The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean has shared a statement to fans who responded to the show's handling of the Apu controversy on the series' latest episode, which many deemed arrogant and dismissive, promising to address the situation in a more respectful manner.
Jean posted his statement on Twitter, thanking those who have responded positively and negatively to the controversial episode. "I truly appreciate all responses pro and con. Will continue to try to find an answer that is popular & more important right," the showrunner wrote. Jean's response comes after he received criticism for his initial reaction to fan outrage, which involved multiple tweets that appeared to downplay the situation.
.@TheSimpsons I truly appreciate all responses pro and con. Will continue to try to find an answer that is popular & more important right— Al Jean (@AlJean) April 13, 2018
The Simpsons responded to the Apu controversy in its recent episode "No Good Read Goes Unpunished." In the episode, they addressed the controversy by having Marge read to Lisa an edited version of a fictional book, The Princess in the Garden, to make it more appropriate for modern audiences by making it less controversial. The two come to the realization that the edited version is not as good, prompting Marge to ask, “Well, what am I supposed to do?” Lisa declared, looking at the camera, “It’s hard to say. Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” A photo of Apu, on which “Don’t have a cow, man!” is written, is then shown. Marge added that, “Some things will be addressed at a later date,” and Lisa bluntly said, “if at all.”
Comedian Hari Kondabolu, whose 2017 documentary The Problem With Apu kickstarted the controversy around the character, responded to the episode with multiple tweets. “Wow. 'Politically Incorrect?' That’s the takeaway from my movie & the discussion it sparked? Man, I really loved this show. This is sad,” the comedian wrote in one tweet. In another tweet, he wrote, “In ‘The Problem with Apu,’ I used Apu & The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups & why this is important. The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress.”
Kondabolu's documentary outlined two major criticisms of The Simpsons' depiction of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. Firstly, having a non-Indian actor like Hank Azaria do an Indian accent for the character is similar to a white person acting in blackface. Kondabolu specifically noted that Azaria’s performance as Apu, which was based on a guy who worked at the 7-11 near where Azaria lived in Los Angeles in the late 1980s, sounds like “a white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father.” Secondly, making Apu such a prominent negative stereotype about Indian people opened up many Indian people to slurs and ridicule.
(via The Hollywood Reporter)