The news comes from producer Adi Shankar (Dredd), who launched a contest in April challenging young writers to craft a spec script for The Simpsons focused on transforming Apu "into a fresh, funny and realistic portrayal of Indians in America." Shankar had already chosen a contest winner when he learned the series is just dropping the character entirely.
"I got some disheartening news back, that I’ve verified from multiple sources now: They’re going to drop the Apu character altogether,” Shankar told IndieWire. “They aren’t going to make a big deal out of it, or anything like that, but they’ll drop him altogether just to avoid the controversy."
Shankar critiqued the removal of Apu from the show. "If you are a show about cultural commentary and you are too afraid to comment on the culture, especially when it’s a component of the culture you had a hand in creating, then you are a show about cowardice,” he said. “It’s not a step forward, or step backwards, it’s just a massive step sideways. After having read all these wonderful scripts, I feel like sidestepping this issue doesn’t solve it when the whole purpose of art, I would argue, is to bring us together."
When IndieWire reached out to Fox for comment, a representative for The Simpsons said, "Apu appeared in the 10/14/18 episode ‘My Way or the Highway to Heaven.’" That episode featured Apu in a single shot of numerous characters gathered around God.
Shankar will still produce the contest-winning script through his Bootleg Universe Youtube page.
Apu has been a mainstay in the animated series since the early seasons of the animated series, but many have come to see the character as a racial caricature. This controversy became more prominent in light of a documentary by Hari Kondabolu, The Problem With Apu, that featured Indian-American actors discussing their complicated relationship with the character and the stereotypes he embodies. The film asserts that Apu perpetuates negative stereotypes about South Asian peoples that later forms the basis for microaggressions and slurs against them.
The Simpsons, currently in a record-setting thirtieth season, airs new episodes Sunday nights on Fox.