Simpsons Address Apu Controversy, Kondabolu Responds, Calling it Sad



Last night the finally publically responded to Hari Kondabalu’s documentary, “The Problem With Apu.”

The documentary, which aired on truTV takes on the use of the iconic Simpsons character, and skillfully communicates the effect that Apu’s character has had on young aspiring comedians of Indian and South Asian descent. Helmed by comedian Hari Kondabolu, the impressive documentary gathered an impressive list of comedians who all agreed that the character was either upsetting to them personality, and/or created ripple effects in their greater communities that made their lives more challenging.

Until now, The Simpsons hasn’t done much to address the documentary, although Hank Azaria who voices Apu has admitted that he found the issues addressed in the documentary to be troubling. Sunday’s episode only addresses it anecdotally, and in a manner that Kondabolu, and many fans find troubling. In an episode centered on the merits of reading books, Lisa and Marge find themselves discussing the problems of too much political correctness.

Marge is reading her favorite childhood book to Lisa, “The Princess in the Garden” only to find out that the book that was so appealing to her in her youth, is full of offensive behavior that isn’t exactly story-worthy in 2018. Marge’s attempts to rewrite the book to cleanse the inoffensive content but Lisa points out that this new perfect untroubled character Marge has written doesn’t really need a story. When Marge asks what she’s supposed to do, Lisa responds, “It’s hard to say. Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” Lisa says, sadly. The camera pans over to a photo of Apu on Lisa’s nightstand, with the signature, “don’t have a cow” – Apu. Marge answers, “Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” and Lisa finishes her sentence, “If at all.” The scene ends with both characters looking directly at the camera.

Simpsons EP Al Jean was not only aware the episode would upset many, he tweeted it before the episode aired.

Fans responded to Jean’s tweet with predictable division, and you can click on his tweet to read the varied pro and con responses. Fans weren’t the only ones responding.

Kondabolu responded to the series decision to address the documentary calling their response “sad” and called the episode a “jab” at progress. “In “The Problem with Apu,” I used Apu & The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups & why this is important. The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress,” he wrote. Kondabolu was a big fan of the Simpsons and tweeted that he was sad to see such a dismissive response.

Comedian W. Kamau Bell tweeted remarks supporting Kondabolu, and said that the Simpsons response marked the death of the long running series. He was particularly saddened that the toothless response was put in the mouth of Lisa Simpson, long considered to be the voice of the oppressed. Read his full response to last night’s episode and watch “The Problem with Apu” on demand on truTV.

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