BIG EDIT: Amy Keating Rogers, the author of the episode, has set the record straight on just about everything you could want to know. In light of that, most of this post is probably out of date, except to give anyone who wasn't there a rough idea of what it was like, or, toward the end, for anyone interested in my own personal advice on how to write an angry letter. Skip down until I start quoting "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" and you'll be in the general vicinity.
Regarding the recent edit to Derpy's cameo in "The Last Roundup": This is me taking it on myself to try to help with the proceedings. My two bits. (I'm not going to touch the issue of her giving her a speaking role to begin with, besides to say that I'm fond of this video of a chat full of viewers reacting to the scene for the very first time. As one comment put it before the controversy got going: "For a good second, second and a half, you could have heard a pin dropped in the internet. =3")
From what I can tell, there have been several interpretations about exactly why this edit was made, what was being edited to begin with, and -- this comes up a lot -- how any given fan should react to it. I've seen all of these in varying numbers. The following summaries may be a bit jaundiced, and probably influenced by the sample of viewers willing to discuss it on a public forum to begin with, but most of these claims simply cannot be true at once. We'll never get anywhere if we can't even agree on what we're talking about.
1. What was "Derpy" supposed to represent in the first place? Many comments on the issue take one or the other for granted. The two readings of this that I have seen:
- (Update: A member of the staff has officially stated how they meant to portray Derpy. See below.)
- Derpy's cameo depicts her as clumsy and a bit ditzy, but was not meant as an attempt to actually introduce a mentally disabled character to the show.
- Derpy's depiction was intended not only as a treat for the fans, but to show her as being mentally handicapped...
- ...up front, in a children's cartoon, in a positive portrayal deserving of praise.
- "...and she's breaking everything and being played for laughs? Really?"
On a related note, I have read that when Tabitha St. Germain recorded Derpy's lines, she did not realize that Derpy was a girl, and gave her what was meant to be a boy's voice. I don't think that there can be any question that this affected how she came off, especially to someone who wasn't already in on the existing "Derpy Hooves" phenomenon.
UPDATE: I may have just missed this before, but the storyboarder for "The Last Roundup" has stated that Derpy was meant to be portrayed as "an accident-prone klutz", prone to innocently causing chaos. Read into that last part as you will. Whatever her other foibles, however, the production staff never intended for her to come off as mentally handicapped. (I suspect her voice may have been the tipping point.)
The scene was edited -- by Apple in the edition on the iTunes store, or by Hasbro with unclear implications on the future, I'm not sure anymore -- to edit out the name "Derpy", make her eyes more (though not completely) on-the-ball, and change her voice to something more "normal"-sounding while she gets up to the same clumsy, well-intentioned tomfoolery. Prior to this, Derpy's little corner of merchandise was pulled from an online store.
(I have also heard some people claiming categorically that My Little Pony will never feature Derpy again, that Hasbro is through taking chances of any kind, and that this is a clear step toward Orwellian censorship and a nightmarish world of no ponies or good things. To this, I can at least quote one of the show's animators, who has come out and said that Derpy will remain on the show in some capacity, eyes and all. I don't see any reason to believe that they had to fight for this.)
2. Naturally, this led to a response. Again, how we "should" feel about this issue seems to have come up unusually often. Proposed answers include, but are not limited to:
- How you should feel is subjective and up to the individual.
- A failure to be outraged is an admission of defeat in the name of all virtue.
- It's an irksome edit to a good show, not world-shaking, but annoying.
- Derpy's editing should be treated as if a real person had been murdered. (I wouldn't mention this, but I've heard it more than once.)
- It's a cartoon for little girls; you know the line.
- It's an irksome change indicative of a much deeper, more troublesome problem.
...in no particular order.
3. However, before committing to a particular reaction, it's important to understand why the scene was edited in the first place. This isn't an exhaustive list, but I have heard the following explanations put forward:
- Some have claimed that this can only be a statement of open and naked intolerance for "different" people, which may refer to people with unusual eyes or the mentally handicapped, depending on what they believe she was to begin with. (I'm going to go ahead and call this one unlikely, given that other possibilities exist.)
- Someone was afraid Derpy's name, appearance, voice and behavior would bee seen as a stereotyped caricature, and whatever the intent behind it was, they had the scene edited to avoid any ruffled feathers.
- ...or someone saw her portrayal as an insensitive (intolerant?) caricature and actually was offended.
- Working from the assumption that Derpy was depicted as mentally handicapped, The Powers That Be saw this and counted it as inherently taboo.
- Business executives truly and sincerely hate fun, and have launched a campaign with the express purpose of eliminating humor from the world.
In any event, of course, I strongly doubt that any offense was meant. (In the vein of "They killed Derpy", there has also been an unusual trend of seeing this as a serious personal slight against Derpy herself.)
UPDATE AGAIN: In light of the above, it may be important to stress that Derpy was not intended to be mentally handicapped in the first place.
This leaves the issue of what to do. The campaign to "save" Derpy is well-established, although I think portraying her as a put-upon, confused, desperate-to-please pegasus with a mental disability (and, often, tears in her eyes) who doesn't understand why everyone hates her was a serious misstep. If you want to write to Hasbro or Apple to protest their editing of Derpy's speaking role in My Little Pony, this is my personal advice:
- If you talk down to them as fools with narrow minds, low foreheads, and no sense of humor, then they will disregard you. It doesn't matter if you think any of the above is accurate. People do not like to be insulted, and it will not help to punctuate your points.
- If you send them a missive taking them to task for killing a poor, innocent pegasus, they will probably be weirded out... and then disregard you in the grand scheme of things, except to comment, "Have you seen what some of these guys write?"
- If you write them a letter or a note that shows (politely, of course) that you understand their motives and have good reason to object to their decision, you will probably get a polite form letter saying that they listen to all of their viewers and aim to please.
The last one, in case you couldn't tell, is the best way I can recommend to go about objecting to this decision. You might think that you're being ignored, but if you can't believe that they care in principle, then remember that, at worst, they are in this to promote their merchandise and sell the show. Then, to borrow from Arlo Guthrie...
"And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin' a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. They may think it's an organization. And can you- can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people walking in, singin' a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out, and friends, they may think it's a movement..."
"...And that's what it is, the Derpy Hooves Anti-Censorship Movement, and..."
...and without betraying any of my own views on the matter, well, I do like that song.