Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Applejack and the Virtue of Truthfulness: Part 2 (of 3)

                                                Liarjack and Pinkie Promises

We've seen examples of Applejack's honesty in season one, and, now, in season two, AJ begins to show her darker side. While in "The Return of Harmony”, she becomes a habitual liar against her will, in "The Last Roundup" she voluntarily makes a promise that she might never have intended to keep.

In "Return of Harmony," some infighting between the "Cutie Mark Crusaders," Apple Bloom (AJ's little sister), Sweetie Belle (Rarity's little sister), and Scootaloo, unexpectedly brings along the return of Discord from a thousand-year imprisonment in a statuesque prison. As I've noted before, Discord's main motivation is spreading social chaos by creating enmity between the ponies. (But, hey, as Pinkie Pie says, at least all this chaos comes with chocolate milk rain!)

Realists and Nominalists disputing the existence of universals (oh, and of friendship)
Discord uses his powers to corrupt each of the Main Six, in some sense turning their strengths (virtues) into their opposite weakness (vices). Thus, Rainbow Dash, the loyal one, is now disloyal to her friends, Fluttershy, the kind one, is now unkind, Rarity, the generous one, becomes covetous, Pinkie Pie, the playful one, adopts a boorish and joyless temperament, and Twilight, the friendly one, is suddenly unfriendly. In short, the harmony between the Main Six gives way to disharmony. But for our purposes we focus on Applejack, the honest one, who trades her honest disposition for inveterate lying.

Discord used his manipulation to fool AJ into hiding the truth because "sometimes a lie is easier to take." Almost immediately, the lies begin to spew forth from Liarjack's mouth. Twilight is surprised that honest Applejack would lie and initially is in disbelief. But TS's initial skepticism falls under the weight of AJ's increasingly frequent intentional false statements. However, once Twilight rediscovers the "magic of friendship" which holds the Mane Six (and Equestria) together, she manages to heal the rifts between each of her friends, and together they defeat Discord with the Elements of Harmony. AJ returns to her honest self and takes part in a celebration of the Mane Six's destruction of the Death Star, I mean, of the defeat of Discord.

Honest Applejack returns
The excuse of being under the influence of Discord is not available in "The Last Roundup." Applejack travels to Canterlot to compete in a rodeo competition and to help raise money to fix Ponyville City Hall (Derpy's doing). When Applejack doesn't return and sends back a cryptic letter about "not coming back to Ponyville," the Mane Six get suspicious and board the Friendship Express train to Canterlot, promising the Apple family to find out the real reason for AJ's absence.

Apple Bloom's epic sad face
At the Canterlot rodeo, the pony friends find no sign of Applejack, so they move on to the frontier town of Dodge Junction all the way in the outer edges of Equestria. Finally, at the local outhouse the Mane Six stumble onto AJ, who appears to be working as a hired hoof for one of the local ranch owners. Applejack is reluctant to answer her friends' queries over why she didn't return to Ponyville after the rodeo. She wanted a "change of scenery" and took a job harvesting cherries, "end of story." The Mane Six rightfully see that AJ is withholding crucial information and make plans to "get her to spill the beans," as RD puts it.

AJ, I don't think you're being honest with us...
The Mane Six's first attempt to get Applejack to tell the truth meets with failure in a sea of red and yellow cherries. A more ambitious plan unfolds, as Rarity says, "desperate times do call for desperate measures." The Mane Six bring in their truth serum secret weapon: Pinkie Pie! Pinkamena summons all her powers of buffoonery and nonsense to annoy AJ into confessing...until AJ finally cracks and promises to tell her friends the truth at breakfast the next day.

Nopony can withstand Pinkie torture!
Instead of keeping her "Pinkie Promise," Applejack gets out of dodge, literally! The Mane six follow her in pursuit. Once they close in on AJ, Pinkie Pie hops on board the stagecoach and confronts her over the broken promise. AJ seems to say that she didn't break the promise since she never meant to keep it in the first place! "I just can't tell you the truth!" AJ responds. Saddened by her friend's dishonesty, Pinkie Pie leaps off the stagecoach...

You Pinkie Promised!
Just when Applejack thinks she escaped, Rainbow Dash swoops in out of the sky and tackles AJ to the ground. AJ drops her saddlebag, revealing a host of medals she won at the rodeo competition. Apparently AJ didn't do as well as she expected (failing to place first in any contest) and didn't earn any prize money. As the town of Ponyville and AJ's friends had high hopes, she's too embarrassed to admit her failure, thus she stayed in Dodge Junction to work until she could raise money for the Ponyville City Hall repairs.

But Twilight, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash make it clear that they don't mind if Applejack does poorly in rodeos, they're friends regardless. They just want AJ to come back home. Applejack agrees to put aside her pride and returns to Ponyville... (Meanwhile, Rarity and Pinkie Pie get left behind.)

Darn it, now you got me acting all sappy!


  1. In "the last roundup" wouldn't that be a case of omitting details? She promised to tell everything AT BREAKFAST. By not turning up for breakfast the next day, she avoided having to keep her promise. Of course in that situation, it's just as bad as telling a deliberate lie.

    1. I'll have to think some more, but you might have a point. A way out of the promise is adding the condition "I'll tell you something 'if' I appear at breakfast." Later on, when accused by Pinkie of breaking the promise, AJ brings up the "at breakfast" part of the promise as if it was a condition she had to fulfill to keep the promise and, if not, she didn't have to keep the promise.

  2. As St. Thomas puts it, a promise is binding your will to do or not do a certain thing in the future. Well, AJ promised the Mane Six she'd tell them the truth (about why she didn't return to Ponyville) at breakfast the next day. Therefore, by her words, AJ "bound" her will to 1) show up at breakfast the next day and 2) tell her friends the truth. By not showing up, she broke the promise. Assuming AJ didn't have a good reason to break the promise (ex. circumstances changed against her will that made keeping the promise extremely difficult), there's a moral problem of dishonesty here. Another matter I'll deal with in more depth in the third post is whether AJ really intended to keep the promise at all, because if she made a promise she didn't intend to keep, it seems she lied, since she spoke contrary to her true thoughts (she intentionally made a false statement or promise).

    It could be a case of omitting details, if Applejack neglected to mention "which" future breakfast on which she'd "spill the beans." But I think AJ made it clear to the Mane Six she meant "at breakfast the next day."