Apu is Being Written out of The Simpsons After Accusations of Racial Stereotyping
Apu the longtime Kwik-E-Mart owner on The Simpsons is closing up shop.
A popular character will be written out of the long-running animated series “The Simpsons” after some viewers complained of it being a racially insensitive caricature.
Does this mean the Kwik-E-Mart will go out of business? For nearly three decades, Apu was the Indian manager of this local convenience store in the show’s fictional town.
Controversy started to brew last year with Hari Kondabolu’s documentary The Problem with Apu. It condemned the show’s use of stereotypical mannerisms and lifestyle of Indians from South Asia.
“The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening rebuked the controversy, disagreeing that Apu was a stereotype: “I’m proud of what we do on the show. It’s a time in our culture where people love to pretend they’re offended.”
Hank Azaria, the voice behind Apu, was much more receptive though. He told late night host Stephen Colbert that he would be “perfectly happy and willing to step aside,” adding, “listening to voices means inclusion in the writer’s room. I really want to see Indians, South Asian writers in the room. Not in a token way, but genuinely informing whatever new direction this character may take. Including how it is voiced, or not voiced.”
Film and TV producer Adi Shankar also attempted a campaign earlier this year to solve the show’s “Apu Problem” by crowdsourcing a script that he hoped Fox would produce.
However, it seemed to prove futile. This past week, Shankar reported to Indiewire that, “I’ve verified from multiple sources now: They’re going to drop the Apu character altogether. 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.”
Shankar was disappointed: “If you are a show about cultural commentary and you are too afraid to comment on the culture, especially when it’s a component of the culture you had a hand in creating, then you are a show about cowardice,” he said. “It’s not a step forward, or step backwards, it’s just a massive step sideways. I feel like sidestepping this issue doesn’t solve it when the whole purpose of art, I would argue, is to bring us together.”
Many fans were also not pleased, with some reasoning that the show satirizes everyone, not just (South Asians) like Apu. Some even pointed out the multiple virtues that Apu displayed throughout the show’s run, such as business acumen and social clout.
Indeed, none of the show’s characters are safe from being parodied—the show features a bumbling father, underachieving son, socially inept nerd, incompetent policeman, spinster schoolteacher—to name a few from the large and varied cast.
Currently, “The Simpsons” is amidst its 30th season on Fox, becoming the longest-running scripted television series in history.