Monday, March 5, 2012
Dealing with Derpy
I have waited about a week to write on the Derpy issue because I honestly needed this long to sit and think about what exactly I wanted to say about the fandom's favorite mailmare. I'm sure things will still not come out that coherently but I wanted to at least attempt to share my feelings on the issue. I don't want to create drama, in fact I want less drama, but I also want to be very clear on something that has bothered me.
So a recap for those out there who don't know who the pony pictured above is pretty much goes like this. In the opening episode there was a pony standing in the background that had an animation error. As the internet would say her eyes were "derped" pointing in different directions. The pony fandom grew and kind of adopted this pony as the mascot of the fandom. Using her as a subject people draw artwork, wrote fanfic, created comic strips and flash animations etc. As the fandom grew this pony gained a "fanon" name, occupation, personality, etc. The creators at the studio saw how much the fans loved this random background pony so they started to slip her into the background of scenes and made a bit of a where's waldo type of thing. In season two the pony was "officially" named on the show with her "fanon" name Derpy and many fans rejoiced. It is pretty much unprecedented that a cartoon show would give out shout out of such epic proportions. However there were some complaints and Hasbro decided to pull the episode and redo the scene with the name Derpy omitted.
Derp isn't a word you will find in the print dictionary which is one of the problems with the Derpy fiasco. Derp has many different definitions; there are 91 listed on urban dictionary. However I think some sampling of the synonyms "stupid retard dumb funny idiot fail moron retarded" speak volumes about the word.
Now I'm a bit the odd "man" out in the brony fandom as I'm not only female, but older than many of the male members. But I'm not new to the internet and something I ran across years ago were some active communities discussing feminism, racism, white washing, the representations of people of color in media, and ableism. I am not vocal in the communities myself as I honestly don't feel qualified to talk about it for the most part, but I do read the blogs and I have over the years tried to do what little I can to make things a more hospitable place for everyone.For example, I do not support whitewashing, sexist remarks, or using ableist terms. I interact with some special needs kids on a daily basis and I have trained myself to avoid words that are disrespectful and unfortunately part of our everyday language. I don't think I succeed all of the time. I really need to work on the word "lame" as I've noticed it has slipped into my speech, but at least I try not to and if I were called out on saying something even if I did not mean it in an offensive way I would apologize.
Derpy is an ableist term.
I understand that most people probably don't even know this. I understand that for many, many people in the fandom the word derpy is synonymous with goofy. I honestly do not believe that the fandom was intending to be offensive or to poke fun at mentally disabled people. But honestly guys, as a fandom we screwed up here. I wish everyone could sit down for just a moment and look deep down and buck up and accept the fact that Derpy was never an appropriate name for our favorite background pony. Then we could say sorry I didn't realize and move on. Fighting to use an ableist term just kind of makes us look like insensitive asses.
As far as Hasbro goes I think it's wonderful that they gave the fans such a great shout out. We really loved it and rejoiced and moments like that are part of what makes this fandom so cool. I mean how many other people have the kind of relationship with the show's creators that we do? But I really wish that Faust or Thiessen could have used the opportunity to tell the fandom that Derpy, the character, is awesome and the love is much appreciated but that the name can't and shouldn't be used. And I wonder if that had happened if they would have been taken more seriously than probably anyone is taking me right now? At the end of the day I can understand why the fans are upset. We were given something really cool only to have it taken away and there were no real explanations as to why until recently.
But now we do have an explanation, and it's straight from the horse's mouth. I would hope with this new information that people would just stop. No hatemail, no spamming, no drama. As Amy Keating Rogers wrote, "Let's remember what the message of MLP:FiM is--tolerance, kindness, understanding, and, most importantly, friendship." I think this is pretty much perfect but I'd like to add that the pony fandom doesn't really have a place for jackasses so don't be one.