‘the simpsons’ responded to the apu criticism in the worst way possible

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Apr 9 2018, 5:00pm

The Simpsons might be the most prescient sitcom in American history. The show has predicted the discovery of the Higgs boson particle, the advent of Farmville, Disney’s takeover of Fox, 9/11, and most famously, the Trump presidency. ("Being right sucks," Bart scribbled on the Springfield Elementary chalkboard in episode that aired 16 years after the show’s 2000 "warning to America.”) One thing the tea leaves didn’t forecast about modern American life, however, is our awareness of racial stereotyping. Simpsons fans have recently become critical of the character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the Kwik-E-Mart proprietor and Indian immigrant who speaks with a thick Indian accent, as voiced by Hank Azaria. One of the most vocal critics been comedian Hari Kondabolu. Kondabolu ruffled a few feathers in the writers’ room with last year’s popular documentary The Problem With Apu, which examined negative stereotypes around South Asians in the media.

The Simpsons has now responded to backlash in the worst way possible. An episode that aired on Sunday night, titled No Good Read Goes Unpunished, includes a scene where Marge and Lisa are trying to make a book less offensive. "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect,” Lisa says, turning to the camera. “What can you do?" The question is evidently rhetorical. “Some things will be addressed at a later date,” Marge says, before Lisa suggests they won’t ever be addressed at all. Clincher: the camera pans onto a framed photo of Apu on Lisa’s bedside, which reads, “Don’t have a cow, Apu.” Apu is Hindu.

The response to the episode has been, understandably, swift and brutal. “Wow. ‘Politically Incorrect?’” Kondabolu wrote on Twitter. “That’s the takeaway from my movie & the discussion it sparked? Man, I really loved this show. This is sad.” “In The Problem with Apu I used Apu & The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups and why this is important,” he continued. “ The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress.” Others have pointed out that using Lisa to deliver the line is particularly disingenuous. As the show’s most liberal and character, and the most capable of reexamining her views according to others’ perspectives, Lisa effectively telling insulted fans to drop dead is even less likely than her keeping a photo of Apu on her bedside.