Before The Simpsons breaks Gunsmoke's record for the most episodes of a scripted, primetime television series on Sunday, creator Matt Groening discussed the recent debate over longtime Springfield resident Apu Nahasapeemapetilon and issues of Indian-American representation.
When asked if he had any thoughts regarding Apu as a cultural stereotype, Groening admitted he didn't have many thoughts about the criticism.
"I’m proud of what we do on the show," Groening told USA Today. "And I think it’s a time in our culture where people love to pretend they’re offended."
The criticism over Apu was ignited last year with comedian Hari Kondabolu's truTV documentary The Problem with Apu. In his special, Kondabolu interviewed other actors and comedians about their relationship with the iconic Simpsons character and examined the double-edged sword of what his representation has meant for Indian-Americans.
The show directly acknowledged the criticism earlier this month in a brief exchange between Marge and Lisa, with Lisa speaking to the problem of shifting perspectives in art, in an obvious reference to Apu. USA Today asked Groening about the end of this scene and Marge's statement of, "Some things will be addressed at a later date,” with Lisa responding, “If at all.”
"We’ll let the show speak for itself," Groening said.
While Groening did little to add any clarification, current Simpsons showrunner Al Jean promised that this wouldn't be the last we'd hear about Apu's status.
Meanwhile, the voice of Apu, Hank Azaria, has offered to step down from the role, given that part of the contention is with a white actor doing an exaggerated accent, arguably, for comedic effect. “I’m perfectly willing and happy to step aside, or help transition [the character] into something new,” Azaria said on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “I really hope that’s what The Simpsons does. Not only does it make sense it feels like the right thing to do.”
The Simpsons' 636th episode airs Sunday at 8 pm ET/PT on Fox.