If you’re a fan of ‘The Simpsons’, then you would have heard about the controversy surrounding the popular character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon for alleged stereotyping of the Indian race.
Apu’s voice actor, Hank Azaria, stated a few months back that he would be willing to step down from the role in favour of someone of Indian heritage to replace him. However, it has now been announced that the character will be axed from the show completely.
Producer Adi Shankar stated that Apu will be quietly written out of the long-running cartoon in order to “avoid the controversy.”
Shankar, who is Indian-American, said he was informed of this decision by two people who work on the FOX produced show, as well as another who works with the show’s creator, Matt Groening.
Shankar said he himself was disappointed with the decision, especially after launching a competition earlier this year for the public to help write a script which would transform Apu from a “bad” stereotype into a “realistic portrayal of Indians in America.”
“I got some disheartening news back, that I’ve verified from multiple sources now, they’re going to drop the Apu character altogether” Shankhar 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.”
Adi Shankhar also accused the show of “cowardice” and described it as “a massive step sideways”. However, considering just how long ‘The Simpsons’ has been running, we don’t think anything will really make it step forward. Perhaps, this is a sign that the show should throw in the towel? Or, maybe not? But, characters shouldn’t be axed because of sensitive
The initial controversy surrounding Apu first arose after Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu produced a documentary last year entitled ‘The Problem with Apu’. The documentary focused on how the character was stereotyping the Indian American community. This sparked a somewhat heated debate about cultural sensitivity and racial stereotyping in TV and film.
Kondabolu said in the documentary that Apu was one of the only representations of Indian American’s on US television back when he was younger, causing other children to imitate the character in order to make fun of him.
However, Kondabolu himself doesn’t seem too pleased about Apu being dropped either, tweeting: “There are so many ways to make Apu work without getting rid of him. If true, this sucks.”
The decision to axe Apu from the show came after The Simpsons tried to address the controversy in a comedic way in an episode called “No Good Read Goes Unpunished”, where a photo of Apu is seen at Lisa’s bedside with a message reading “Don’t have a cow, man”.
So, with Apu’s departure from the show, will this mean we’ll also lose characters like Groundskeeper Willie, The Bumble Bee Man, Luigi Risotto and Fat Tony? Who knows? All we know is that it’s a good thing ‘The Simpsons’ wasn’t released in 2018, otherwise, they’d get a Change.org petition to boycott the whole thing after just one season. Sad times, indeed…
Update: Original The Simpsons writer AL Jean says that Adi Shankar does not speak for The Simpsons.
Story by Emily Clark
Featured Photo Credit: DNA India