Simpson’s showrunner Al Jean acknowledged the outrage from fans of The Simpsons that followed last Sunday’s nod to the controversy over Apu. In a tweet today, Jean said that he appreciated the responses- both pro and con – and promised to look for a more satisfactory solution. Specifically, he promised to find a more popular response which would indicate that response had been more con than pro, but also says he wants to find the “right” solution.
.@TheSimpsons I truly appreciate all responses pro and con. Will continue to try to find an answer that is popular & more important right
— Al Jean (@AlJean) April 13, 2018
A longtime character on the Simpsons, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon and his stereotypical demeanor drew fire last year when comedian Hari Kondabolu created a documentary for truTV titled “The Problem with Apu.” The documentary explored the effect that the character has had on the perception of Indian Americans in the US, and the how East Asian comedians felt about the character growing up.
Last Sunday before the episode aired, Al Jean tweeted predicting a “twitter explosion in act three.” The explosion indeed followed after writers had Lisa and Marge address political correctness. In the story, Marge was frustrated after trying to share a childhood favorite story only to discover the tale was full of offensive story points. After Marges attempts to “clean up” the story prove unsatisfactory, she asks what she’s supposed to do? Lisa’s response, a glance at a photo of Apu after saying, “it’s hard to say. Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” upset fans, and angered comedians Kondabalu and W. Kamau Bell among others.
Reactions to Al Jean’s tweet were mixed- some asking Jean not to “change” the beloved character, others suspicious of the tone in the tweet. Like @cherry_La who said she can’t figure out if he’s making a joke, or being sarcastic. “USA has so few Indian/South Asian characters that I can sympathize with his desire to modernize the character. I can also see you feel attacked but this isn’t the best way to handle it.”
Some reactions recommended solutions, like quiet retirement, others suggested that funny is more important than being right.
Popular and most important? I can’t figure out if your being sarcastic or cracking a joke. USA has so few Indian/South Asian characters that I can sympathize with his desire to modernize the character. I can also see you feel attacked but this isn’t the best way to handle it.
— Cherry the Geek (@cherry_LA) April 13, 2018
Silent retirement just like Manjula. I think it would be the perfect solution.
— Father Popli Kid (@AH_brettbri5694) April 13, 2018
Through Lisa you guys describe Apu's character as once "applauded and inoffensive" but now "politically incorrect". Let's be clear, Apu's character was never applauded by us and was ALWAYS offensive for Indians. The thing was that we never had a voice before but now WE DO
— Rishi (@rishi_gunner) April 13, 2018
Those who are doubting Al Jean’s sincerity may have a point. Earlier in the day on Friday Jean retweeted articles supportive of Apu, and critical of Kondabolu including one lashing out against Hari as an “unfunny comedian” and asking The Simpsons to leave Apu alone.
this is also great https://t.co/Cpi6b2yJH2
— Utkarsh Singh (@Libertypical) April 13, 2018
And finally https://t.co/MKRsYYN0KH
— Al Jean (@AlJean) April 13, 2018
As the controversy grows bigger, symbolic of a greater nationwide cultural divide, one Twitter user may have expressed it best.