Months after the release of the documentary “The Problem With Apu”, “The Simpsons” finally broke its silence via a weak joke that simply dismissed its criticisms while poking fun at the film’s creator, Hari Kondabolu.
#TheSimpsons completely toothless response to @harikondabolu #TheProblemWithApu about the racist character Apu:
“Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect… What can you do?” pic.twitter.com/Bj7qE2FXWN
— Soham (@soham_burger) April 9, 2018
Kondabolu’s work, which was aired on TruTV in November of last year, criticized the long-running cartoon series for its problematic portrayal of the Indian character named Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
In the documentary, Kondabolu expressed how he despised Apu, a stereotyped Indian character, despite his appearance in a show he loved dearly.
Kondabolu had earlier described Apu’s voice at the “Totally Biased With Kamau Bell” as, “A White guy doing an impression of a White guy making fun of my father.”
The creators and showrunners for “The Simpsons” have generally remained mum on the controversy. The closest to a response Kondabolu received was from an interview of Hank Azaria, the voice behind the character with a thick Indian accent.
“I think the documentary made some really interesting points and gave us a lot of things to think about and we really are thinking about it,” Azaria told TMZ back in December, noting that he found the situation “upsetting.”
In a recent episode, characters Marge and Lisa broke the fourth wall and made a reference to Kondabolu’s documentary, apparently dismissing it as pointless simply because the character was able to get away with being offensive for decades.
During the scene, Lisa spoke directly at the camera, saying, “It’s hard to say. Something that started decades and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”
Wow. “Politically Incorrect?” That’s the takeaway from my movie & the discussion it sparked? Man, I really loved this show. This is sad. https://t.co/lYFH5LguEJ
— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) April 9, 2018
The camera then focuses on a portrait of Apu, which the words “Don’t have a cow, man!” scribbled on it.
“Some things will be addressed at a later date,” Marge replies.
“If at all,” Liza then adds.
Kondabolu took to Twitter to address the show’s lame response to his movie:
In “The Problem with Apu,” I used Apu & The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups & why this is important. The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress.
— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) April 9, 2018
“In ‘The Problem with Apu,’ I used Apu & The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups & why this is important. The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress.”
Meanwhile, “The Simpsons” showrunner Al Jean retweeted a tweet saying, “Loved how you guys handled this non-issue. People just want to cry about everything nowadays b/c it makes them feel like they’re doing something. … Oh, and I’m Indian and according to Twitter my opinion matters more on this topic.”
Other Twitter users, however, have pointed out the episode’s worst crime of all: using Lisa, the show’s voice of reason, to deliver its dismissal of the documentary’s critique.
I think the fact that they put this “argument” in the mouth of Lisa’s character, the character who usually champions the underdogs and is supposed to be the most thoughtful and liberal, is what makes this the most ridiculous (as in worthy of ridicule) and toothless response.
— Wakanda Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) April 9, 2018
No this is the ultimate slap in the face. Delivering it through Lisa is their way of saying: “this *is* the reasoned, progressive and culturally sensitive perspective.” https://t.co/2naBrnAJi3
— William Mullally (@whmullally) April 9, 2018
They should and could have done an entire episode with Apu responding to @harikondabolu‘s movie. They wouldn’t have to agree with him but they missed a huge opportunity to add in more layers and be topical. Instead, they went the lazy route and did this. https://t.co/ciUq39A4t6
— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) April 9, 2018
In an interview with Kotaku before the documentary aired, Kondabolu said, “People say to me that you can’t change this beloved thing. It’s like, Maude Flanders is dead, Krabappel is gone. They make changes, things happen and you adjust to it.”
It remains to be seen how the problem with Apu will be handled — or, as Lisa disappointingly put it, “if at all”.
Feature Image via Twitter / Soham_Burger