The character has been in the spotlight thanks to the 2017 documentary film "The Problem with Apu," written by and starring comedian Hari Kondabolu.
The doc examines the negative stereotypes of "The Simpsons" character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, who was the first figure of South Asian/Indian heritage to appear regularly on U.S. TV. For a while, he was the only Indian character to be featured.
Critics have argued that every character on "The Simpsons" is a stereotype. Fair enough. But the difference is that "The Simpsons" is one of the only places where we see a South Asian character on TV, as opposed to plenty of other depictions of Caucasian people across media -- beyond Scottish parodies like Willy, dim police chief stereotypes like Wiggum, white liberal feminists like Lisa, etc. There are 1.324 billion people in India, and about 3.5 million Indian-Americans.
Hank Azaria voices Apu, and also Moe Szyslak, Chief Wiggum, Comic Book Guy, and Carl Carlson, among others. He was on "The Late Show" to talk about Apu, and said he'd like to see some Indian writers in "The Simpsons" writers room to help shepherd how the character moves forward, including how it's voiced.
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) April 25, 2018
In lighter news, Stephen Colbert just spent several minutes pressing Hank Azaria about Apu, and this is how it culminated: pic.twitter.com/2TAfgpC7V2
— Jonathan Goldsbie (@goldsbie) April 25, 2018
— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) April 25, 2018
Absolutely incredible. Years and years of explaining the simple values of representation, dignity, and inclusion pay off. @HariKondabolu you've fought for, and won us (and our parents!) the respect we always deserved. https://t.co/bihahdciEx
— Anil Dash Dot Com (@anildash) April 25, 2018
I'm so proud of my friend @harikondabolu for the years of work he put into pushing The Simpsons into acknowledging the harm they've done with Apu. I wish he & so many other South Asian people didn't have to fight so hard & so long for this basic recognition of their humanity https://t.co/rsGFJYwP7s
— Ijeoma Oluo (@IjeomaOluo) April 25, 2018
Interesting reply from Azaria and a much better one than the show gave, quite honestly. Wonder what'll happen next... https://t.co/KHR8o7rubE
— Henry Gilbert (@hEnereyG) April 25, 2018
"The Simpsons" recently addressed the controversy on screen in a scene with Lisa and Marge Simpson, seeming to dismiss the Apu controversy as simply "PC."
Lisa: "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?"
That response was disappointing to many fans. (That they had Lisa, of all characters, make that argument was a source of further frustration.) Showrunner Al Jean responded by saying, "I truly appreciate all responses pro and con. Will continue to try to find an answer that is popular and more important right."
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