Film Forward

‘The Simpsons’ Addressed Criticism Of A Beloved Character, But Fans Still Have Concerns

"What can you do?"

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In 2017, comedian Hari Kondabolu made a documentary called The Problem With Apuexploring how The Simpsons' Apu Nahasapeemapetilon character has perpetuated stereotypes about South Asians over the years. Five months after its release, the show responded to Kondabolu's criticism.

In its April 8 episode, "No Good Read Goes Unpunished," Marge Simpson reads her daughter Lisa her favorite children's book but quickly realizes it's much more stereotypically offensive than she remembered as a child. After meeting the author, Marge is convinced that she should update the book's contents before reading it to Lisa.

But Lisa is unsatisfied with the updated version of this book and that's where the show breaks the fourth wall to address The Problem With Apu, stating that "something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect ... What can you do?" As she says this, a photograph of Apu is revealed next to Lisa's bed that says, "Don't have a cow."

Seconds later, Marge responds by saying that "some things will be dealt with at a later date," as they both turn to the camera and Lisa ends the scene by responding, "If at all."

The episode's jab at political correctness is more than just defending its stereotypical depiction of Springfield's South Asian convenience store owner. In The Problem With Apu, Kondabolu also discusses how offensive it is to have actor Hank Azaria, a White man, voice the character.

Earlier this year, Azaria responded to the documentary at a Television Critics Association panel, expressing that he's listening, trying to understand, and sympathize with people's concerns.

"The idea that anybody, young or old, past or present, was bullied or teased or worse based on the character of Apu … it's distressing," he said, adding, "The idea that anybody was marginalized based on it or had a hard time was very upsetting to me personally and professionally."

But the day after the episode aired, Kondabolu took to Twitter to respond to explain that his documentary is more than just a film about "The Simpsons."

"The Daily Show" wasn't far behind in its responsive either as it posted host Trevor Noah's interview with Kondabolu from last November to give viewers a little more context behind why it's important for marginalized groups to have accurate representation in the media.

Other Twitter users used this as an opportunity to voice their own concerns about the way marginalized characters are portrayed on screen.

A user even responded to the criticism by posing a solution they believe the show could've taken by posting an image of how "Looney Tunes" airs a statement warning viewers of offensive content and stereotypes that are depicted in its cartoons before they are shown.

Based on Sunday's episode, it seems like a toss-up of whether or not The Simpsons will do anything about Apu, and that this issue will continue to spark a larger movement and conversation.

Cover image: Fox

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