‘The Simpsons’ blasted for response to Apu controversy

The Simpsons/Simpsonworld

Many think this missed the mark.

Twenty-nine seasons in, American institution The Simpsons is drawing mainstream backlash for its depiction of Apu. The Kwik-E-Mart proprietor may be a beloved character, but the Indian stereotypes used to flesh him out have been criticized by comedian Hari Kondabolu, among others. Sunday night, The Simpsons responded—and the show succeeded in upsetting progressives on Twitter.

As Lisa and Marge tell an old bedtime story, Marge updates it to be less offensive. She sands it down so much that it stops making sense. (The lead character becomes “cisgender girl,” and she fights for net neutrality.) Shortly after, the pair take the meta proceedings a step further to leave no bones about what they’re referencing.

“Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” Lisa says.

“Some things will be dealt with a later date,” Marge replies.

The two look into the camera. A framed photo of Apu also flashes on-screen, and it appears to be signed with “don’t have a cow,” Bart’s signature late ’80s catchphrase.

For many, including Kondabolu and his podcast co-host W. Kamau Bell, this acknowledgment was a non-apology that warranted social media ire. His documentary The Trouble With Apu discussed the character’s problematic stereotypes with South Asian actors and comedians, and, in December, Apu voice actor Hank Azaria promised the show would circle back to the controversy.

Several others have supported The Simpsons for pushing back, but a look through Twitter reveals that they are mostly white dudes.

The Simpsons found its vitality by roasting the suburban American values that the baby boomer generation embraced during the ’80s. Thirty years later, humor and family dynamics have changed, and the glaring blinders and biases that have molded beloved comedies—just check Molly Ringwald’s New Yorker essay on her John Hughes movies—reveal out-of-place, not-so-pleasant attitudes.

Ramon Ramirez

Ramon Ramirez

Ramon Ramirez is the news director, and formerly the Dot's entertainment editor and evening editor. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Grantland, Washington City Paper, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Monitor.