by Graham Pierrepoint
We’ve recently covered various angles on the issue of a certain character within long-running animated comedy The Simpsons – Apu Nahasapeemapetilon – following rising concerns that the convenience store manager may be continuing to perpetuate harmful stereotypes long after it had originally been conceived as initially harmless. Stand-up comic Hari Kondabolu is behind the move to bring Apu to the fore, having analyzed the character and his effect upon US culture and even schoolyard bullying. Critics of the show’s insistence on continuing to use the South Asian character – who has been voiced by white American actor Hank Azaria since 1990 – have been met by a recent moment in a Simpsons episode whereby those concerned were effectively advised to ‘not have a cow’ (a staple Bart Simpson phrase from back in the day) – leaving a bitter taste in many viewers’ mouths, Kondabolu among those left disappointed.
Despite The Simpsons’ move to address the controversy with what some commentators have claimed to be a ‘shrug’, Apu’s voice – Azaria – has advised publicly that he is open to standing aside as the character, should diverse, appropriate talent be brought in – and not just to the voice cast, but to the writing table, too. Simpsons creator Matt Groening, however, has something else to say on the matter – and his response may well keep things ignited as far as those campaigning against the character’s relevance are concerned.
Groening was asked by USA Today if he had any specific thoughts to offer on the saga – his response, though fairly short and sweet, laid things down clearly. “I’m proud of what we do on the show. And I think it’s a time in our culture where people love to pretend they’re offended.” The show itself, too, has seemingly set out its stall – with an aforementioned controversial scene in a recent episode having effectively suggested that things continue as normal without further debate – and that, while some issues may be addressed, others won’t.
Watch: ▶ Simpsons Creator Not Backing Down On Apu Issue
Long-running executive producer of the show, Al Jean, tweeted earlier this month to advise that he would be trying to look further for an answer that is both ‘popular’ and ‘right’. Certainly, while the show may have broken records recently – it has more episodes of a series shown in prime-time than any other in US history, with 636 – the recent Apu controversy and complaints regarding a decline in the series’ quality over the years appear to be continuing. It’s unclear quite how the Apu debate will play out – or, as Lisa Simpson put things in a recent episode – ‘if at all’.
Watch: ▶ 'Simpsons' Creator Shrugs Off Apu Criticism