The Simpsons’ response to the Apu stereotype may have made things worse

The Simpsons’ response to the Apu stereotype may have made things worse
Photo: By Subido originalmente por el usuario Holder en la Wikipedia en alemánico - Subido originalmente en la Wikipedia en alemánico, The Simpsons Logo, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Over recent months, there has been much debate about how appropriate and racially just the stereotype of Apu really is – and the Simpsons’ have responded.

However, their response may not please everyone who weighed in on the debate with the creators responding via a scene in a recent episode titled ‘No Good Read Goes Unpunished’.

The scene shows Lisa and Marge Simpson reading an updated version of ‘The Princess in the Garden’ and during the reading, Lisa says, “Something that started decades ago and was applauded is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”

Marge replies by saying that “Some things will be dealt with at a later date.”

And it appears that viewers aren’t happy with the response.

The initial debate began when comedian Hari Kondabolu made a documentary called ‘The Problem with Apu’. It is the characters strong Indian accent and occupation that Kondabolu says is hurtful for the Asian community describing the character as a “running joke” and that that joke is the fact Apu is Indian.

The voice of Apu, Hank Azaria believe that Kondabolu’s documentary brings up “some interesting points” and that there are many things we need to think about when it comes to Apu and racial stereotypes in general.

Hari Kondabolu said that The Simpsons’ response to his documentary was “sad” and that his documentary was not just about Apu and The Simpsons but “an entry point into larger conversations about the representation of marginalised groups”.

Many people have said that the address of the Apu situation should have come through a full episode and not just a quick mention in a short scene. The fact that Lisa was the one who pointed it out has also angered some people who believe that it is somewhat of a cop-out.

By having the scene played through Lisa Simpson, the show is effectively saying that their response is in line with the current progression and somehow implies they are doing something about it.

Evidently, this was not bought by many in the community with prominent film critic William Mullally saying that the shows response was a “massive slap in the face” ultimately providing no explanation of resolution.

It does seem though that the show was in a sense ready for the criticism knowing that regardless of how they approached the issue, there would be some backlash. Showrunner Al Jean tweeted in advance of the show airing “Twitter explosion in act three” in anticipation. Jean also retweeted many of the positive tweets regarding the shows address of the issue.