The latest episode of the Simpsons has addressed the controversy surrounding Indian character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon over claims the popular show has a “racist” depiction of South Asians.
Last year Indian-American comic Hari Kondabolu released a documentary ‘The Problem with Apu’, about how South Asian people have dealt with seeing most of their American representation on television come from The Simpsons’ convenience store owner, Apu voiced by white actor Hank Azaria who puts on a heavy, stereotypical Indian accent.
Kondabolu discusses in the documentary his own experience with Apu, who he describes as sounding like “an impression of a white guy making fun of my dad.” He interviews people like Kal Penn and Aziz Ansari, who talk about how Apu’s accent and stereotypes have been used to mock or bully them.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Kondabolu said “You start to feel embarrassed to be an Indian,”
“Because there’s only one representation.”
The documentary has sparked an ongoing debate about representation on TV, and the newest episode of The Simpsons finally addressed the controversial topic.
A scene in episode No Good Read Goes Unpunished, the characters of Marge and Lisa indirectly discuss the controversy around the characterisation.
In the scene, Marge reads a book to daughter Lisa that has been to make it more politically correct, but her daughter objects. Marge then asks her daughter what she is supposed to do.
Lisa turns to the camera and says: “It’s hard to say. Something that started a long time ago decades ago, that was applauded and was inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”
A photo of Apu, inscribed with the words “Don’t have a cow” is then shown on Lisa’s bedside table. The phrase is a favourite of Bart’s, meaning don’t get all upset about it.
“Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” Marge promises.
“If at all,” Lisa adds.
Before the show aired, showrunner Al Jean tweeted, “New Simpsons in five minutes. Twitter explosion in act three.”
Reaction to the episode on social media has been mixed. Some people were fine with the response and pointed out that a lot of characters in the fictional town of Springfield are based on stereotypes while others said the brief reference brushed off the debate.
Wow. “Politically Incorrect?” That’s the takeaway from my movie & the discussion it sparked? Man, I really loved this show. This is sad. https://t.co/lYFH5LguEJ
— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) April 9, 2018
Kondabolu responded to the episode on Twitter. “Wow. “Politically Incorrect?” That’s the takeaway from my movie & the discussion it sparked? Man, I really loved this show. This is sad,” he wrote.
Representatives for Fox and 20th Century Fox Television said that producers prefer to let the episode “speak for itself.”