Last night, The Simpsons finally responded to criticisms that the show’s character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon perpetuated racist stereotypes about South Asian people.
The controversy started with the documentary The Problem with Apu, made by comedian Hari Kondabolu. The documentary — which also explores the lack of any meaningful South Asian characters or role models in U.S. media — argues that Apu’s character and accent is offensive to South Asians.
In the show, Apu is an Indian immigrant, voiced by a white actor Hank Azaria, who also voices Moe Szyslak, Chief Wiggum, Comic Book Guy, Jonathan Frink, and Snake Jailbird.
“I have always loved The Simpsons. It’s one of the main reasons that I knew you could be smart and funny and political at the same time,” Kondabolu explained in the documentary.
“I know Apu is one of the smartest characters on The Simpsons, granted that the bar isn’t set very high, but that’s not why people liked him. They just liked his accent.”
On the late night talk show Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, Kondabolu explained his beef with Apu’s voice: “A cartoon character voiced by Hank Azaria, a white guy. A white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father.”
Other South Asian actors and comedians interviewed in the documentary agree with Kondabolu, and many described how Apu and his catchphrase “Thank you, come again” was used to taunt them when they were younger.
In The Simpsons’ recent episode titled “No Good Read Goes Unpunished,” Marge and Lisa are reading a book called The Princess in the Garden which Marge updated to remove racist stereotypes. However, she then admits that by taken so she has taken “the spirit and character out of [the] book” and asks Lisa for advice.
“It’s hard to say,” Lisa responds, breaking the fourth wall. “Something that started decades ago, and was applauded and inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”
The scene then cuts to a photo of Apu with the caption “Don’t have a cow.” Marge states, “Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” with Lisa adding, “If at all.”
Shortly after the episode aired, fans took to Twitter to share their disappointment with the way the show handled the controversy. Read their reactions below and let us know what you think of The Simpson‘s response in the comment section.
The director of ‘The Problem with Apu’ thought the response missed the mark
While fans felt let down by the show
Especially because it used Lisa’s character to deliver the line
And others pointed out that Apu has always been offensive
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