This Article is From Apr 09, 2018

"The Simpsons" Finally Addresses Apu Controversy. Internet Feels Let Down

Apu Nahasapeemapetilon: a cartoon character based on negative stereotypes of South Asians or just a very funny character from a TV show that "spoofs virtually everything"?

'The Simpsons' Finally Addresses Apu Controversy. Internet Feels Let Down

Apu Nahasapeemapetilon with his wife Manjula and Homer and Marge Simpson

New Delhi: For years, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon was one of the few desi characters on primetime television in the United States. The lovable owner of Kwik-E-Mart in the fictional town of Springfield is a prominent recurring character on the long-running animated series The Simpsons. But Apu is also considered problematic for many reasons. For instance, a Caucasian actor - Hank Azaria - voices Apu's character and is responsible for his exaggerated "Indian" accent. (Fun fact: Mr Azaria has won three Emmy Awards for the role.)

Apu is admittedly a caricature made up entirely of South Asian stereotypes. He's a PhD in computer science - but runs a convenience store. He had an arranged marriage and then eight children. Oh, and he was an illegal immigrant too.

Last year, Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu wrote and starred in a documentary called The Problem With Apu. In it, Mr Kondabolu discussed the one-dimensional character of Apu and the casual racism it led to with Indian-origin actors and comedians including Kal Penn, Aziz Ansari, Hasan Minhaj and Sakina Jaffrey.

The Simpsons finally addressed the controversy in its latest episode on Sunday - and appeared to dismiss it.

Many viewers were left sorely disappointed by their approach:

Including Mr Kondabolu, who responded to the episode on Twitter: 

Some viewers, though, couldn't understand why Apu would be considered particularly offensive in a show that "spoofs virtually everything."

That's something Mr Kondabolu addressed in an interview with the BBC last year.

"The Simpsons is an important work of art that has influenced so many, including myself," Mr Kondabolu said. "Apu was the only Indian we had on TV at all so I was happy for any representation as a kid. And of course he's funny, but that doesn't mean this representation is accurate or right or righteous. It gets to the insidiousness of racism, though, because you don't even notice it when it's right in front of you. It becomes so normal that you don't even think about it."

The Simpsons is one of the most popular animated series of all time and has aired for nearly 30 years. So far, nobody from the show has responded to the barrage of criticism its latest episode received. 

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