Much ado about Apu: Is the Simpsons character a tired stereotype?


The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean is a well-known South Asian character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, a heavily accented Indian immigrant and convenience store owner.

“I truly appreciate all the responses con, “he posted on Twitter Friday. “Will continue to try an answer that is popular & more important right.”

The animated character, which first appeared during the show's premiere season in 1990, has been a focus of attention. In the 2017 documentary, The Problem with Apu Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu examined how the famed Kwik-E-Mart clerk has negative impact on South Asia in North America.

Episode addresses controversy

The Simpsons addressed the ongoing debate on an episode April 7 called No Good Read Goes Unpunished, When Marge edits the fictitious children's book The Princess in the Garden to make It less offensive.

“Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically wrong.” Lisa says directly to the camera before looking at a framed photo of Apu on her bedside table signed “Do not have a cow.”

“Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” said Marge. Lisa added: “If at all.”

The response – which was teased by Jean on social media before the episode aired – did not sit well with lot of people.

Among the objections is that the character of exaggerated accent is voiced by Hank Azaria. His work has won him several emmys.

'Nuanced' character

“I'm not necessarily a fan of a white guy voicing an Indian character,” Orlando-based producer Amar Shah told CBC radio host Brett Bambury on Saturday . “But Apu, to me, started off as a type and the year progressed, the character became more nuanced.”

Shah, whose parents have a convenience store and gas station, owned by many fans of comedic nature

Actor Hank Azaria voices the Indian characters of Apu on The Simpsons. (Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)

“Apu was kind of all we had,” said LA-based comedian Rajiv Satyal about growing up with a lack of South Asian representation on television.

But he says, things have changed, with the Hollywood heavyweights like The Big Sick s Kumail Nanjiani, 's Priyanka Chopra and The Daily Show ' s Hasan Minhaj among others.

“If the argument is that Apu is our only representation, then that 's clearly untrue. “

Satyal, who wrote an opinion piece about Kondabolu's documenta

L.A.-based comedian Rajiv Satyal called The Simpsons' response to criticism of Apu 'lazy' but also believes the character does not deserve flak.

“My parents are very well versed in English but my dad is still a very strong accent,” he told CBC News. “He still makes grammatical mistakes in terms of slang and things like that. It's funny.”

But that's also part of the problem, says writer-producer Jhanvi Motla.

Times have changed

Motla, who was born in India and lives in the US, acknowledges that The Simpsons “makes fun of everyone”, but says the fundamental difference is that Humour has changed significantly since Apu created and yet the series is up .

“It's OK if you make that joke once and then you move on,” she told CBC News. “It's a different thing when everyone episode, you're making the same joke.”

She says the industry has had a tendency in the past to make minorities the “butt of a joke rather than the lead of a joke. “

” By continuously reinforcing one image of a character, you are inevitably set to be a community up to be seen that way. “[1965932] Indian-American writer-producer Jhanvi Motla says there is a fundamental disagreement on what humour is and one solution is to balance more. (Jhanvi Motla)

Motla says as a teenager in the US, she was told she “like Apu.” Kondabolu's documentary included similar statements. When media informs so much of our cultural understanding, Motla says, shows like The Simpsons have some responsibility.

“Even now they're not willing to take,” she said. “It's hard for them to understand.”

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