Simpsons Apu controversy: Showrunner says he will try to find 'popular' and 'right' answer
The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean is weighing in on the feedback from last Sunday’s episode, which addressed the controversy surrounding Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon — and ended up causing even more of a fuss.
“I truly appreciate all responses pro and con,” he tweeted on Friday. “Will continue to try to find an answer that is popular & more important right.”
In the episode, “No Good Read Goes Unpunished,” the animated series inserted a response to the conversation around Apu (voiced by Hank Azaria, who is white), spurred by comedian Hari Kondabolu’s recent truTV documentary, The Problem with Apu, which makes the argument that the character is a harmful stereotype of South Asian people. The scene that got fans talking featured Marge reading a book to Lisa that she had edited to make less culturally offensive. “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect,” says Lisa looking to camera. “What can you do?” She then looks at a picture of Apu adorned with Bart’s catchphrase, “Don’t have a cow!”
“Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” adds Marge. “If it all,” chimes in Lisa.
Social media lit up with reactions to the scene, including condemnation from Kondabolu, who tweeted: “Wow. ‘Politically Incorrect?’ That’s the takeaway from my movie & the discussion it sparked? Man, I really loved this show. This is sad,” and followed that with “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.” Others blasted it everything from toothless to callous to dismissive, with particular criticism leveled at the choice to have Lisa — the show’s most compassionate, liberal voice — expressing a “What can you do?” sentiment.
Many others criticized the backlash against the show and the character, maintaining that this was another example of PC culture run amok. Jean seemed to have been bracing for all kinds of response before the episode aired, tweeting, “Twitter explosion in act three.” He has been retweeting fans who support how the show handled the issue. In the last few hours, he also tweeted: “For those who’d ask why Lisa would defend Apu: he’s her friend. He taught her to be vegan. She admires him.” When one fan responded, “Why do you think it’s ‘kill Apu’ or nothing? Why not take any of the creative changes being suggested out there that would tweak him enough to solve this issue? Hank has Soooo many other voices he works on. Why is letting someone else do Apu such an issue?,” Jean said, “It’s not. We tried bringing in Utkarsh Ambudkar as Apu’s nephew [in 2016 episode ‘Much Apu About Something’]. It was deemed unsatisfactory –there’s no solution I fear that will satisfy. ”
The Simpsons producers have not conducted any interviews, as Jean said in a statement on Monday morning: “The episode speaks for itself.”