In the iconic show “The Simpsons,” one of the most well-known characters, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, could possibly be written off the show due to criticisms of some members of the Indian-American community.
Comedian Hari Kondabolu made a documentary called “The Problem with Apu” which was released November 19, 2017. It focused on how he perceived the character and came to the conclusion that Apu negatively represented the Indian community regardless of Apu being the only individual to have South Asian heritage to be regularly appearing in mainstream television in the United States, for some time.
Hank Azaria voices Apu, but many individuals do not know that Azaria’s not actually of Indian descent. Kondabolu pointed this out to many people passing him by that were of Indian descent in his documentary. Most of their reactions were quite surprised. Along with Apu, he also voices many other characters on the show such as Moe Szyslak, Chief Wiggum, The Comic Book Guy, Carl Carlson, and many others.
Azaria expressed his opinions in an interview with Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on April 25, 2018. “You know 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.” Azaria continued, “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 any way, that it’s used to marginalize people, it’s upsetting, genuinely.”
So the questions are, should Apu Nahasapeemapetilon be written off the show? Does Apu negatively represent the Indian-American community? One might think he does, based on his appearance, but if they actually know him as a character, they might not think so anymore. If they still do, that’s OK because that’s their own opinion.
Ciara Hipple is a Chabot student and also not too familiar with “The Simpsons” aside from the “Treehouse of Horrors” episodes which are the Halloween specials that are played annually. She stated, “I get where Hari Kondabolu is coming from in that there’s not a lot of representation of nonwhite groups in any form of media, but he’s going about this the wrong way.” She ended with, “He’s literally coming from a place where a character he’s offended by is hand drawn. He should go after films and television so that individuals of Indian descent can be represented even more so.”
Chabot student and a massive fan of “The Simpsons” Dave O’Shea stated, “I find it petty, hypocritical, and ridiculous, honestly. “The Simpsons” is satire. Literally, every character is exaggerated and a stereotype.” O’ Shea would then follow up with, “For one group to insist they don’t like how one character is portrayed because it’s ‘offensive’ to their culture is the epitome of what’s wrong with PC (Political Correctness) culture.”
As O’Shea stated, many characters are exaggerated in the show. For example, there is “The Bumble Bee Man” a recurring character who stars in a comedic novella on Spanish television in the Simpson’s universe. The Bumble Bee Man would always have a string of bad luck and have accidents happen to him while yelling in Spanish. There is also the “Italian Restaurant Guy” who’s mannerisms are exaggerated Italian stereotypes such as making pasta and having a voice that mainly sounds like Nintendo’s “Mario.” There’s also “Chief Wiggum” who is also voiced by Azaria. Wiggum’s character has some piglike features to enforce the stereotype that most cops are fat pigs. These stereotypes are not necessarily true, but the show itself is just commentary on America’s culture itself.
As for Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, he’s a man that immigrated from India, obtained a doctorate in Computer Science, owned his own convenience store the “Kwik-E-Mart,” became the honorary “Fifth member of The Beatles,” a volunteer firefighter, loving husband and father to octuplets, and overall, one of the most well-written and endearing characters on the show. So the only thing offensive about this character is possibly, his voice. At the end of the day, though, he’s a cartoon character. All cartoon characters have funny voices.
Believe it or not, most young boys in animated shows are voiced by women. Even the character “Bart Simpson” is voiced by Nancy Cartwright. There hasn’t been anyone to stir the pot over this. So why Apu? Why single this character out when there are so many others that could be considered offensive based on their voice in “The Simpsons.”
Voice acting is genuinely an art form, and there are many talented actors on “The Simpsons.” Having this particular controversy could perhaps be a good thing. Not for the show, but for people in general. It could help challenge them to think critically and hopefully help them have productive debates as opposed to being at each other throats.
Apu Nahasapeemapetilon could potentially be written off the show, but the show’s creators haven’t confirmed if Apu will be written off or not. Apu is considered one of the most positively portrayed characters in the show. That’s saying a lot, especially being a character on “The Simpsons.” Do yourself a favor and watch the show for yourself. Only then, you’ll answer the question, “Should he stay or should he go?”