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Twilight floated a second fritter up to her mouth when she realized the first was gone. “What is in these things?” “Mostly love. Love ‘n about three sticks of butter.”

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Mar
22nd
2016

How AppleShy is the Most Romantic Ship in MLP · 9:42pm Mar 22nd, 2016

Last week I talked about running down how the mane six approach invisible chores, but in attempting to write it I found that it’s hard to do without the context of a relationship (and even then it can be highly situational.) The only thing that was easy was that Rainbow Dash is really bad at them, because I’ve used that as a central plot point in over half a dozen of my stories. But that blog is going to have to wait until I find a way to approach it.

So today I’m going to blog about AppleShy. Despite involving Fluttershy, who I’m not exactly fond of, AppleShy is a ship I have a lot of affection for. Part of that is that I feel like AJ and Fluttershy bring out really good things in each other, and part of it is that it’s the best ship in a way that I personally really enjoy.

So let’s talk about AJ and Fluttershy!

What I find interesting about comparing AJ and Fluttershy is that they’re two sides of the same coin. They’re both nurturers who care for the world around them, and that world is full of the same things: plants and creatures playing out their day-to-day lives. And AJ and Fluttershy both have nearly unending energy and drive to make sure those lives and comfortable, safe, and happy

Where they differ is in approach: Fluttershy prefers to let nature take its course, stepping in only to resolve conflicts and lend a hoof where she can. Applejack takes a more active role: planting, tending, herding, and protecting the specific part of nature under her care. That in turn lets her share the, well, fruits of her labor with her family and town, which are just as much a part of her concern as the trees and chickens.

That last point bears expanding on: Of the mane six, Applejack probably realizes most keenly that ponies are part of nature too. She’s been around for babies being born, her parents dying, and her grandmother moving towards old age. She knows that Ponyville needs food, and food is just plants that need to be grown tended. Ponies might have magic and a lot of nifty gadgets and toys, but at the end of the day they’re just squishy, short-lived apple trees. And they need her.

Fluttershy, on the other hand, deals primarily with things that are even squishier and more short-lived than ponies, not to mention having more varied diets and habitat needs. It stands to reason that Fluttershy’s life is a near constant cycle of birth and death, and in between it’s balancing dozens of sometimes conflicting needs. And we see fairly often on the show that Fluttershy is more practical and level-headed than she often seems when her fears take over. If she isn’t much of a force for that among the mane six, it’s more because she doesn’t speak up than because she doesn’t have the right idea.

These differences in approach can create conflict, whether between Applejack’s active ideas and Fluttershy’s preference to let things be, or between the different beings that they each consider to be in their care. But they share the core values behind those things, so if Fluttershy can slow Applejack down, a discussion would reveal that they’re both looking a smaller parts of a larger picture. In fact, it’s easy to imagine that in a romantic relationship they’d each come to take on the other’s feeling of duty along with their own, eventually seeing Ponyville, Sweet Apple Acres, and the countryside around it as one domain that they care for together.

But, that would involve Fluttershy managing to get through to Applejack; a very tall order when Applejack gets her mind set and her hooves planted. Luckily there are two things working in their favor in those situations.

One is that Fluttershy is one of the ponies Applejack considers it her duty to care for, as a resident of Ponyville and as one of her best friends. In fact, Applejack is Fluttershy’s most frequent comforter and helper in canon: Applejack carried her up the mountain when Fluttershy is too scared to walk in DragonShy, she actually asked Fluttershy if she’s okay with her part of the plan in Magic Duel, and she holds Fluttershy during Discord betrayal in Twilight’s Castle. If Fluttershy could make Applejack see she was personally hurt or uncomfortable, it’s entirely possible that would stop Applejack in her tracks until she could make sure Fluttershy was okay.

And, for occasions when Fluttershy can’t do that and they actually decide to butt heads… as much as I hate Bats! (and I really, really hate Bats!) it’s a good illustration of one of the strengths of AppleShy. Because if you compare it to other arguments AJ has had (and AJ has a lot of arguments) you can see that AJ and Fluttershy don’t fight like Rarity and AJ, and they don’t even bicker like Dash and AJ. The argument actually most resembles the one between AJ and Twilight that made up Applebuck Season. In fact if Twilight “Mind Control Magic is NOT My Speciality” Sparkle and the rest of their friends hadn’t stepped in, it’s easy to imagine it going the same way, with Applejack remaining stubborn and Fluttershy calmly but increasingly frustratedly trying to get her to see reason until AJ makes a big enough mess on her own. That’s not a bad way for a couple to fight.

As to the source of that argument, yes, farmers hate pests. Things that threaten the things Applejack has to care for are bad. However, most farmers are actually very fond of nature as a general thing. For one thing, it’s a job that attracts people (or ponies) who like to be outdoors, which means they often spend their time off enjoying more natural nature. For another, farms like Sweet Apple Acres actually need the ecosystem around them to be healthy and functioning in order to run: they need bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to grow crops; they need spiders, snakes, and other animals that eat pests so they don’t have to chase as many off; they need the right ecosystem to control the fish, who control the algae so they have clean water. So yes, Applejack will do what it takes to protect her crops, but it’s not because she hates bunnies, bats, or beavers. She just likes them someplace other than her farm.

Which actually leads us into how AppleShy is the best ship.

Nature is full of powerful symbols, and some of the most primal situations characters can face: birth, growth and change over time, aging, and death. These are things that Applejack and Fluttershy both face on a regular basis. Animals are born, seeds sprout, and Fluttershy and Applejack watch over them, and give themselves over to caring for them with dedication and love. Their lives revolve around the cycles of the year; the planting and births of spring, the growing and tending in the summer, the harvest and gathering and preparations of fall, and the still peace of winter.

On top of that, and I’m sure someone is going to nail me to the wall in the comments for this, this is one of the very few mane six ships where I feel like the more traditionally-masculine aspects of AJ’s character are worth considering as part of the ship. While AJ and Fluttershy come together in their very traditionally-feminine roles as nurturers and care-takers, there’s also a clear masculine/feminine aspect to their relationship: AJ is an active, aggressive, dominant force to Fluttershy’s passive, patient, accepting force. Both of them being mares, and especially mothering, nurturing mares, provides a dimension that takes it past typical gender roles, but they still display that yin and yang.

A romance story about AJ and Fluttershy has all of that, just waiting to be illuminated, reflected upon, or subverted. It’s not a surprise to me that AppleShy is an under-appreciated ship; all of those things make a deep, important pallet to work with, and one not a lot of fanfic authors are prepared to take on.

With all of that, the story itself doesn’t need to be big to be powerful. For one thing, both of them have more than enough small drama going on all around them: birth, illness, death, battles over turf and resources, theft, and who knows how many sordid affairs (you know what they say about bunnies, after all.) For another, using the right situations and symbols can turn even a simple story about them coming to realize their feelings or facing hardship into a beautiful comment on natural progression.

Pretty much any additional genre works well here. In comedy, they can forsake the traditional straight mare/funny mare set up for two characters talking past each other, or Applejack can help bring Fluttershy’s eye-rolling and barely detectable snark to the surface for some dry commentary on an absurd situation. There’s plenty of opportunity for adventure in the wilds of Equestria, and Applejack would make a more practical choice of protector for Fluttershy, especially if the goal was something that Rainbow Dash would consider “boring.” A mystery with the two of them is going to be more Miss Marple than Hercule Poirot, but between the two of them they have a wide range of ponies and creatures to consult, and they might very well get to the bottom of things before anypony realized they were looking.

But AppleShy s a ship built for the countryside and wilderness, with two ponies who know the cycles of the world because their lives are keyed to them. Whether their love unfurls slowly like a flower blossoming, plays out in a springtime mating dance of demonstrations and encouragement, or is quietly noticed and appreciated like warm rays of sun on a winter morning, it’s just another part of the world they see around them every day. And that’s beautiful.


Since this is a Monday Blog Post, (a day late,) a big thank you to: bats, diremane, First_Down, sopchoppy, Bradel, stormgnome, jlm123hi, Ultiville, Singularity Dream, JetstreamGW, Noble Thought, horizon, Sharp Spark, Applejinx, Mermerus, Super Trampoline, Quill Scratch, Peregrine Caged, blagdaross, Scramblers and Shadows, BlazzingInferno, Merc the Jerk, and LegionPothIX.

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Comments ( 24 )

For some time now, I've been sitting on a blog idea that compared and contrasted Applejack and Fluttershy's roles and philosophies. Now I feel like all I need to do is point at this. Very well done.

I have a feeling you'd need to be good at doing a lot of inner monologue to make a story with those two as the main characters work: neither of them are really the type to talk about their own feeling except in special/ extreme circumstances.

Maybe if the whole story was told from Rarity's point of view, though...

3821388
This is true, but they're also very observant ponies who don't necessarily have to have the other's feelings spelled out to pick up on them. So I think that third person limited with a lot of attention to unspoken details would be another way to go.

Bats! is a terrible episode.

This blog sounds like a story idea. :trixieshiftleft::trixieshiftright:

Season 1 Fluttershy was tons better than nowadays Fluttershy. She's like a reverse Rarity, devolving and becoming worse as a character until she's such a sissy that can't even bob for apples without using a pony inhaler.

Just wanted to throw that in there.

3821483 I disagree. In TFTM, Fluttershy told RD her winter would be petless. In DPDOMS, she commanded Giant Angel to attack the tantabus. I can't think of a recent example of her breaking down except in Filli Vanilli, but Pinkie was being very mean to her.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

Man, I love FlutterJack, and no one ever writes it. I think I've read all of one story featuring the ship, ever.

3821483
I was actually thinking about that, in relation to this post. One of the things about both AJ and Fluttershy is that they're usually pretty down to earth, and that makes it hard to come up with episodes for them. But where AJ hit a slump after S1 and then got a turn-around in S4 by making the Apple family more central and then adding her interactions with Pinkie and the Pies, opening up challenges for AJ, in Fluttershy's case they tend to keep going back to the same well over and over, trying too hard to make it still funny.

The exception is when you get Fluttershy and Discord. Both Keep Calm and Make New Friends were good for Fluttershy.

3821510
He's talking about Scare Master.

Though I still think the tea party was the funniest scene Fluttershy has ever had.

3821529 Oh, Scare Master! That makes sense.

3821511

I wrote:

Nearly 130,000 words over a trilogy of stories centered around FlutterJack/AppleShy. It was my attempt at writing something "Rated Mature for Sexual Situations", too--the premise is that Applejack, who's been asexual her entire life, gets clobbered by her first romantic thoughts when Fluttershy reveals that she's secretly been futanari all these years. The 2nd of the three stories, History: A Romance Continued, is just about my favorite thing I've ever written, Pony or non-Pony, now that I think about it.... :yay::ajsmug:

Mike

3821606
Those stories have been on my Read it Later list since forever, and the only reason they keep getting pushed back is the length and the mature rating. I promise, one day I am going to read them, and I will make sure you know I did.

RBDash47
Site Blogger

This blog was an enjoyable yet purely academic read for me. At least, right up until...

There’s plenty of opportunity for adventure in the wilds of Equestria, and Applejack would make a more practical choice of protector for Fluttershy, especially if the goal was something that Rainbow Dash would consider “boring.”

Oh my Celestia, I want to read that story. I want to read that story so bad.

I'm curious: what do you think about the potential dynamic between Fluttershy and Big Macintosh? Is Applejack actually a better fit for Fluttershy than her brother?

3822006
I'm a fan of both ships in different ways. I think that AppleShy is more dynamic; there's more potential conflict and also more seeds for story ideas. That's in part because we know more about AJ-- so far what little we know about Mac is almost entirely in relation to his sisters-- and partially because there are a lot of differences to exploit between AJ and Fluttershy, while Mac and Fluttershy seem to have a lot more in common in terms of personality. You'll never hear me say that a couple having a lot in common makes them a bad ship, but it can make them harder to write about in an interesting way.

But I love a good FlutterMac story, and I tend to alternate between that and FlutterBulk when I need a background ship for Fluttershy in a story that's really focused on a different pairing.

3821721 It exists, Cloudy Skies wrote it, and yet it is inexplicably a FlutterDash fic.

RBDash47
Site Blogger

3821220 I'd still really like to see your take on things to be honest. You always have a very intriguing POV and often point out things I've not considered before.

3821529
That tea party scene was beautiful and terrible at the same time. I can see some people really not liking it because it was pure socially awkward cringe comedy. But I can see other people loving it because it was... pure socially awkward cringe comedy.

I don't really get what was so bad about that episode from a Fluttershy point of view; the moral of the story was that just because your friends all enjoy doing something together doesn't mean you have to join in if it makes you miserable, and it doesn't mean you can't be friends just because you don't like doing one thing.

3821606
3821624
I read the first of those stories ages ago because someone recommended it to me. The fact that it is a futanari story played straight, with it making Fluttershy (feel like) a freak, as well as for some other reasons (the reason why we don't see pony anatomy being justified in story), makes it forever rank high on my list of "this was a weird story and I'm not sure what to think about it" list. The sequel is on my read later list.

It also made me think you wrote nothing but very strange stories, which was why I never read anything else by you until Baal Bunny came around, and then was deeply confused because you were "that guy who wrote the serious Futashy story" to me. :trixieshiftright:

3822678
I think the issue with Scare Master wasn't that it was a bad episode itself-- I agree I really liked the message, and it actually did show some of Fluttershy's growth. Rather, I think the Fluttershy-is-scared-of-everything gag has played out, and is getting increasingly silly to try to compensate, at the risk of Flanderization. Since that was a good portion of the episode, I think a lot of non-Fluttershy fans wrote it off despite the good message. I know it makes me roll my eyes a lot.

However, the tea party... it's not the cringe comedy so much for me as relatable comedy. I have to agree with Fluttershy for once, those things do scare me a lot more than spiders or monsters! Me and Fluttershy can spend Nightmare Night having a scary movie mare-athon:

Friday the Thirteenth... But You Were Supposed To Meet Your Friend On the Twelfth
Rosemary's Baby Isn't Really That Cute and You Have To Say Something
Final Destination Is Three Stops Away and The Old Lady Across From You Keeps Trying to Make Conversation
I Know What You Did Last Summer but I Can't Remember Your Name

...I'll be hiding under my blanket. :fluttershysad:

3822686

That's me:

Confusing readers everywhere I go. :twilightblush:

One problem with the three stories in question is that they're actually a single story. So you get the set-up in Biology, the bulk of the tale in History, and the follow-up in Philosophy.

As far as Fluttershy goes, though, I've said it before and I'll say it again: with her episodes, it's like the writers are cracking open my brain and poking around inside. Fear of interacting with people is a constant in my life--more than half the comments I write on this site I delete without posting. I mean, I've been working the front desk at the local branch of our city library for 25 years now, and I still can only manage about 2 hours before I have to go lock myself in the bathroom for 5 minutes and get my hyperventilation under control. There's no logic involved and no reasoning with it as far as I've ever been able to discover: you just plan your day with a few minutes every couple hours for cowering, and everything usually turns out fine.

Mike

3822033
One of the reasons I like FlutterMac is because of the interesting relationship that can arise between Applejack and Fluttershy as sisters-in-law (or potential sisters-in-law, if you don't wanna go as far as them gettin' hitched. Applejack as relentless matchmaker seems like a good spoon for stirring up a romantic plot between two shy ponies.) :yay::eeyup::ajsmug:

And that's not even considering Appleboom and the CMC. :applecry:

3822678


3821529

Just gonna throw my hat in the ring of agreeing that the Tea Party scene was really really funny, though overall I only view Scare-Master as "okay" granted im biased against Fluttershy to an extent, her archetype is just one that doesn't really appeal to me. But that scene was cringe comedy done right. Cringe Comedy is hilarious if it's done in moderation and that scene knew just how long it had to be to work without veering into "this is just too much" territory. Just to bring it up a feel a good contrast to that scene is pretty much all of Brotherhooves Social, which is an episode basically based ENTIRELY around Cringe Comedy, and as individual scenes most of them work but as a whole it's kinda uncomfortable to watch since again, Cringe Comedy has to be done in moderation.

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