Scootareader Looks Into: Disabilities


From early on in the development of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, bronies have influenced the direction of the show in very interesting ways. One of these has been background characters—those deemed so unnecessary that they may not even be given a name. Nearly every pony created so far, from a pegasus jumping on a cloud to an earth pony wrapping up winter to a unicorn doing his daily shopping, has received some kind of unofficial name from the bronies.

One of these characters, having existed since the first episode, is Derpy Hooves. Originally canonically Ditzy Doo, the fandom somehow managed to change the minds of the creators of the show to change her name as a shout-out to bronies. In episode 14 of season 2, The Last Roundup, we had our moment: On the official show, Rainbow Dash said, “Careful, Derpy!” The cheer that went up in the room of bronies I was watching it with woke up half the people still sleeping in my dorm.

Imagine our surprise when they took her away from us again.

The official and most logical reason Derpy Hooves was removed from the episode is because she had offended at least one of the viewers. There are some out there who are under the impression that Derpy Hooves suffers from a disability known as strabismus, better known as lazy eye.

The very pony who caused a show edit from The Hub.

The very pony who caused a show edit from The Hub.

In all reality, this assumption could very well be correct. We don’t have a list of pony disabilities, only what we see and observe. I can also say with some confidence that at least one of the viewers of the show who has strabismus doesn’t find Derpy offensive in the least; there is an article I read, the link lost to the cosmos, in which a man took a picture of his eyes, then said Derpy was amazing and unoffensive.

However, the motherly mentality of children’s shows today could very well have changed this. As stupid as it sounds, someone who suffers from no disabilities whatsoever could still take offense at something like Derpy Hooves’ portrayal. It’s likely that a lot of hate mail got sent in clamoring for a rework of the episode, so not only Hasbro but The Hub had their hand forced in this matter.

Now, is this a reasonable way to go about thinking of the matter? I think not. Granny Smith suffers from a disability; she has a bad hip, being portrayed not only in episode number 3 of the show but also in her miniature figurine as having a walker, plus she’s eccentric and forgetful, which obviously is an insult to her disability. How dare The Hub put such smut in a children’s show!

This isn't offensive... but a silly pony is?

This isn’t offensive… but a silly pony is?

What about other shows? How about… Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. Let’s look at Cheese. He’s one of the most popular characters of the entire series, despite constantly rambling about liking chocolate milk. How is a character like that not offensive? He has far more lines, a far more accurate portrayal, and a far higher chance at being offensive to people who have real disabilities.

Let’s look at something a little further away—that is, not created by Lauren Faust. How about The Fairly OddParents! That can’t be offensive, right? It’s one of the most successful children’s shows of its time, if I’m not mistaken.

Oh, no, look at Cosmo. He’s a bumbling idiot. If there’s a depiction of mental handicaps in a TV show, let him be the epitome. What’s worse, he’s a recurring character! He’s in every single iteration of the show, being depicted as extremely foolish, airheaded, and unobservant, jarringly so.

Now, wait a minute. Am I claiming that Cosmo and Cheese suffer from mental handicaps?

No. Of course they don’t. They’re comic relief. In shows or scenes where things start to feel a little too serious, the comic relief inserts witty, sarcastic, or silly quips that release the tension that has been building up in the scene. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

So, what’s wrong with Derpy Hooves? Just as much as there’s something wrong with Cosmo and Cheese. You have a character similar to this in just about every single show in existence; heck, even Pinkie Pie is largely comic relief, and hers is silly humor, just as Derpy’s is. I haven’t seen them alter any episodes because Pinkie Pie crossed some imaginary line.

A shining example of comic relief. Cosmo is funny because he's stupid, simply put.

A shining example of comic relief. Cosmo is funny because he’s stupid, simply put.

Cosmo doesn’t represent mental handicap, just as Derpy doesn’t represent strabismus. That anyone would try to slap these labels on something funny just puts a really bad taste in my mouth. The part that I find worst about this whole ordeal is articles like this, claiming that Derpy suffers from any type of mental disability. Oh, so now Pinkie Pie needs to be changed, as do other offensive cartoons Flapjack, The Regular Show, Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, Phineas and Ferb, and any show in which a character seems somewhat airheaded at any time. Humor in a show for kids is unnecessary, right?

Whatever way I try to reconcile the reasoning for wanting to alter Derpy, it still seems just as stupid to me as anything else the concerned mothers take arms against. I mean, the earlier iterations of My Little Pony stereotyped women! You don’t see these children’s rights warriors looking back on the cartoons of their generation with regret, or even casting their ever-scrutinizing eye to the stereotyping shows of today—which is, by the way, just about every show for little girls out there.

Furthermore, Equestria isn’t a perfect world. Disabilities are bound to exist somehow, just as they do in the real world. The more troubling part, to me, is when disabilities aren’t portrayed in some fashion in a show. Children learn a lot by watching cartoons, and if they see a character with a disability being accepted and considered a productive member of society, which Derpy Hooves has been, then they will see someone with a disability on the street and not see “something that shouldn’t exist.” They will only see “productive member of society.”

Imperfection is, in its own way, the greatest thing about our species. Having every character in a series a cookie cutter of the last one is not only boring, but severely limiting on the educational value of a show. Have someone act weird but still be treated as helpful in the long run, like Cosmo, and suddenly, the show has become a boon for understanding.

The way I see it, removing Derpy Hooves has done nothing but take away from the show what could have been something great. I’m thankful that they haven’t gone through and removed the derpy eyes completely, but having an imperfect voice is hardly something that should be cause for alarm. In all reality, it was just an overreaction from the viewers that forced The Hub to change something that I feel they shouldn’t have changed, but… well, the line had to get drawn somewhere, and I guess we don’t get to draw the line.

There's really something wrong with this scene? Really?

There’s really something wrong with this scene? Really?

As it is, I have the episode version with original Derpy, and I hope that most of you do as well. In fact, I tried to find the altered version a while back and was unable to locate it anywhere that’s free to download. Maybe I wasn’t thorough enough, but really, the only free versions of The Last Roundup seem to be the original with Derpy unedited.

I believe that, if we’re to let television be a part of our children’s lives, it needs to be educational and informative as well as entertaining. That means being able to accept harsh realities and know how to portray them properly so that disabilities, just as in real life, are depicted in cartoons as something observable, but not insulting. I can see the construence of potentially offensive, but feel that, ultimately, this would have been a positive thing for children.

I know that everyone in the brony fandom is a lonely neckbeard, but statistically, most of us will actually have children at some point in our lives. For those of us that do, I hope that placing a high value on proper education of our children is a common trait. I want my children to believe that disabilities are normal, and, in fact, something to be embraced in someone.

Derpy didn’t ask for her eyes, or her name; they simply happened. Fixing what makes her who she is is just as wrong as trying to fix a disabled friend for who they are. In a perfect world, perhaps there are no disabilities; but we’re not in a perfect world, and portraying our favorite characters as living in a perfect world will do nothing but harm. Derpy belongs as just who she is, and no amount of complaining from a concerned mother can take away what makes her unique. So, let’s celebrate our differences, rather than try to erase them. That, to me, is a world for Derpy.

One Comment
  1. Fanwork has been almost universally kind toward the Derpster. In one of my own stories, we hear Twilight correcting someone’s (not “somepony’s,” which is a clue) misapprehension:

    “Derpy is a very sweet mare. She works very hard and she flies really well. That’s why she has bubbles on her flank. Her name comes from an old word in the Ancient tongue that means ‘lighter than air’. She could have been a champion flier, except that she has poor vision and is kind of uncoordinated.”

    A handwave — er, hoofwave? Of course. But none of us are perfect, or even close to it; and, as the old song says, you’ve got to accentuate the positive.

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