Dishonest Applejack

This is Applejack:

Applejack is one of the main characters in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (collectively known as the “Mane 6″).  Applejack is also the only pony character to have carried over from the original incarnation of My Little Pony – her name, colours, and “cutie mark” (the emblem on her hindquarters) are all the same.  She is also the bearer of one of the Elements of Harmony – specifically the Element of Honesty.

And she’s not a very honest pony.

Honest – Adjective: Free of deceit and untruthfulness; sincere.

It all starts in Applejack’s first spotlight episode – “Applebuck Season”.  Applejack’s older brother Big Macintosh, who usually does the bulk of the physical labour on the farm, is injured right as harvest season has come, leaving Applejack to tackle the entire job by herself.  Goaded by her brother’s assurances that she cannot tackle the task alone, Applejack swears that she shall, in fact, do just that.

Trying to take on the task of bringing in the harvest all by herself leads Applejack to lose sleep as she stays up late to do more applebucking (the pony method of harvesting).  Instead of being honest, and either asking for the help she desperately needs or forgoing the other favours asked of her by ponies around Ponyville, Applejack instead opts to be “dependable”, following through on her promises despite being unable to actually perform the tasks asked of her.

Her lack of sleep leads to her injuring her friend Rainbow Dash by sending her crashing into Twilight’s library,  poisoning half the town with bad muffins and then destroying the town’s copious gardens by diverting a bunny “stampede” through the middle of town.  Twilight Sparkle offers to help with the harvest before each of these disasters, and instead of honestly accepting the assistance she desperately needs, Applejack stubbornly insists she’s fine (she is not).

Eventually, after insisting four times that she accept help, Twilight Sparkle’s offer is finally taken, only after much chaos and pain.  If Applejack had simply been honest from the beginning, things would have gone much better, not just for her, but for the entire town.

Several episodes go by in the first season that, while not portraying Applejack as directly duplicitous, certainly could have resolved the issue by having Applejack, as the element of Honesty, come forth and insist on some truth telling (which, in the end, ends up being the resolution anyway) – both “Green Isn’t Your Color” and “Bird in the Hoof” are ultimately resolved by telling the truth (and taking a moment to listen to both sides of the story, instead of deciding on half the evidence, would have resolved “Over a Barrel” as well).

(Picture not from the show, but courtesy of this artist.)

The worst culprit, however, is “Party of One”, where Pinkie Pie becomes convinced her friends no longer want to spend time with her.  After throwing a party for her pet alligator, Gummy, at which all her friends had a great time, she decides to throw another party the following day – forgetting that day is her own birthday. Pinkie grows increasingly distressed over her friends avoiding her and turning down her invitations (they had planned a surprise party for Pinkie that afternoon), leading her to follow those friends around town as they try (and fail) to surreptitiously deliver a cake from Pinkie’s place of employment (and residence) to Applejack’s farm, where the party is being held.

Pinkie Pie confronts Applejack in front of the barn, demanding answers about what’s going on.  Instead of ruining the surprise by honestly letting Pinkie in on the surprise, Applejack instead lies to her friend, despite the obvious distress it causes Pinkie Pie (whose trademark “Okie Dokie Lokie” is delivered in an extremely suspicious tone, very unlike the usually chipper and hyper Pinkie Pie).  Again, Applejack chooses being “dependable” over being honest – and in the process, contributes to her friend’s mental breakdown later in the episode.

Pinkie Pie knows Applejack is lying (Applejack is an exceedingly bad liar, even when made a “habitual” liar by Discord in season 2), and assuming Applejack isn’t a complete moron, she knows Pinkie knows.  It should also be pretty obvious her friend is upset by this whole situation, but Applejack, the supposed “Element of Honesty”, somehow cannot be honest with her friend. It’s fortunate Pinkie Pie is the most cartoonish of all the characters and quickly bounces back when she realises it was to set up a surprise, not to cut her out; any normal person (or pony) would have a lot of mental scars to work through from the trauma Pinkie suffers later in the episode, in part thanks to Applejack’s (lousy) lying.

Things get even worse in Season 2.

A minor incident occurs in “Sisterhooves Social”; after much of Rarity’s home, possessions, and work are damaged or destroyed by her sister Sweetie Belle, the two sisters have a falling out.  Rarity has done nothing worse than yelling at her sister (who has thus far started a fire in the kitchen, shrunken an expensive sweater, glued expensive gemstones to a construction-paper “valentine”, and completely disarrayed the dress-maker’s “inspiration room” in attempts to be “helpful”), has begun to see her sister’s disasters in a more positive light and come to make amends, and is rudely rebuffed by Sweetie Belle, who wants Applejack to be her sister instead.

The Blame Rarity First Crowd

Somehow, this makes the whole situation Rarity’s fault (“but you never give in“, insists Applejack); Applejack has previously been shown to be acutely aware of the value of a bit, and so even her disdain for fashion cannot justify her taking Sweetie Belle’s side.  And yet she does just that.  And the solution that is come up with again involves a dishonest Applejack, who goes along with a plan to trick Sweetie Belle into thinking she is participating in the eponymous Sisterhooves Social with a mud-covered Applejack, rather than her sister Rarity.  An honest pony would have suggested that maybe Sweetie Belle should instead stop trying to be helpful, since her efforts have been quite destructive.

In “The Cutie Pox”, Applejack’s sister, Apple Bloom, is afflicted by a mysterious malady that causes her to break out in cutie marks, and the talents that go with them.  Unable to stop performing her talents, Apple Bloom is in increasing trouble when the zebra Zecora arrives with a cure – the Seeds of Truth.  All they need is someone to tell the truth for them to bloom.  The “Element of Honesty”, instead of telling the truth herself to cure her sister, insists that “somepony, anypony” tell the truth instead.  (Of course, the intention was for Apple Bloom to admit to the theft that caused her disease, but Applejack didn’t even try to tell any truths; some Element of Honesty.)

In “The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well”, again Applejack plays along with a duplicitous plan, this time posing (with the help of the rest of her friends) as “Mare-Do-Well”, a hero pony the girls are trying to use as an object lesson to Rainbow Dash on the virtue of humility.  Instead of facing the pain that honestly confronting Rainbow and telling her she was being obnoxious would bring, she instead goes along with the underhanded and dishonest plan of one-upping Rainbow instead.

The most damning instance of Applejack utterly failing at being the Element of Honesty, however, is her next spotlight episode: “The Last Roundup”. In this episode, Applejack is off to compete in the Equestria rodeo, promising to return with money to help repair the town hall’s ruined roof.  Instead of coming back, however, instead she returns a courier letter, informing everyone that she will not be coming back, but “will send money soon”.  There is no further explanation given, and thus, obviously, her friends set out to find her, find out what happened, and bring her back to her home (and family).

The girls eventually track Applejack down; she has taken a job working for Cherry Jubilee in Dodge Junction, doing basically the same farm job she used to do in Ponyville, except with cherries instead of apples.  Her friends get jobs with Cherry as well, planning on trying to work out of Applejack what happened (because, apparently, it is hard to get the Element of Honesty to be honest).  Applejack goes to increasing lengths to avoid answering their questions (running a treadmill faster and faster, leaving Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy to recreate the famous I Love Lucy chocolate scene).

Later, Applejack is cornered in the cherry orchard by Pinkie Pie, whose incessant talking eventually drives Applejack to “Pinkie Promise” to tell the girls “everything” – “at breakfast”.  The next morning, however, she is gone – again, avoiding telling the truth.  In fact, Applejack leads the girls on a merry chase to avoid telling them the truth – even going so far as to weasel out of her “Pinkie Promise” by claiming she said “at breakfast” and wasn’t at breakfast, so she supposedly was clear – as if violating the spirit of a promise by upholding its literal words was honest.

And the secret she was protecting so fiercely? Simply the fact that she did not win the rodeo.  A bit of hurt pride – and, as many times before, stubbornness and “dependability” – leads Applejack to lie to her friends, her town, and her family.

I’m hard-pressed to find any examples of an honest Applejack.  She is, quite frankly, the worst Element of Honesty possible.

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6 responses to “Dishonest Applejack

  1. While I do agree with Applejack not being the best Element of Honesty (That would be Rainbow Dash), I do disagree with a few examples.

    I don’t think that in “Applebuck Season” Applejack is being dishonest, she’s just being stubborn. She’s refusing to accept that she can’t do everything by herself, thus she overworks herself into exhaustion to the point that she can’t do anything with any kind of competency. You could say that she’s being dishonest with herself, but I don’t think that disqualifies her from being an element.

    In “Party of One” I do see the point in that she does lie to Pinkie, but I think the fact that sucks at lying helps her case as Element of Honesty. It’s a little neat trait that she’s so bad at it. Plus, she never lies to anyone in a malicious manner, since her lie to Pinkie is in order to keep the surprise party a secret.

    Finally, in “The Cutie Pox” I think the truth seeds were a victim of poor writing, since it seems intended that Applebloom is supposed to tell the truth, but like you said, Zecora says anyone could just start stating random facts and revert the effects, but no one does. It seems more like a poorly explained plot point rather than Applejack not being good at Honesty.

    All your other examples are true, but I think saying that Applejack is the worst Element of Honesty is somewhat hyperbole.

    • My argument is essentially that choosing another trait over honesty disqualifies one from being the element of honesty. Pinkie, Rarity, Fluttershy and Twilight all respond to problems by expressing their element first and foremost; Applejack frequently chooses some other trait – usually dependability, which is a subset of Loyalty – over honesty, and rarely (if ever) tries to resolve her problems with Honesty.

      Even Dash occasionally demonstrates Loyalty as her primary response to difficulties, though perhaps not as often as you’d expect of the Element of Loyalty.

      I suppose Cider Squeezy could be seen as an “Honesty” episode, somewhat. She is at least honest about “I didn’t learn a thing – I was right all along!”

  2. And is Rarity the best fit for generosity? It seems more often than not she puts herself before others, or just thinks about what she wants. And the only time she feels any sort of regrets is when she gets into trouble, her friends talk to her, or the problem smacks her in the face. Honestly, Applejack should have been loyalty, and RD should have been honesty, but it’s too late now. And would it be any good if she couldn’t lie at all? That’s like saying all the mane 6 couldn’t be anything but their element, Pinkie couldn’t get upset because she’s laughter, rarity couldn’t do what she wanted because she’d be always generous, and etc etc.

    • While I do not expect the Elements to be perfect, Applejack is the worst of the bunch about not really expressing her element. And unlike Rarity, she cannot even fall back on the excuse that her behaviour espouses her Element in others; the fact that Applejack played no role at all in “Green Isn’t Your Colour” is perhaps the biggest failure of the series.

      (And in Rarity’s defence, for she is the best pony, there has been no demonstration of generosity in the series stronger than her forgiving Sweetie Belle for all the destruction and chaos caused in Sisterhooves Social.)

  3. Re: Sisterhooves Social

    THANK YOU! I thought I was completely alone in disliking that episode. Sweetie Belle was a destructive, disobedient little brat throughout and Rarity was way more patient with her than she deserved. I used to like the CMC, but I’ve deliberately avoided any episode featuring them since SS.

    • Well, I wouldn’t say I dislike the episode – it’s one of my favourites, actually, as it features one of Rarity’s (who is best pony) most caring moments, giving up the very essence of everything she treasures just to reconcile with Sweetie Belle. But I do very much dislike that aspect of the episode.

      And I still like the CMC. Their episodes have not featured any other incidents of kids getting away with stupid shit just because they’re kids. (There has been stupid shit, but they haven’t gotten away with it.)

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