As far as long-standing shows go, The Simpsons is by far the longest with 29 seasons. With its witty humour, and classic controversial style, Homer & Co. have garnered huge popularity worldwide. Not to mention how they depict or sometimes predict reality.
After more than quarter a century on TV, The Simpsons have recently faced some backlash over one of their most popular and original characters. The fictional character, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, is an Indian immigrant with a thick accent and an intentionally difficult-to-pronounce last name. He’s the owner of Kwik-E-Mart, a popular convenience store in Springfield, the fictional land where The Simpsons show takes place. It’s clear to see how Apu is living up to the general stereotype some people have of Indian immigrants in the US, but it’s more difficult to see why the backlash suddenly arose.
Many people have voiced their concern over how this character perpetuates negatives stereotypes, and leads to higher levels of racism and bullying towards Indian people in America, especially kids. On the other hand, others are claiming that political correctness is again ruining comedy, advocating the whole purpose of comedic relief is to be a medium where people can talk about things that they otherwise can’t. In their opinion, comedy helps you grow a thicker skin, because there is no joke without a bit of pain, and it’s always inflicted on the butt of the joke.
First appearing in the eighth episode of the Show, Hank Azaria has won multiple Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for Apu and several characters on the Simpsons show. However, he has recently lamented how voicing the character may have led to children being bullied, and on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, he said that, “the idea that anybody, young or old, past or present, was bullied or teased based on the character of Apu… it just really makes me sad. It was certainly not my intention. I wanted to spread laughter and joy with this character, and the idea that it’s brought pain and suffering in anyway, that it was used to marginalise people, it’s upsetting… genuinely.”
The Simpsons have aired a section in one of their recent episodes where they briefly and subtly address the issue, which ultimately stated how the character has suddenly become politically incorrect, and hinted that things may change at a later date. Hank Azaria has stated that he was not aware that this would be the response of the show, and he doesn’t agree with that notion, assuring that he is happy and willing to move forward with the character or even step aside in order to appease the people who have taken offence to this character. He wishes the writers felt the same, but to him, this feels like the right thing to do.
What about you? What is the right thing to do in your opinion?