The following is a conversation via e-mail between the Save Derpy Tumblr that was recently established and Amy Keating Rogers, writer of The Last Roundup (and many other great episodes). It never occured to me that I should have written her, as we spoke several months ago about the Season 3 leaks and the changes to the staff at Studio B. But Daniel who runs the Save Derpy Tumblr spoke with her on the whole situation, and it sheds some light at least into the creative aspect of the scene (namely that it was much longer) and other details, including some about the choice behind the changes to the episode.
Letter after the break.
Whew, this controversy has been overwhelming and exhausting!
I actually had no idea that fans were really upset about the “Derpy Change” until your email. And I didn’t actually know about the change until I got an email last week from a fan telling me about it!
Let me try and put some rumors at rest and calm the fans. And to do that, let’s go back to the beginning.
When I first wrote this episode, the character under such harsh scrutiny was named Ditzy Doo. We had already established in previous episodes that she was clumsy (she is not the pony you want on your moving crew). And we named her Ditzy Doo thinking of her as a being a bit dingy.
The scene I wrote was originally longer and had a flashback explaining exactly what Ditzy Doo had done to damage Town Hall. She and Rainbow Dash were “Bucking Bolts” out of the clouds during a storm. Ditzy Doo was bucking too close to Ponyville central. Rainbow kept trying to yell over the noisy bucking for Ditzy to move away from town. But Ditzy could not hear her and thought that Rainbow was complimenting her for her great buck bolting. Ditzy then hit Town Hall with a bolt. And, thus, the damage.
For the second draft, I was asked to change Ditzy’s name to Derpy as a “tip of the hat” to the fans. So, not knowing that Derpy meant anything beyond klutzy and clumsy, I did as requested And then I was finished with this episode.
I had nothing to do with the original voice casting. In my mind, she was ditzy, as her original name implied. But that’s not anything I was ever involved with MLP. The scene was made shorter because the script was too long and because the story wasn’t about Ditzy/Derpy. It was about Applejack.
When this episode first aired, I did not see it until after I started getting emails either thanking me or berating me for Derpy’s portrayal. The angry emails really freaked me out because I knew that I had not written a scene that could possibly be interpreted as being insensitive to people with disabilities.
So, when I got home, I watched the episode. I saw that the scene was shorter, which did not surprise me. That happens all the time. I listened to her voice and it was deeper than I expected. However, I was not offended by any part of the scene in any way.
But I got about 10 emails saying how offended folks were. People labeled me an “ableist” (a word I’d never heard of) and said that I was being insensitive to the disabled by calling this character “derpy.” I then did a search on what derpy meant and the first things that came up were “embarrassing” and “awkward” which is what I thought. But then when I did more in-depth searches, I discovered that one definition is “retarded.”
Now, you have to realize that reading that made my heart sink. My son Soren (of Soarin’ fame) is severely disabled. We do not use the word “retarded” in our house because it really has become an offensive slur. And while I knew that it was only a minority of people that defined “derpy” this way, it still upset me that I was the writer that put that name out there. It was painfully ironic and goes against the fact that I’m an advocate for the disabled.
I also want to note here that while I got 10 negative emails, I also got about 200 positive ones! I knew that the majority of fans were not offended. I got emails from fans with siblings with disabilities and parents of kids with disabilities and fans who had disabilities themselves and none of them were offended. At first, I tried to answer all these emails, but then I just became too overwhelmed. Still, I want to thank you all for your support!
But I was not the only one getting contacted regarding Derpy’s portrayal. Positive and negative feedback was also being sent to Hasbro and the Hub. Someone at the Hub who knows about my personal connection with disabilities contacted me asking my opinion. We talked about various options of what to do.
1. Do nothing.
2. Cut Rainbow saying “Derpy” but keep Derpy’s voice.
3. Cut Rainbow saying “Derpy” and change Derpy’s voice.
4. Find a creative way to change Derpy’s name in a future episode
And I was honestly torn about which action should be taken. I went back and forth and back again. It was a no win situation. Fans were going to be offended no matter what. And while I was not personally offended by the scene, I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone that was. I know that if I was offended by something that I thought was disparaging against the disabled, I would want my voice heard. But then I also knew that an insensitive portrayal of someone with disabilities was never our intention, so why change it?
When that call ended, no decision was made. And it was not my decision to make. I am just a freelance writer here, not a network executive. That decision was up to Hasbro and the Hub. I am sure they weighed what was best for the MLP brand, the show, the network, and they may have even weighed in my personal situation. Maybe they wanted to spare me from getting anymore more hate mail and people calling me offensive names. It may have been only 10 emails, but each one made me feel absolutely horrible If the effect on me was part of their motivation for the change, I think that’s really amazing, incredibly sensitive, and very commendable.
In the end, Derpy’s voice was re-voiced to be more ditzy. And while, again, I had nothing to do with the casting, this is closer to the voice that was in my head. And as for cutting her name, if it truly can be defined as “retarded,” then I am personally glad that name is gone. I wouldn’t want my writing to perpetuate children–our target audience–to call other children “derpy” with that meaning behind it.
So, I know the fans are upset. But please don’t be upset at Hasbro or the Hub or DHX Media or the “Anti-Derpy” fans or me. Let’s remember what the message of MLP:FiM is–tolerance, kindness, understanding, and, most importantly, friendship.
All my best,
[03/02/2012] : Comment Section is now closed. There is a central page for DerpyGate located here.