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PresentPerfect


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Jul
7th
2021

The Applejack Problem · 11:11pm July 7th

A propos of literally nothing, my brain decided that Applejack was a mistake, an object lesson in not writing a character who has everything figured out, because they will eventually become boring. <.< Did I ask it to do this? No! But it provided a solution anyway.

So here's my crazy idea: You start the show with her parents alive.

When she was little, Applejack was a hard worker who did everything her parents told her, and then a little sister came along and she started to wonder who she was. That's what sent her to Manehattan to try and figure herself out, being guided back to Ponyville and her home by the Sonic Rainboom and getting her cutie mark.

But that was then and this is now. She's not a kid anymore. She still loves her family, still lives under the same roof as them, but she's lately been feeling like she still doesn't know who she is, cutie mark or not. Her parents are both stressed out, Ma because she's arranging the Apple Family reunion, Pa because there's supposed to be this high-class unicorn from Canterlot coming down to check on their ability to cater the upcoming Summer Sun Celebration. Applejack doesn't have particularly high opinions of Canterlot unicorns -- mostly for the Canterlot part -- and her ideas for how either of these events should be run are flat being ignored.

Sure, she still does all her chores, but lately it's not enough. Her cousin Braeburn is talking about heading out west and settling a new town. Maybe something like that could give her a new place to start fresh, with her own farm, run the way she wants.

So yeah, her parents die in the first episode. There's no way to write this for kids, so there's no way it would happen.

But then her episodes become about dealing with the death of her parents and the resentment she was feeling toward them almost until the moment they died. Applebuck Season is a story about a pony working herself near to death just so she doesn't have to think so much. Apple Family Reunion is about the re-do, since the original reunion turned into a wake, and trying to live up to her parents' legacy. (Also making more sense than episode 1 and episode 60 being "100 moons" apart.) Family Appreciation Day? Gets a B-plot about Applejack really appreciating what she's lost. And on and on and on, you've suddenly turned her into a treasure trove of stories, a character who can occasionally act out because she's roiling with sorrow and guilt, and like I said, it would never happen because this is for kids and TV execs think kids are stupid and Lauren Faust leaves during season 2 anyway.

Would I write this? Hell to the fuck no. Mostly because "rewrite the show from the ground up" isn't particularly fun, and many have done it in the past. But I dunno, I just wanted to write it down somewhere for posterity or something. :B

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Comments ( 20 )
iisaw #1 · July 7th · · ·

Still a brilliant idea, though.

I think at the very least AJ is a good contrast to other characters like early Twilight that are trying to find their place and early-to-mid Rainbow that are trying to improve theirs. Plus AJ’s changes are more subtle/realistic: she’s not looking for a big life change but ends up being party to several by way of the ponies around her and how she changes to better accept or relate to them, such as Rarity’s spa days and Twilight’s heavy reliance on magic, plus accepting friends as an extension of her family to begin with.

The danger of not having AJ is saying that everybody must have a big dream to change everything about themselves to be valid and important, and being content with yourself and your surroundings is not. Boring people have feelings too :ajsmug:.

Fluttershy almost falls into this same camp but her anxiety issues are easier for the audience (and show) to call out as something she’s working to overcome.

Honestly, angst over the loss of her parents and how its impactes her life and her family was the juiciest Applejack storyline they could have done. And they never did.

That's a major reason Perfect Pear hit so flat for me. The emotional core of the Apple kids finding out about their parents when at least one of them has grown up without knowing them well, and it was so downplayed.

How about an episode where AJ or Big Mac wants to chase a dream but chooses not to because the family needs them. An episode where Granny is sick and AJ takes care of her, maybe reflect on Granny taking care of her when she was a filly. Where's the genuine family drama???

So yeah, her parents die in the first episode. There's no way to write this for kids, so there's no way it would happen.

BRB, losing myself in the idea of an AU world where Applejack still accompanies Twilight on her quest to defeat Nightmare Moon, but it's immediately after NMM's arrival in Ponyville killed her parents.

A simpler, and less grisly, way may be to begin the show with it being made clear that Granny Smith is the one who runs the show on Sweet Apple Acres, and AJ is content and happy as just a worker. Then at some point, Granny decides to pass the reigns over to Mac, him being the eldest. Mac is nervous, as he is very shy and prefers to just work in the background, but he dutifully does what is expected of him... and promptly makes a mess of things. He's just not cut out for that role.

Finally, Applejack realizes she needs to step up and take control. Now, we have AJ trying to not only get the farm back on track, but adjust to being the brains of the operation, while still being a bit of the muscle, and she still has to act as a role model for Apple Bloom. Or maybe AB begins to look more towards Big Mac as a role model, since he's the one that has more time to spend with her. Now, we have AJ frantic at work, and also dealing with trying to be there for her sister while also not try and "replace" Mac in any way.

That's just good drama, man.

A great could-have-been concept. Applejack does teach some valuable lessons in how not to approach characters for long-term sustainability.

One alternative is her feeling like the world's passing her by. So much changes once Twilight comes to town, at some point somepony so guided by tradition and invested in Ponyville as it was may wake up one morning and find she doesn't recognize her own hometown.

Hmm. An interesting idea, but nowhere near as much potential to explore as what you've presented.

Winston #7 · July 7th · · ·

Applejack was a mistake, an object lesson in not writing a character who has everything figured out, because they will eventually become boring.

Actually, I think it's fine to have a character who pretty much has what they want going in.

Their plot conflicts aren't about trying to get what they want, but trying to keep what they have, which can work just fine because it's pretty relatable and feels very real as a motivator to a lot of people. Threaten Applejack's farm and make her find an innovative solution. Hers is a story of avoiding or retaking losses, rather than conquering, and that's fine, because for most people, that's most of the time.

It's also useful sometimes to have the character with the more contented perspective on where they are in life to counter-weight the eager accomplishment seekers. For example, there should have been (and was) a variety of attitudes in response to being called by the cutie-map. Not every character should be thrilled about the challenges thrown before them. Someone should be the "I just want to get done and go home" Cincinnatus.

My perspective on rewriting Applejack, from the position of looking back on the complete series, was that Applebuck Season was a huge mistake. Setting up the situation that "Sweet Apple Acres needs all hooves on deck" restricts the kind of stories in which she can participate. And having her want to sell apples at the Grand Galloping Gala was utterly stupid; she should have viewed the Gala as a chance to make connections and break into the Canterlot market.

My preferred change would be to give Applejack a desire to travel. She could be trying to connect with all of the Apples across Equestria. She could be seeking to see how other ponies sell apples and apple accessories. She could even be a Johnny Appleseed type. Maybe all of the above. And she could also do these things to honor the memory of her family.

5551376
This, many times. Well said!



I said before, and will again, that Applejack is my favorite because she's an adult. She sweats bills, cares for younger and older family, and stumbles around as the amateur matriarch for both her family and friends. The adult in the room, the rock of common sense, the very grown up pony.

Her lack of an "arc" feels like an excuse. Pinkie didn't have one. Rarity and Rainbow got ambitions fulfilled without really changing at all. Twilight became a princess in a castle. Only Fluttershy honestly seemed to grow as a person as the series went on. It's okay, it was a kid's show.

(I guess Applejack has pretty recurring themes: making mistakes and learning in her leadership of the clan, resistance to change, stolid practicalism and safety when she should be open minded and idealistic... Idk if that's an arc, but I mean, tell me how much Rarity or RD actually developed over the series.)

Thus said, I always love more Applejack and Applejack stories and reasons to love her. So if you wanna write this... :trollestia:

5551410
I feel like there was never enough done with Applejack as someone with business sense. Where's that angle instead of the tired "fashion vs practicality" with her and Rarity.

I'm not so sure about the idea of them dying in the *first episode* but now that I'm thinking about it. The show really seemed to waffle on who was in charge at the Acres. So yeah it's an interesting angle that's worth exploring but not that a kid show as soft edged as fim was ever going to do, if they even had an idea what to do with Applejack in the first place

kits #11 · July 8th · · 2 ·

But if applejack had a character that want as bland as Midwest mashed potatoes, who would you ship to starlight!?????

For real though. Remember how in s1 she was constantly worried about the farms financial situation? And how that just... stopped?

5551446
Starlight's one and only girlfriend is Trixie.

kits #13 · July 8th · · 2 ·

5551451
Not even Trixie deserves starlight. :(

Also, someone hasn’t read all of PPs masterpieces.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

5551365
Yeah, I haven't thought about this too much. :V I figure the rock slide takes 'em out.

5551372
Could definitely be combined into it!

5551376
I'll just never get over "Dear Princess Celestia, I didn't learn anything!"

Like, how the fuck did they screw up the show's central conceit (at the time) so badly?

5551410
Oh, this I like. :D

iisaw #15 · July 8th · · ·

Okay, you bastard, I can't stop thinking about this! Rewriting the show is obviously a non-starter but how about the just the pilot, first-person from AJ's POV? What if her parents are thrown off a cliff by a blast of magic... and as she is keeping Twilight from falling from another cliff later... argh! It's all a swirl of possibilities in my head.

5551410
That's great! It gives her a character arc.

Well, a character that has everything figured out needs to be used in a different way.

I mean, they did good, but they could have done so much more. AJ could have ben a symbol of stability. Instead, we get the background pony jokes.

That's a really solid idea, and immediately adds extra context for AB suddenly becoming super close with Sweetie and Scoots. The only tricky part is not making it directly Nightmare Moon's fault, I think. That's a whole lot of resentment to carry forward with AJ, for one thing, and NMM never really tried to hurt anypony, as I recall. Bribe, scare, and disorient, yes, but never really injure or kill.

Now that I write it out, actually, yeah it could work if it was directly, if not intentionally, NMM's fault. Gives Luna something real solid to feel guilty about (Tantabus episode could look WAY different) and adds a dimension of absolutely justified anger and grief for the entire Apple family toward the returning monarch. Diarch.
5551476

I'll just never get over "Dear Princess Celestia, I didn't learn anything!"

My only real defense for this is that sometimes, however rarely, someone really is just right from the word go. It's important to learn and grow and all that jazz, but "know when you're already in the right place" is a less often taught (and less often needed, to be fair) lesson.

Now, I don't think the writers thought that hard about it at the time, but it fits with the central idea of AJ already basically being baked to completion from day 1.

Really, I feel like Applejack as she exists would have been fine if the show's structure allowed her to be several years older than the rest of the primary cast. Now, she's the one they go to for advice because she's already got a lot of life experiences.

The problem with doing that, however, is probably immediately clear to most of you: That sort of character only really works as a supporting character, rather than a main character. Had the show only had Twilight as its main character (rather than all six of them, and sometimes Spike is in the script), then maybe it could've worked. Now, Applejack is the (not too) wizened country mentor who manages Sweet Apples Acres with her brother, her mother, and her daughter, and we can have new lessons about responsibilities, family, living with loss, growing up with only one parent and so on, and will as adapting to changes, meeting new neighbors and friends, and how to navigate the world when you aren't quite sure you recognize it anymore.

I don't know how the hell you sell toys doing that, though. Maybe if Apple Bloom was a main character instead, and now you have toys again, but also lessons about family appreciation when she starts to really wonder about her father and....




Hey, uh, someone maybe want to put a light on? I ended up in the weeds and I don't know how to get back.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

5551496
My ulterior motive is of course to get someone else to write this. :3

5551537

The only tricky part is not making it directly Nightmare Moon's fault, I think.

Yeah, this was definitely on my mind. She's gonna carry resentment towards Luna for being Nightmare Moon, or resentment towards Twilight for having gotten her involved or something. Which presents good storytelling opportunities, but also kind of throws a wrench into the "deep, abiding friendship from the word go" angle.

"know when you're already in the right place" is a less often taught (and less often needed, to be fair) lesson.

The only problem with this is everyone just goes around assuming they're right all the time, regardless of whether or not they are. :B Critical thinking is more necessary, if you ask me.

AJ being underused is low key the biggest missed opportunity from Faust leaving so soon. There's no way her stories wouldn't have been a ton better with some TLC.

How about we double down on her being responsible and having everything together? I would love to see her in a s10 comic be a sheriff or a temporary mayor.

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