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The Simpsons respond to Apu stereotype controversy in new episode

'Some things will be dealt with at a later date... If at all'

Jack Shepherd
Monday 09 April 2018 08:52 BST
The Simpsons respond to criticism over character Apu

The latest episode of The Simpsons has addressed concerns that the character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon purports racial stereotypes of Indian immigrants.

Apu, voiced by the white actor Hank Azaria, has appeared regularly on the show ever since debuting in 1990 episode ‘The Telltale Head’. It was not until last year when the conversation concerning whether the character was racially insensitive came to a head, thanks to the release of the documentary The Problem with Apu.

The film saw comedian Hari Kondabolu talk to various celebrities – including Aziz Ansari, Whoopi Goldberg, and Kal Penn – about the problematic nature of the fictional Kwik-E-Mart owner.

The Simpsons has finally addressed the controversy head on with a fourth-wall breaking segment. Broadcast in the United States on Sunday (8 April), the episode ‘No Good Read Goes Unpunished’ begins with Marge realising how problematic a fictional book titled The Princess in the Garden seems today.

After being visited by the book’s author Heloise Hodgeson Burwell (along with Rudyard Kipling) during a dream sequence, Marge is convinced that she needs to update the book to 2018 standards.

After working tirelessly on the new version, Marge reads the updated book to Lisa, eventually admitting that it takes “the spirit and character out of a book”.

Marge later asks Lisa “what am I supposed to do?” to which her daughter responds by looking at the camera and saying: “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”

A photo of Apu featuring the caption ‘Don’t have a cow’ then appears next to Lisa’s bed, hammering home the already obvious message. Marge then says “some things will be dealt with at a later date,” with Lisa adding: “If at all.”

The creator of The Problem with Apu has since responded to the episode, writing on Twitter: “Wow. ‘Politically Incorrect?’ That’s the takeaway from my movie and the discussion it sparked? Man, I really loved this show. This is sad.”

Kondabolu added in a later Tweet: “In The Problem with Apu, I used Apu and The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups and why this is important. The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress.”

After Kondabolu’s documentary initially aired, the voice actor behind Apu responded by saying the film was “upsetting” but the team behind the show were “really thinking about it.”

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