Final year, director Michael Melamedoff and comedian Hari Kondabolu released The Problem with Apu, a documentary approximately how South Asian people have handled seeing so much of their American representation on tv come from The Simpsons ’ yogi and comfort store proprietor, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. Kondabolu discusses his personal enjoy with Apu, who he describes as sounding like “an affect of a white man making amusing of my dad.” He interviews people like Kal Penn and Aziz Ansari, who speak about how Apu ’s accessory and stereotypes were used to mock or bully them. In an episode that aired April 8th, The Simpsons responded to the controversy instantly, with a flippant non-apology for being “politically improper.” Although the episode attempts to stick timely, with popular culture references to Amazon ’s Alexa and Minecraft, it dates itself by making surprisingly tone-deaf statements approximately brand new problems with illustration.
in the episode, “No Excellent Read Goes Unpunished,” written by means of Jeff Westbrook, Marge revisits her favorite formative years storybook The Princess in the Garden. but when she attempts to learn it to Lisa, she realizes the plot and characters are more racist than she remembered. the tale is about a woman taking part in a colonized land, at the same time as her servants, people of colour who’re “evidently servile,” fan her and bring her meals at the same time as she threatens to whip them.
Horrified, Marge flips to what she hopes is a extra suitable a part of the story, and runs throughout an Irish stereotype. The e book persona asks her indignantly, “that is the part you deem acceptable?” That ’s the show ’s tongue-in-cheek remark on how all stereotypes are dangerous, however stereotypes about people of color have gotten louder disapproval in recent times. The episode additionally draws on the rhetoric used by the display ’s loudest proponents — the idea that since the display stereotypes everyone, not just marginalized other people of colour, it ’s now not that dangerous. To end up the purpose, the episode features a cameo from Scottish stereotype Groundskeeper Willie, and a subplot approximately Bart getting ideas to maintain Homer through studying Solar Tzu ’s Art of Warfare, narrated by Silicon Valley ’s Jimmy O. Yang in a heavy accent.
there was no different counterexample to Apu on TV
that is, then again, a point Kondabolu already in particular addressed in his movie. The “Simpsons stereotypes everyone” line of pondering assumes that everyone is already handled equally in society and media, that well-liked, systemic racism aren ’t problems, and that Apu wasn ’t the main supply of media illustration for South Asians while the show launched in 1989. At The Same Time As characters like “Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel” and Groundskeeper Willie are satirical stereotypes, they ’re explicit stereotypes of slender subgroups, and there are a lot of counterexamples of Southern folks or Scottish other people on tv. by contrast, Kondabolu makes the purpose that Apu is a extensive amalgam of every possible ethnic stereotype approximately Indians, Bangladeshis, and Pakistanis that the writers could think of. And in an atmosphere the place there has been no different counterexample to Apu on TELEVISION, the nature made those stereotypes more well-liked and distinguished. In Kondabolu ’s revel in, Apu led people to think it was once humorous (and doubtlessly even socially accurate) to shout his catchphrase, “thanks, come again!” at South Asian-American Citizens or imitate his accent and faux bow whilst speaking to them.
The Simpsons episode responds to Kondabolu ’s neatly-reasoned argument and private experience with a dismissive metaphor that buries the debate under fake equivalencies. It ’s a pity that the display writers made up our minds to go in this course because “No Just Right Read Is Going Unpunished” may just were an invaluable approach to take care of the stereotype. Lisa, the objective of Marge ’s antique, racist storybook, has been smartly-established as a innovative persona who ’s sensitive to racism, stereotyping, and other folks ’s feelings. it could had been natural for her to question the racist tale or to ask what Marge loves about the book that makes it value holding.
Instead, Marge makes an attempt to rewrite the story in the such a lot pandering means possible, making the principle personality a internet neutrality activist who rescues wild horses. Lisa right away shuts her down, saying the heroine is just too easiest, so she couldn ’t perhaps have “an emotional adventure to finish.” “What am I imagined to do?” Marge asks. “It ’s laborious to say,” Lisa says, staring instantly at the digital camera. “Something that began a long time in the past and was once applauded and inoffensive is now politically fallacious. What are you able to do?”
It ’s a strange betrayal that the show ’s such a lot liberal activist persona is being used as a mouthpiece for the writers to communicate, “Our arms are totally tied, and there ’s no doubt no manner in any respect to make our up to date racial caricature much less offensive.” for the reason that Kondabolu ’s objections to Apu go back to his earliest days and that best latest cultural shifts have allowed other people to concentrate, it ’s also irritating that they ’re claiming no person used to be ever offended by means of the nature prior to now. In Any Case, they finish up with a imprecise, hand-waving contradiction that has nothing to do with the display ’s exact storyline: Marge says, “A Few issues shall be dealt with at a later date.” “If in any respect,” Lisa adds. and they both stare meaningfully into the digicam. It ’s as though the writers are announcing “Possibly we ’re unlikely to do something approximately this. But who is aware of?” that sort of lazy ethical ambivalence sounds more like Homer Simpson than Lisa.
Et tu, Lisa?
— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) April 9, 2018
Even the fundamental basis of the argument of “No Just Right Read Is Going Unpunished” to keep Apu in the collection unchanged is built on a weak foundation. By relying on a metaphor with an old e-book Marge learn as a bit woman, The Simpsons shows Apu is a relic of the previous that for some reason why should remain totally unchanged 30 years after his inception. Whilst Marge attempts to update her storybook, she says, “It takes so much of work to take the spirit and persona out of a ebook,” suggesting that it could be not only exhausting to enhance Apu, however that making him one thing as opposed to a broad stereotype might get rid of his “spirit.”
But as Linda Holmes notes in her NPR research, Apu isn ’t an abandoned relic of the past, he ’s part of an ongoing TELEVISION show that ’s still being written today, and in up to date episodes, he continues to copy the same catchphrases and tics from 30 years in the past. He hasn ’t modified a lot. It ’s a atypical notion that there ’s any spirit or persona to be loved in a racist cartoon, voiced by means of a white guy doing an exaggerated accessory, consciously in line with Peter Dealers ’ position as an Indian doctor in brownface in 1968 ’s The Celebration. What Is so vital approximately Apu that he has to remain unchanged? Is The Simpsons actually hinting that with out ethnic stereotypes, there can be no show?
In The Issue with Apu, Kondabolu designed his personal metaphor in regards to the long-running caricature series: “The Simpsons is like your racist grandfather. And if he can ’t modification, possibly it ’s time for him to die. and also you can simply remember the good stuff about him.” That caustic commentary demonstrates how grating Apu ’s presence on the display has been, and it should have made some influence at the writers. But “No Good Learn Goes Unpunished” brazenly says, “Yes, this show is your racist grandfather, but there ’s completely no possible approach to get around that, so why hassle?”