The makers of ‘The Simpsons’ have defended the character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon from accusations he is a negative stereotype of Indian immigrants in America.
In 2017, comedian Hari Kondabolu released his documentary ‘The Problem with Apu’ – which featured commentary and opinion from Aziz Ansari, Whoopi Goldberg and Kal Penn among others – which discussed whether or not the cartoon Kwik-E-Mart owner had caused casual racism in the US and whether or not the fact that a white actor had voiced the Indian character was a form of brownface minstrelsy.
The documentary received a lot of support for tackling the apparent problems and Hank Azaria – the white Jewish actor who has voiced Apu since 1989 – spoke out to accept that the documentary had made some “really interesting points” and had given “us a lot at ‘The Simpsons’ to think about. He also apologized if his alter ego had been “hurtful or offensive” to anybody.
Now, in the latest episode of ‘The Simpsons,’ the makers have broken the fourth-wall to reply to Apu’s critics.
In the story ‘No Good Read Goes Unpunished’ the animation opens with Marge realizing how many stereotypes are contained within her favorite childhood book ‘The Princess in the Garden’ by Heloise Hodgeson Burwell – a take on ‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Marge is then visited in a dream by fictional author Heloise and Rudyard Kipling who tell her to change the book to fit 2018 standards, but when she reads the updated version to Lisa she realizes that “the spirit and character” has been removed from the book.
Marge then asks, “What am I supposed to do?” To which Lisa responds by looking at the camera and saying, “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” A black and white photo of Apu is seen next to Lisa’s bed featuring the words “Don’t have a cow” to reiterate the show’s message. Marge then says, “Some things will be dealt with at a later date”, and Lisa then adds, “If at all.”
However, the creative team’s attempt to address the criticism of Apu has been met with derision by ‘The Problem with Apu’ maker Kondabolu.
Accusing the writers of missing the point of his documentary, he posted on Twitter: “Wow. ‘Politically Incorrect?’ That’s the takeaway from my movie and the discussion it sparked? Man, I really loved this show. This is sad.”
He added in another tweet: “In The Problem with Apu, I used Apu and The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups and why this is important. The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress.”