Why isn’t Pinkie Pie annoying? Her intro provides some clues.

I really like Pinkie Pie — which is bizarre, because I usually hate characters like Pinkie Pie.  Perky, bubbly characters tend to irritate me.  For example, I am the only person on Earth who actively dislikes Kaylee from Firefly.

Yeah, I know; I’m a heartless bastard.

But back to the main topic; why does Pinkie makes me laugh, rather than grimace?  More generally, why do so few people hate her?  Pinkie seems like the type of character who would divide audiences — hyperactive genki-girl characters tend to induce a “love them or hate them” response.  And yet, it’s pretty rare to find someone who actively dislikes her.  Why?

The answer, of course, is complex, and I don’t have a complete one.  But her introduction showcases two reasons why her character works so well; she’s usually paired with a more serious foil, and her actions, while bizarre, are always comprehensible.

Yes Andrea, we do need you to talk that fast.  Don't worry -- we'll edit out the gasps for breath in post.

“Yes Andrea, we do need you to talk that fast. Don’t worry — we’ll edit out the gasps for breath in post.”

First of all, the setup for her intro is really well-done.  In fact, I suspect that little scene helped hook the adult audience, and it did so in an intriguing way; it exposed them to something they didn’t understand.

Until we first saw Pinkie, the pilot had been predictable.  I pretty much knew where they were going with everything; shut-in doesn’t want to make friends besides her one best friend and assistant, is being sent somewhere to learn the value of friendship, yadda yadda yadda.  For most scenes, I could tell you (generally) what purpose it would serve later on.

That’s not necessarily bad, mind you — it doesn’t matter if something’s been done a thousand times, if you do it really well (and FiM does) — but there wasn’t much that was really challenging the adult audience.

And then, this happened:

There is really no reaction to that scene other than “wait, what!?”.  It’s clearly a setup for something — but damn if I knew what.  Pinkie’s behavior makes no sense (moreso than usual, I mean).

And when people are exposed to something that doesn’t make sense, we naturally want to understand it.  And we do that by paying more attention to it.  Hence, this scene helps keep the adult audience around.

Of course, a hook is pretty useless without a payoff.  Fortunately, Pinkie’s proper introduction delivers:

This scene demonstrates the first reason Pinkie isn’t annoying; the show generally pairs her with a more serious foil.

Remember when I talked about Applejack’s role as the straight-mare?  Pinkie’s intro is another fantastic example of that principle, but this time it’s Twilight acting as straight-mare — and damn, is she good at it.

As a result, the scene is far more than the sum of its parts.  Pinkie Pie’s bubbly ramble, like most bubbly rambles, threatens to cross the line from “amusing” to “obnoxious”.  Meanwhile, Twilight’s role on its own is downright boring — she’s just walking, looking annoyed, and pouring herself a drink.

But when the two are combined, the resulting scene is hilarious.  When Pinkie’s absurd ramble is acknowledged in-universe as an absurd ramble, it’s no longer just background noise — it’s thoroughly ridiculous and funny.  Meanwhile, Twi’s response evokes sympathy — but not so much sympathy that we can’t laugh at her plight.

This is true of Pinkie in general.  Indeed, in many of Pinkie’s best moments, the humor doesn’t come directly from her; it comes from other characters’ reactions to her:

Pinkie’s introductory scenes also demonstrate an odd principle of humor: much of humor is based upon learning.  That might sound odd, but think about the archetypical “setup-hook-punchline” joke format; really, a punchline is just a statement that changes your views of the setup and makes you understand it in a way you hadn’t before.  We like it when things make sense.  And when something suddenly makes sense in a way that it didn’t before, humor ensues.

In the party scene, we learn the explanation for Pinkie’s previously inexplicable behavior, and it makes sense (as much sense as Pinkie ever makes, anyway).  But even though we understand it, it’s still ridiculous — and thus, it’s funny.

Again, this is generally true.  Despite what the popular meme might say, Pinkie isn’t random — her perspective is always odd, but it’s usually comprehensible.

It’s easy for a character like Pinkie to become annoying, if used improperly — but FiM knows how to use her properly.  It pairs her with straight-character foils, and it ensures that her perspective, though skewed and bizarre, is always at least understandable — and sometimes even insightful.

Want to know when I’ve thought of something new and interesting about the narrative techniques of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic?  Yeah, neither would I, probably.  But just in case, you can suscribe via email at the top of the page (right side), follow The Pony’s Litterbox on Tumblr, or follow me on Twitter.

This entry was posted in Analysis, Storytelling technique and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Why isn’t Pinkie Pie annoying? Her intro provides some clues.

  1. Jessica says:

    Pinkie definitely has that ” . . . Wut?” value about her that makes her lovable. Even though her high-pitched voice aggravates my BF, she still makes him burst out laughing. You have it explained perfectly here.

  2. Kupo says:

    Then I am a Rarity, because I hate Pinkie Pie. More than I dislike Twilight, and just a slight bit more than I dislike Applejack.

    You mention more than once in this post about the pairings, and I’ve noticed that too. But instead of generating a laugh from me I look at Pinkie Pie like her on screen friends do, with disgust. On top of all those moments where she is putting WAY to much effort into getting everyone’s attention, episodes centered around her make me cringe and boil with anger as the viewer is forced to learn a very bad lesson.

    In the Gilda episode I viewed Pinkie Pie as an over bearing friend that can not allow her friends to live one second away from her. She was being rude never allowing RD and Gilda to spend quality time together alone. In the end all we learn is that when Pinkie judges then ostracizes a new comer everyone will eventually see things your way.

    In the Cranky Doodle Donkey episode she forces her way into Cranky’s life again and again, with disastrous results for Cranky. Along the way she twists Cranky’s arm to accept her apology, only to be met with a never 4 ever forgive you. And I wish that’s how the episode ended, because that would be a good lesson. You can’t please everyone. But no, she had to bribe her way back into Cranky’s life with knowledge of Matilda. Only to continue to bother them when they obviously wanted alone time. Obviously if you force yourself on someone long and hard enough, you will finally make a connection. Great lesson.

    I can give her one thing, she only made me laugh ONE time with ONE line.
    “I’m not giving him pie, I’m assaulting him with pie!”
    Other than this, she can move to the back of the line and keep out of sight.

  3. shabba labba says:

    She isn’t annoying because bronies want to have sex with her.

  4. theoneandonly says:

    Actually I see a lot of pinkie hate it seems like pinkies hatedom is bigger then her fandom in fact half of analyst communty hate her guts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s