No, Apu Won’t Be Axed From ‘The Simpsons,’ Says Senior Writer
Founding writer Al Jean shoots down reports that longtime Indian character is to disappear over racism storm.
A senior showrunner on The Simpsons has dismissed claims that Indian grocery store owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is to be quietly dropped from the animated show over criticism that the characterization of him is racist.
Al Jean, a senior writer who has worked on The Simpsons since its first episode, hit back at the claims that were made by producer Adi Shankar on Twitter.
In fact, Apu appeared as recently as Oct. 14, in an episode entitled My Way or the Highway to Heaven.
Last week, Shankar, a popular YouTuber and producer, claimed to have information that The Simpsons planned to “drop the Apu character altogether.”
The story gathered traction on inaccurate reports that Shankar is a producer on The Simpsons, which he is not. He is the producer of the animated Netflix show Castlevania, and the 2012 film Dredd.
Shankar said he had been told by “multiple sources” that the writers had decided to discontinue appearances by the Kwik-E-Mart manager.
“They’re going to drop the Apu character altogether,” he told the website IndieWire.
“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.”
The argument over the rights and wrongs of Apu’s character was brought into focus after filmmaker Hari Kondabolu made a documentary entitled The Problem With Apu.
“After a while, you’d watch The Simpsons on a Sunday and you’d get a sense of how you’d be made fun of at school on Monday, based on what Apu did in the latest episode,” Kondabolu told the BBC last year, but added, “Apu was the only Indian we had on TV at all, so I was happy for any representation as a kid. And of course he’s funny, but that doesn’t mean this representation is accurate or right.”
Hank Azaria, the white actor who has played Apu as part of a portfolio of characters on the show, has said he found it “very upsetting to me personally and professionally” that anyone was marginalized because of Apu.
“The Simpsons over the years has been pretty humorously offensive to all manner of people: Republicans, Brazilians, presidents, high school principals, school principals, Italians, you name it,” he said.
“And they take a lot of pride over there in not apologizing for any of that. I think, over the years, they’ve done a really good job of being, shall we say, uniformly offensive without being outright hurtful.”
Marge then asks her daughter what she is supposed to do.
Lisa replies: “It’s hard to say. Something that started a long time ago decades ago, that was applauded and was inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”
The camera then tracks to a photo of Apu by her bedside, signed: “Don’t have a cow—Apu.”