MLP:FiM Episode Reviews: Character and Story Analysis by Half the Battle

Previous: Characters: Fluttershy Characters: Pinkie Pie Next: Characters: Rainbow Dash

Character Analysis: Pinkie Pie

The following is essentially a compilation of all that I say about Pinkie Pie in these reviews. They are my own conclusions based on watching the episodes, and may not necessarily line up with creators' statements or other source material.

Chief Desire and Core Traits

What Pinkie Pie wants most is to enjoy life by sharing happiness with others. She is therefore a fun-loving friend to just about everyone, but the absence or loss of friends leaves her utterly empty. Because her personal brand of humor relies heavily on randomness and exaggeration, she may be perceived as frivolous and oblivious to what is happening around her, but in truth her comedy is a deliberate effort to bring happiness into an unhappy situation.

Element of Harmony

The Element held by Pinkie Pie is most commonly called that of Laughter, for which Princess Celestia substitutes the word Optimism in Magical Mystery Cure. Whether through jokes or through sincere encouragement, Pinkie brings others to see the potential for hope, joy, and even fun in serious or dangerous situations.

Pinkie most famously demonstrates her Element in Friendship Is Magic part 2 when she employs literal laughter to extinguish the frightful images of ghostly trees in the Everfree Forest. However, we see her use of humor in crisis in part 1 as well, when she hurls humorous nicknames such as "Black Snooty" at Nightmare Moon. Pinkie also uses jocularity amid the town's panic during a cattle stampede in Applebuck Season and on several occasions in It's About Time. In the face of Discord's return she injects comments about his chocolate rain. She smiles her way through the battle with the Changelings. She uses her flugelhorn-related antics to distract from the threat of King Sombra.

In Party of One, Too Many Pinkie Pies, Wonderbolts Academy, and the other times we've seen Pinkie feeling down, she doesn't use laughter to bring herself out of it. Her antics function within the context of friendship and aren't really effective on herself, or for that matter on strangers.

Pinkie's efforts to improve the attitudes of strangers are impressive but often counter-productive, as seen in Over a Barrel and A Friend in Deed. She seems to love creative conflict resolution ("extreme measures, Pinkie Pie style") and the idea of using encouraging words and parties to change a bad attitude. To those who don't know her, these efforts may come across as a simplistic or even offensive failure to take a problem seriously.

Of course, joy isn't only for crisis situations; it ought to pervade one's life and relationships. And so Pinkie frequently does things that have no purpose other than to bring a smile to the face of anyone paying attention. She can sometimes be momentarily disappointed when her jokes go unacknowledged, as we apparently see when she releases her basket of balloons in Lesson Zero.

Personality Profile

In Myers-Briggs terms, Pinkie Pie is an ESFP. She's an extrovert; spends as much time with friends as possible and practically dreads being alone. She's generally sensitive to the needs of those around her (though her perception is colored by her priorities), but she sometimes has trouble understanding or expressing herself. She's a "feeler," acting spontaneously on hunches and feelings, with a heavy focus on others' emotional state. Pinkie is also more inclined toward perception than judgment; she maintains extraordinary flexibility and prefers to "go with the flow" rather than defend her plans and preferences. The exuberance, present-mindedness, and hooves-on approach to life we see in Pinkie are in line with this personality type, as is her frustration when her gifts are unappreciated or regarded as irrelevant.

Like Applejack, Pinkie Pie has a farming background, but whereas Applejack's family makes games out of chores and loves to socialize, Pinkie's experience on the rock farm was "no talking, no smiling, only rocks." This changed when Pinkie got her cutie mark by successfully cheering up her family with a party, but the show hasn't revealed how this affected the family's day-to-day experience afterward, or how long Pinkie remained on the farm before moving to Ponyville. The bright spot in Pinkie's past appears to be Granny Pie, who taught her to laugh away her fears, as Pinkie relates in her first song of the series. Pinkie also credits "my Nana Pinkie" with teaching her the legend of the Mirror Pool, in Too Many Pinkie Pies. Some fanfic stories suggest that Pinkie takes after her Granny and that her father's all-serious approach to the farm is an exception to the larger family's outlook on life. It's been suggested that we may see Pinkie's family again in season four, and hopefully that will clear up some questions about the nature of Pinkie's upbringing. What we can surmise is that Pinkie's success in turning her parents' and sisters' frowns upside-down leads her to believe this is both possible and desirable in virtually any situtation.

A number of Pinkie's comic bits hint that she tends to have a one-step-off understanding of certain situations. I believe Pinkie is an idealist. She's aware of other characters' differing attitudes and points of view, but she wishes everypony could be as fun-loving, optimistic, and friendly as she is. Thus to her, delirium from sleeplessness and bouts of insanity are a character finding the humor in life, inhibitions and objections to various kinds of fun-having are shells that need to be come out of, and any social event just needs the right trigger to explode into a PARTY. Pinkie does not hold to this as a matter of moral conviction, but her preference for fun governs her interpretation of unusual events. Consequently, her actions are often socially inappropriate, and out-of-character moments that indicate a friend is having problems may seem to her like an improvement in their behavior or outlook.

Partly because of her idiosyncractic point of view, Pinkie runs into constant communication problems. Often she speaks as though everypony else knows what she knows, leaving out explanatory information or making noises and gestures without further commentary. When she does explain herself, the word "duh" occurs frequently, indicating she's surprised others are having difficulty following her train of thought. I believe this is more than just her assumption that others think like she does. Instead, I think she's speaking without a filter, essentially venting her feelings about a situation, and assuming that her friends, being at least as smart, must already have reached the same conclusion. I believe she wrongly perceives herself to be less intelligent and therefore a step behind them, when she's actually just on an entirely different wavelength. She's actually very quick on the draw with insights, realizations, and possible solutions to problems; they're just usually not what most would consider relevant or feasible.

The combination of her problems with self-expression and her penchant for non sequitur humor lead her friends to be dismissive of her when she's being serious, a habit that causes Pinkie intense frustration in Swarm of the Century, where her numerous attempts to explain herself are repeatedly shut down. The refrain, "That's just Pinkie," is fair enough when dealing with inexplicable violations of the laws of physics, but the failure of the other Mane Six to take Pinkie seriously sets the stage for Pinkie's corruption by Discord in The Return of Harmony.

Thoughtful viewers may have wondered why Princess Celestia, in the premiere episode, seems to have assigned important tasks to Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Fluttershy for the Summer Sun Celebration, ensuring that Twilight Sparkle will meet them, but hasn't done the same for Pinkie Pie. Later episodes suggest the Princess knew it wasn't necessary; Pinkie meeting and befriending Twilight within 24 hours was pretty much inevitable—given the Princess's knowledge of the Mane Six revealed in The Best Night Ever (which relates to tickets given way back in The Ticket Master) and Pinkie's role the community as featured especially in A Friend in Deed.

Pinkie does occasionally have important responsibilities, such as leading the skating team in Winter Wrap Up and doing color commentary for the race in Fall Weather Friends. But her primary role could be described as free-lance morale officer, befriending newcomers and keeping spirits high in Ponyville, for pony, cow, and donkey alike. The entire town's cheering at her restoration in Magical Mystery Cure is a testament to her importance to everypony there.

I can't write on Pinkie's personality without dealing with her breakdown in Party of One. Is this an alternate or altered personality that might resurface? Does she truly go insane for a few hours? I choose to interpret her scene as a self-application of the "empty chair technique" used in therapy. Everything about Pinkie depends on relating to others; she basically doesn't know how to introspect. So as I say in my review of that episode, what we're seeing is an inner dialogue that has spilled over into reality as she defends her friends to inanimate objects whom she personalizes and uses to voice an anger with her friends that she cannot otherwise express. Since she's been "deserted" by her friends, this is all she can do until Rainbow Dash shows up and she's able to express her anger openly.

Cutie Mark Significance and Occupation

The three balloons on Pinkie Pie's haunches appeared as she danced with her mother, just after her family accepted the party she arranged for them. The cutie mark actually matches the color and arrangement of a trio of balloons she had put up to decorate the barn. From the skills she demonstrates on the show, it seems her cutie mark identifies a special skill in cheering up friends and family through anything related to the sort of party she threw. It doesn't necessarily imply general social skills or the ability to function well at other sorts of events such as the Grand Galloping Gala.

Pinkie's cutie mark is obtained through a demonstration of her Element, as her party is an effort to spread laughter and cheer to the joyless ponies in her family.

As spontaneous and flexible as Pinkie Pie is by virtue of her personality, one necessarily skill for hosting any sort of party is the ability to plan. We see her refer to calendars, checklists, and time estimates in numerous episodes, and she's eminently resourceful. She can therefore be responsible, though as Baby Cakes demonstrates, her competence is overshadowed in the minds of other ponies by her jocularity and impulsiveness.

Pinkie Pie lives with the Cake family, having her own room above Sugarcube Corner. She earns her living by assisting them, and as early as Applebuck Season she's entrusted with running the store by herself. Many of her parties take place at Sugarcube Corner, but A Friend in Deed seems to imply she "walks a beat" of sorts on her own time, making the rounds of Ponyville to be a friend to as many ponies as she can.

Development and Lessons Learned

Many talents and gifts come with the potential for abuse, and having a Ph.D. in fun is one of them. In the first season, Pinkie Pie is remarkably self-absorbed. She wants to make friends smile, but perhaps more for her own happiness than their own. She's most obviously self-centered in The Ticket Master, where she is the only pony present in her vision of the gala and sings her most self-indulgent songs. Twilight points out Pinkie's egocentrism in Griffon the Brush Off in the course of her (ulimately mistaken) advice about the Gilda situation. Her self-focus may be one reason she's disregarded by the rest of the Mane Six throughout Swarm of the Century, but also possibly why she's able to keep an outsider's perspective on the dispute in Over a Barrel while the others get drawn into the controversy.

Pinkie's most socially outrageous indulgences appear in A Bird in the Hoof and MMMystery on the Friendship Express (both of which involve cakes) and in The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000, where she buys up gallons of cider, much as a well-funded collector might clear out a toy aisle, leaving nothing for the children to buy and forcing the store to adopt a "one item per customer" policy, which makes life difficult for anyone who simply wants to buy one for himself and another for his niece. But I digress.

Over the course of the series, we see Pinkie move away from this and become more considerate. Even as early as Griffon the Brush Off, she's sensitive to Fluttershy's tendency to startle and is more angered by Gilda's abuse of Fluttershy than by her own mistreatment. By A Friend in Deed, it's obvious she doesn't entertain for her own pleasure but is sacrificial for the sake of others' happiness. By the time we get to Too Many Pinkie Pies, her relational priorities are the main difference between her original self and her narcissistic clones.

We also see her development in the lengths to which she goes for her friends in the second and third seasons. She essentially weaponizes fun and silliness to recover Applejack in The Last Roundup, gets in a Minotaur's face to protect Fluttershy in Putting Your Hoof Down, and accompanies Twilight Sparkle on a stealth mission to Canterlot, all for the sake of friendship, and all in the face of discouraging remarks from the ponies she's helping. She also shows particular affection for and loyalty to Rainbow Dash in Wonderbolts Academy.

In the episode Over a Barrel, Pinkie witnesses twice the inadequacy of her song-and-dance routine to solve everypony's problems. We don't see her try that technique much after that, except in Baby Cakes, where she finds it doesn't even work with infants.

A Friend in Deed has a related problem, where her usual methods of making friends fail to work on a crusty donkey. She learns that not everypony receives happiness and love the same way, and by the middle of the episode she's ready to accept that she may not be able to befriend Cranky. She does, however, insist that he accept her apology, and she ends up discovering that friendship can still be possible but may need to take different forms depending on the personalities of the friends involved. Given her personality as described above, this is a difficult thing for her to accept and regard as a good thing, but she seems to be moving in that direction.

Speaking of the apology, this is another example of the lengths to which Pinkie will go for another's good. She knows she's done something horrible—burned Cranky's scrapbook—and MUST atone for it, even though she knows she'll be met with anger. She needs forgiveness for this even more than she needs friendship, which is further evidence that she's no longer self-absorbed.

Twilight Sparkle manages to put the brakes on Pinkie Pie's impulsiveness in MMMystery on the Friendship Express, at least when it comes to jumping to conclusions. While she learns not to assume the worst about her friends in Party of One, she's still quick to be suspicious of her competitors on the train, even before anything happens to the cake. Once she understands the importance of evidence, her hyper-competence and unreal observational skills (recall that she didn't need binoculars to be the first to spot Rainbow Dash at the end of May the Best Pet Win!) still allow her to determine the perpetrators' guilt virtually at a glance, but this time it's justified.

The crisis of Too Many Pinkie Pies results from Pinkie's inability to handle the "opportunity cost" of having more close friends than she can spend time with. The lesson is a little late in coming if you take into account that she considers herself friends with everypony in Ponyville. But her ability to accept having to miss out on a good time somepony else is having is a step closer to being able to cope with times she has to be alone.

This brings us to a recurring problem Pinkie Pie continues to face as late as the third season: an insecurity about her friendships. This is a weakness that's similar in many respects to Twilight Sparkle's anxieties, and it has led to misunderstandings that have hurt her deeply. There's a hint of this in The Cutie Mark Chronicles, where she initially believes her family doesn't like her party when they're unsure for a few seconds how to respond. This is the central crisis in Party of One, where she's downright paranoid about what her friends are thinking and induces a forced, false confession out of Spike to confirm her fears that her friends have abandoned her and are driving her away. We see a few scattered moments of worry here and there afterward, but it really surfaces again in Wonderbolts Academy, where Pinkie fears Rainbow Dash will forget about her in as little as three days. She's not doubting Dash's motives here, but she vastly underestimates the staying power of friendship and could stand to learn from Fluttershy's longsuffering and Applejack's upbeat handling of life's challenges.

Personally, I think part of Pinkie's continued insecurity arises from the fact that her friends still don't seem to express their appreciation for Pinkie's friendship nearly often enough. We really need an episode pointing out how easy it is to forget that encouragers need encouragement themselves.

Other Notes

As she explains in Green Isn't Your Color, the Pinkie swear/Pinkie promise arises from Pinkie Pie's valuing of friendship and her recognition that breaking a promise can jeopardize the friendship itself and even end it permanently. This may relate to her overall insecurity about friendship, or it may relate to a specific event in Pinkie's past that hasn't yet been disclosed on the show. In any case, her concern doesn't have to do with devotion to truth as an abstract concept, but to faithfulness and dependability, something to which Applejack can certainly relate.

The Pinkie sense, along with Pinkie's ability to apply cartoon physics where other ponies cannot, raises many questions when considered in-universe. It's accepted by the long-timers in Ponyville, but Twilight Sparkle is initially a skeptic because of her own presumptions about magic. Twilight's early experience seems limited to unicorn magic, since she's also dismissive early on of the potion-related magic with which Zecora works. We know from the writers' behind-the-scenes statements that pegasi have a kind of magic that allows them to fly and control the weather, and that the earth ponies' connection to the land and growing things is a magic of sorts. It occurred to me at one point that Fluttershy's connection with animals is more akin to earth pony abilities than to what we would expect from a pegasus. Could it be that Pinkie is somehow able to tap into a kind of magic uncommon for earth ponies but perhaps normal for certain unicorns? That could explain her clairvoyance, her occasional reality warping, and even her subconscious connection to the world of Canterlot High in Equestria Girls. Feeling Pinkie Keen and the general tenor of her actions on the show suggest that Pinkie doesn't consciously do anything to exercise her special abilities; reality is just different for her and she's come to accept it. But the underlying reasons for her abilities are a mystery with a lot of story potential.

Prominent Episodes

Too Many Pinkie Pies903 seconds
A Friend in Deed881 seconds
Baby Cakes814 seconds
Party of One808 seconds
MMMystery on the Friendship Express749 seconds
Griffon the Brush Off669 seconds
Feeling Pinkie Keen585 seconds
Hearth's Warming Eve425 seconds
Games Ponies Play398 seconds
The Last Roundup392 seconds
Friendship Is Magic, part 2391 seconds
Bridle Gossip358 seconds
Putting Your Hoof Down344 seconds
Dragonshy335 seconds
It's About Time306 seconds
Wonderbolts Academy287 seconds
The Return of Harmony Part 2281 seconds
The Return of Harmony Part 1280 seconds
Over a Barrel274 seconds
Keep Calm and Flutter On249 seconds

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