case, the sephirah in question is Binah, “Understanding,” specifically intuitive understanding. This fits well with Pinkie Pie, as evidenced by her Pinkie Sense, instinctive knowledge of how to deal with the parasprites, and oddly specific “hunches” in Equestria Girls. On the other hand, it is also associated with deductive reasoning, an area where Pinkie struggles, as shown in “MMMMystery on the Friendship Express.” This perhaps reflects the same issues we’ve discussed with Pinkie Pie many times before, her embrace of the immediate and the now and rejection of past and future; in that context, it makes sense that she has a much easier time with intuition than the more process-focused, deliberative kind of understanding that Binah can also represent.

In Hermetic views, Binah can be understood as the Object to Chokhmah’s Subject; Chockmah generates the inspirations that Binah receives. This is again fitting for Pinkie Pie, who generally avoids self-reflection and prefers to react to others, to the point of deriving her entire self-worth from the praise and attention of others. This is why “Party of One” happened: Pinkie Pie can only exist as an object of others’ attention, and when they ignore her, she falls apart because she lacks a fully developed, subjective sense of self.

Pinkie made some strides toward developing this sense two episodes ago, however, as “Pinkie Apple Pie” showed her exploring the question of her own origins. This is where Cheese Sandwich enters, and appears straightforwardly to just be a regular, mirror-image foil to Pinkie Pie, not a qlippothic reflection such as in the previous two stories. This appearance is broadly correct, but the qlippah of Binah is still worth considering: in the Hermetic tradition, the position of Binah on the Tree of Death is occupied by Sathariel, the Concealment of God, and there is a great deal of concealment happening in this episode.

Most obviously, there is Cheese Sandwich’s own concealment of his past, that he is not a “born” party pony with an origin similar to Pinkie Pie, but rather a shy and lonely child who was inspired by Pinkie to become an entertainer and party planner. But there are deeper senses in which concealment is an issue for Pinkie Pie, in this episode and in general. First is the main conflict of the episode itself, in which Pinkie Pie’s competitiveness with Cheese Sandwich causes her to temporarily forget the real reason she plans parties. Only when Cheese Sandwich steals her song, “Smile,” does Pinkie remember that winning isn’t the source of her sense of belonging, making people smile is. This does not resolve the episode immediately, as Pinkie still needs reassurance that she has not failed to the degree of losing her friends, but it is nonetheless the point at which resolution becomes inevitable.

It is here that Cheese Sandwich reveals his own concealment, and Pinkie Pie experiences something that is both fairly new to her and critically important for her character development: she gets approval in the present for a mostly forgotten achievement in the past. Present pleasure–the knowledge of having helped, indeed massively inspired and transformed, Cheese Sandwich–for past attainment, likely one of the first parties she ever threw. 
In light of the ending, an earlier scene takes on new significance as well: the sequence in which Pinkie looks at photographs of past parties and is thereby inspired to challenge Cheese Sandwich. As with the scrapbook in “Pinkie Apple Pie,” she is revealed to keep a record of her past, to care about where she came from, and in so doing gains the power to resist an invading in presence from outside the narrative–Slender Man before, and celebrity guest star Al Yankovich now. In this case, the resistance is not simply diegetic, but also structural: in an episode written and marketed to showcase a celebrity best known for writing funny songs, Pinkie is the focus of the story and does most of the singing. 
What these two episodes together reveal is that even the show’s most programmatic main character is evolving. Pinkie Pie is showing signs of caring about building good memories, moving beyond the character we saw in “Party of One” and “Too Many Pinkie Pies.” The total change in her personality is relatively small; this is not the kind of abrupt retooling of a character we saw, for example, with Twilight Sparkle in “Winter Wrap-Up,” but more akin to the kind of gradual, stepwise development that took Rainbow Dash from being so rash she kicked a dragon in the face in Season 1’s “Dragonshy” to resigning from the Wondebolts because she couldn’t condone Lightning Dust putting others at risk in Season 3’s “Wonderbolt Academy.”

That evolution, more than anything to do with this episode’s involvement in the “key quest” arc, makes it significant. It shows that even in its fourth season, with 77 episodes and a movie behind it, the series can still surprise, still change things that until now had been inviolate. Because if Pinkie Pie can grow, anyone can grow–Applejack, Spike, any of the characters that until now had been primarily defined by their stagnation or immobility can develop in new directions. Pinkie Pie is no longer entirely a creature of chaos and the present; she has form now–the primary gift of Binah in the Hermetic tradition–because she has begun to reveal that which she once concealed, her memories.

And if even Pinkie Pie can change, well. It is no longer entirely inconceivable for one of the Cutie Mark Crusaders to get their mark–unlikely, but possible. Spike could actually learn not to be a jerk at the end of an episode and retain it to the next one. Applejack could discover a character flaw she cares about and work to resolve it. Paradoxically, the most mercurial and protean character was therefore also the most static; now that she is capable of meaningful change, it means that some of that mercury is available for everyone else.

Hopefully it’ll be change for the better.

Next week: Or it could be horrifyingly regressive and awful. You know, either way.

4 thoughts on “Don’t you see? When I was a little filly… (Pinkie Pride)

  1. I first heard of Weird Al Yankovic when he did that song “Patterns” for Square One TV. But as much as he was a part of my childhood and I was overjoyed that he was going to be on MLP:FiM, I was also a little nervous that his cameo would be a Simpsons-style reference-fest with no discernible purpose other than to give some celebrity yet another chance to play up their public persona for a while. Now, with Discord it worked because, well, it was the entire point of some very pivotal episodes including what was the most popular two-parter until the S4 finale. But this was just a random weekly episode. But, as you pointed out, it turned out Pinkie is still the star, and Cheese Sandwich serves as a direct foil to her, rather than a Marty Stu cameo. If they do more celebrity cameos, this is how they should do it. It is a shame that he didn't get to write any of the songs, though.

    Now I want to see guest writers. In case I haven't mentioned it enough times, I want Peter S. Beagle to write an episode.

    (also, minor nitpick, it's “Yankovic,” no 'h' on the end…)

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  2. Oh man, Square One! That gets me right in the childhood.

    I feel like Beagle is too melancholic for this show. It'd be like Neil Gaiman's B5 episode: undoubtedly excellent work, but completely tonally and thematically out of place.

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  3. I didn’t quite understand half of the things you said here could you please explain what you were saying about pinkie’s character in laymans terms?

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  4. Well, a lot of it is continuing ideas about Qabbalah that I introduced back in “Princess Twilight Sparkle” and continue exploring through to the end of the season.

    But the tl;dr of this particular post is that because Pinkie is so chaotic and changeable, she can’t evolve. She’s always been the one who jumps from extreme to extreme, so her character is kind of stuck in one place, the wild party pony who overreacts to everything and is affected by nothing. But here in this episode we see signs of her actually, truly changing, discovering new motivations and even a sense of responsibility, which means now her character really is capable of growing and learning.

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