Back in April, The Simpsons attempted to address the growing controversy surrounding the character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon with the episode, “No Good Read Goes Unpunished,” which was heavily criticized for not so much addressing the issue as basically dismissing it. In response to the controversy, Indian-American producer Adi Shankar announced that he was holding a crowdsourcing contest for fan submissions to come up with a better script to be produced by either Fox or as a fan film.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the episode will ever come to fruition because, in a recent interview with IndieWire, Shankar said that he’s heard from sources that The Simpsons is planning to instead quietly write the character off the show.
Shankar blasted the decision as “cowardice” on the show’s part.
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. It’s not a step forward, or step backwards, it’s just a massive step sideways. After having read all these wonderful scripts, I feel like sidestepping this issue doesn’t solve it when the whole purpose of art, I would argue, is to bring us together.
Twitter predictably also had thoughts about the decision to remove the character. Some blasted PC culture and social justice warriors, while others bemoaned the loss of the character or made jokes.
This joke is going to be a lot sadder now that Apu is gone pic.twitter.com/6jzT2GdMva— Delos (@TheDelosGuy) October 28, 2018
Is the world a better place now that Apu is gone? pic.twitter.com/oElztQfg2S— Jonders (@JondersFPT) October 28, 2018
To anyone following the journey, I didn't get the #Apu script comp.— Here Today, Jon Tomorrow (@JonnyJonJon1) October 27, 2018
I was informed a few days ago, however, that I was a finalist of 30 out of 200 though, and that is something I am very proud of. But a shame still: I would have loved for people to have seen that script. pic.twitter.com/I6VbEBqCXI
This is the biggest ‘joke’ The Simpsons team have ever made. A load of complete nonsense. What about those of us Asians who loved Apu? We recognise that many of us are shopkeepers but are aware that not all of us are. The solution is more varied depictions not less. Regressive. https://t.co/DN38kkP0Pq— Adil Ray OBE (@adilray) October 27, 2018
You know what, Apu? I am really gonna miss you.— dank simpsons (@DankSimpsons) October 28, 2018
Credit: Julia Taylor pic.twitter.com/AT1SYOmG86
Wonder who will replace Apu on the Simpsons pic.twitter.com/0NbDKVxTdK— Robert Pattinson Redemption Arc (@MezDuwang) October 28, 2018
The Problem with Apu documentary filmmaker Hari Kondabolu also weighed in:
RIP Apu. RIP My Mentions— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) October 27, 2018
For what it’s worth, the winning script that Shankar selected was written by Vishaal Buch, an Indian-American family doctor from Bethesda, Maryland, who envisioned Apu going from owning the Kwik-E-Mart to being a thriving businessman. The episode would have focused not just on Apu but would have incorporated “other prominent Indian Americans in hilarious ways to highlight the importance of diversity and individuality through the lens of The Simpsons,” according to Indiewire.
It’s unclear whether Apu would have been voiced by Hank Azaria or an Indian-American voice actor, but either way, it sounds like a huge missed opportunity on Fox’s part.
Update 7:30am CT, Oct. 29: Executive producer and writer Al Jean has pushed back against reports that The Simpsons is writing Apu out of the show. On Twitter, Jean noted that Shankar isn’t a producer and that “he does not speak for our show.”