Derpy Hooves vs The People
He’s a tale of internet and media drama that is currently unfolding. It involves rampant fandom, over-zealous parents, social networking, censorship and ponies.
Just to get things established, the ponies in question are the cartoony ones from the latest version of the My Little Pony television series. In case you’re new to the internet (in that case, welcome! Don’t trust anyone.) and you don’t know, a strange phenomenon has arisen around My Little Pony. Although the show is clearly marketed at young girls and their mothers a following has arisen among the 14-35 year old male demographic. This group of fans have taken to themselves as ‘Bronies’ and will vehemently defend their passion for every Pony related. Making this even more unusual is the base of this fandom – the infamous 4chan. This site is the home to ‘trolls’, internet bullies and hack group Anonymous, creating a greater juxtaposition between the show and the fans. What seems to have started as a joke on their site has become a genuine affection for the show. Somehow.
One day a member of 4chan noticed something and posted it to the site. Standing in the background of a scene was a grey pony whose eyes were curiously pointed in opposite directions. Bearing a resemblance to the recurring ‘derp’ character from the site, this nameless background character was thus dubbed ‘Derpy Hooves’.
Derpy Hooves featured in fan art and fan fiction, being given a personality, backstory, a love of muffins and job (as mailpony) by the ‘Bronies’. Although the character was confirmed to be a mistake on the part of an animator, Derpy was a fan favourite. The show animators got wind of this insane level of dedication and started adding Derpy Hooves into the background of the show more often, retaining the odd eyes and turning it into running ‘Where’s Wally’ type game.
When Season 3 rolled around, the shows creator took things one step further and made Derpy Hooves a canon character on the show as a response the fans passion for her. The creator, Lauren Faust, toyed with the idea of renaming her ‘Ditzy Hooves’, but left the character intact with the exception of making her a professional mover instead of a mail deliverer. Derpy was clumsy, dim and spoke thickly, much to the delight of Derpy’s online fans.
Of course there was a large slice of the audience who weren’t in on the backstory – those little girls and their mothers. Some of those mothers took Derpy Hooves the wrong way. They, in fact, somehow took Derpy to be an insult directed at people suffering from mental disabilities. A petition was promptly started (via the mighty Facebook) demanding that Hasbro change Derpy’s name, eyes, voice, personality and issue a formal apology. Apart from the idiocy of demanding a character be stripped of everything that makes them unique instead of removing the character entirely, there’s plenty wrong with this logic.
Firstly, they didn’t take the time to find out what the expression ‘derp’ refers to (a clumsy action or stupid comment) and assumed that it was intended to be an insult. Secondly, and most importantly, looking at a character who is depicted as stupid and clumsy and automatically assuming that it’s intended to represent the disabled community is a whole new level of offensive. The hundreds of people who have signed the petition need to have a good, hard think about why they made the leap between this character and people who are mentally handicapped. Some people who are living with disabilities have come out in defense of Derpy Hooves, claiming that they’ve never seen the character as offensive, insulting or in any way referencing disabilities.
The whole thing smacks of the reactionary response to the game Resident Evil 5, during which many complaints were submitted to Capcom claiming that a white character shooting down zombies who happen to be black is racist. Not that anyone had a problem with Spanish people being used as target practice in the previous game, but black people need suburban white people to defend them, dammit!
More recently a Fox News anchor announced that The Muppet Show was trying to brainwash kids by depicting the evil bad guy as an oil baron. This was stupid on such a level that the official response from the film-makers was delivered by a pig puppet.
This isn’t the first time this kind of stupidity has been aimed at My Little Pony. The character Rainbow Dash came under fire from parenting groups two years earlier for promoting homosexuality.
So to those who have come out on the attack against Derpy Hooves, stop looking for things are going to offend you or pretending that something is offensive just so you’ve got an excuse to get your pants in a bunch. Nobody likes you.