The Simpsons Address Apu Social Justice Warrior Controversy

The latest episode of the popular, long-running cartoon The Simpsons addressed the controversy surrounding the character of Apu for the first time.

Last year, stand-up comic, actor and filmmaker Hari Kondabolu, who is of Indian-American heritage, made a documentary titled “The Problem With Apu”. In that film, he said that the character was founded on racial stereotypes.

The much loved character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the shopkeeper of Springfield’s “Kwik-E-Mart” has been part of the show since 1990, and is voiced by a white voice actor, who puts on a heavy Indian accent.

Hari described the character as “problematic” to the BBC last year, because he is defined by his job, as well as the large amount of children he has in his arranged marriage. He also said that Apu was one of the only representations of South-East Asians on American television when he was growing up and other children would imitate the character to ridicule him.

The newest episode of The Simpsons acknowledged and made a nod to the accusations, but some fans found it insufficient. Others, however, defended the show, arguing that all its characters were based on stereotypes. A major example would be The Bumble Bee Man, who represents a stereotypical Mexican (the bee outfit is just a bonus), and Groundskeeper Willie represents a stereotypical Scotsman. So that does mean The Simpsons have been racist for years, and we’re only just noticing it?

Or is it simply a case of the latest social justice warrior attempt in trying to ruin The Simpsons for being ultimately funny? We believe it’s the latter.

Source: ABC News

Anyway, during the new episode itself, Marge and Lisa Simpson indirectly discuss the controversy around the characterisation of Apu. In the scene, Marge is reading a bedtime story, that has been altered to be more politically correct. However, Lisa objects to this, and Marge asks what she’s supposed to do.

At this, Lisa then 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?”

She then looks over to a photo of Apu on her bedside, which is signed with: “Don’t have a cow – Apu.”

The episode didn’t go unnoticed by Hari, who soon after posted to Twitter to express his disappointment at how the show’s creators addressed the controversy.

The makers of The Simpsons have not yet commented publicly on this issue. However, one writer, Al Jean posted to Twitter a few minutes before the new episode: “New Simpsons in five minutes. Twitter explosion in act three.”

Hank Azaria, who has voiced Apu for almost 30 years, said earlier this year that he found it upsetting, both personally and professionally, that anyone would be treated insignificantly because of the character.

“The Simpsons’ over the years has been pretty humorously offensive to all manner of people Republicans, Brazilians, presidents, high school principals, school principals, Italians, you name it,” he stated.

“And they take a lot of pride over there in not apologizing for any of that. I think, over the years, they’ve done a really good job of being, shall we say, uniformly offensive without being outright hurtful.”

What are your thoughts on this controversy? Do you agree that Apu is a racist stereotype, or do you believe that political correctness is a cancer that wants to ultimately censor the right to freedom of speech? As Bart Simpson would obviously put it, “don’t have a cow, man!”


<Story by Emily Clark>

Featured Photo Credit: Mashable

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