How should The Simpsons have handled the Apu controversy?


Watch the teeth!
May 27, 2014
Bay Area
There seems to be a general consensus that the awkward 4th-wall breaking moment in No Good Read Goes Unpunished, in which Lisa and Marge essentially tell the audience that the Apu controversy is not a big deal and it's unlikely that it will ever be dealt with, was not the way to handle the objections to Apu's character brought up by "The Problem with Apu". Further, Al Jean has re-tweeted a number of tweets in which people declare the Apu controversy to be a non-issue, which seems to reveal his (and possibly other writers') feelings about the problem.

Since we've heard so much about how they shouldn't have handled it, how should they have handled it? In my review of the episode, I indicated that they should not have addressed it at all. But that would have had the same result in end: Apu remains in the show and does not change. Should instead they have addressed the controversy more penitently? Should they begin a gradual phase-out of Apu or at least Hank Azaria's voice for Apu?

If you could re-do the infamous 4th-wall scene, what would you have Marge and Lisa say?

Now that The Simpsons staff is embroiled in this imbroglio, where do they go from here? Will Apu ever have a speaking role again? Seems like it would be awkward now...
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They shouldn’t have done it the way they did it and that’s coming from someone who does not personally object to Apu, even having watched the documentary. I actually would have been fine with the scene if they simply omitted the picture of Apu and Lisa’s “if at all,” and leave it to the viewer to infer the meaning of the rest. It’s the “if at all” that hits me the wrong way. Up until that point the gist of it was that they are aware of the issue, they just aren’t yet able to fully address it, but will do so at a later date. But then they have Lisa say “If at all,” casting doubt over it all. I’m surprised no one else has thrown this quote back at Al Jean yet, but it kinda brings to mind “Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand.”

- The easiest thing is probably to just use him sparingly and have him be on his best behavior (no more price gouging, expiration date tampering, or anything else that portrays him in any sort of negative light).

- If they hadn’t already established that Apu is from the real-life village of Rahmatpur, they could have gotten away with ascribing his inauthentic accent to his being from some fictional place in India, given the fact that there is no single “Indian accent,” there being multiple dialects and accents in different regions of India IRL. (The way I see it, if you get to invent fictional places, then you get to invent fictional dialects). There’d be conflicts certainly with previously-established back story, but regarding the accent, they could also pull an Armin Tamzarian-style move with him and reveal that he doesn’t actually have an accent but is affecting one for... some reason. Basically taking the inauthenticity of the accent and canonizing it. Admittedly we’re talking about recontextualizing and retconning Apu in order to try to make him more acceptable as-is, which would likely strike many as a cheap cop-out. Barring ideas such as this, Hank and the writers could just dial down the accent a bit — not drop it entirely, but lose the sing-song intonation and awkward, “fresh off the boat” phrasings.

- Ideally, the writers could consult with some South Asians to produce an episode where maybe Apu himself can contest the idea that his accent is something to laugh at. Maybe he catches some schoolgirls mocking his niece for her accent and chastises them for it. Maybe do an episode where Apu himself is to appear in a commercial for the Kwik-E-Mart and is asked by the producers to play up his own stereotype and Apu gets offended that that’s all they see him as.
or we leave apu how he is instead of trying to please the few by having him barely appear or never portrayed in a negative light
Now that The Simpsons staff is embroiled in this imbroglio, where do they go from here? Will Apu ever have a speaking role again? Seems like it would be awkward now...
Based on what's transpired, I think they have no choice but to phase out Apu, Manjula and the octuplets and effectively render them to background characters that are seen and not heard... trotted out for crowd scenes and the occasional physical comedy gag and nothing more.

That's clearly not the ideal situation but given the lack of sensitivity on display I think it's the one that is warranted right now. A public apology should also be issued to both Hari Kondabolu and the Indian-American community. If they really want to be progressive, they'll reach out to Hari independently and ask for HIS suggestion on what suitable reparations should be outside of recasting Apu which I think is a no-go for everybody. (They should also privately apologize to Yeardley Smith.)

As for what solution SHOULD have been explored, I would have offered to air The Problem with Apu in the Simpsons time slot (or immediately following a new episode) to give its valid arguments exposure. I would have also like to have seen their own follow-up documentary - in partnership with Morgan Spurlock - that would serve as their "public response" to the issue which would include interviews with Hank Azaria, Al Jean, some of the show's producers, Hari and some of the folks that Hari interviewed for his documentary. Perhaps have a round table format and have a dialogue between all parties. Ultimately treat the issue with care and maturity and be open to the possibility of change and taking ownership of the decisions they made during the show's inception and acknowledging the impact they had.

If the decision was made to write Apu off the show following this documentary, I'd have liked to have seen an episode built around him taking initiative after an incident at the Kwik-E-Mart which effectively saved them from a costly lawsuit and being rewarded with a promotion to Kwik-E-Mart corporate. The episode could focus on Apu's inner conflict of leaving his home in Springfield behind along with his friendship with Homer, his time in the Be-Sharps, his wedding, the birth of his children, all of the many highlight moments from the Classic era from his tic-tac-dough machine to his Billy and the Cloneasaurus rant against Skinner to his rooftop sanctuary behind the non-alcoholic beer display. Eventually he would head off to Capitol City with his family and effectively give him a proper goodbye that many Simpsons characters will never have because of the show's rigid reset button story structure.

Incidentally, doing nothing at all would have also been preferred over what they choose to do last weekend... not just within the episode itself but the public-facing conduct of Al Jean on Twitter following it. This show should be above gaslighting online reactions for legitimate issues which they refuse to acknowledge simply for the basis of boosting the show's relevancy. I've been a constant proponent of keeping the show on the air even now because of the few solid episodes we get each season but if the only way to keep eyeballs tuning in regularly is to resort to these kinds of tactics, I think it might be time to explore calling it quits.
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they made they're choice not to bend over for "these people" for no reason. should they have said anything in retrospect probably not but what's done is done. and to phase apu out over this would be the stupidest thing the show has ever done
Next week in the opening we should zoom in through a different window of the school to find Lisa in Hoover’s classroom writing “I will not betray my ideals” or something along those lines. At least rehabilitate HER image.
lisa didn't betray her ideals i think this is true to who lisa is especially in the classic era
I actually think the way they handled it was already good. By making a satire about it, and joking about it, they brought it to the attention of people in a true, unbiased, hilarious way, showing that The Simpsons is still great after almost 30 years.
i do watch the show have for 18? plus years every episode multiple times i buy all the Simpsons graphic novels when they release i know what im talking about believe me if you want to or not and i was reading elsewhere online and someone said something that i want to say to you basically the way your speaking to me the insults and language is a reflection of yourself im talking about covefe Christmas
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again i will quote if i want to and the user above me yes i have seen that episode multiple times i stand by what i said :cool: lisa marge and the episode make a great point and stand there ground also they don't apologise for a non issue. go al!
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hopefully for your sake the mods here are better at addressing issues than the writers of the simpsons huh!
I really don’t care what they do. I just don’t know what the documentary people want by making the documentary. It was well made, brought up good points, but what are the Simpsons to do now. Apu is an established character, that can’t just do an episode where Apu is just like “I’m a stereotype, so i’m going to abandon my whole life and my accent will disappear.” In addition, the point about people saying Apu is a one-dimensional character just supports the idea that people don’t actually know a thing about him, considering he is a fully fleshed out character, in several episodes, even though he is based on a stereotype. Should Apu been portrayed in a less offensive stereotypical way? Yes, but it is too late for that. You can’t change an entire character after 30 years. All I think we can do is acknowledge that originally portraying Apu as this Indian stereotype is wrong, and his character can serve a satirical point
Thing is all these people being like BuT WHat CaN We DOooooooo are overlooking that the show should've just apologized and realized the errors of the past. But that's not possible because tha simps is an insititution!!! No way these white dudes from Harvard could be racist!!! A simple "wow we fucked up in the past we are sorry" would've been enough. But they had to lean into the whole FUCK DA SJWS thing they absysmally tried in that college episode. It's just pathetic. Couldn't imagine defending the simps in this.
Al Jean is hysterically salty on Twitter right now, just retweeting any "fuck Hari" post he can. Unfollowed him, he clearly cares about nothing else but the corporation institution he has slaved to protect.
lmao at all the idiots who are so attached to their precious fictional status quo that they're in deep thought coming with solutions that don't actually change anything substantial. maybe we should look behind the scenes and see if maybe the overwhelmingly old white male writing room is the reason this show is so consistently embarrassing at portraying minorities? maybe ask yourself if Al Jean's latest tweets reflect someone who actually cares about this in good faith?

or just cancel this crap so we don't have to deal with all this idk
I don't think it needs to handle the situation at all. It can very well just go on like nothing.

It seems to me that people forget that The Simpsons was never intended to be inoffenssive. In fact if anything, it was specifically intended to be offenssive. Not in the way of featuring racial caricatures specifcally, but in a broader sense. It never shied away from scorn and controversy. It criticized the church and the police force in a time when this was almost unthinkable in an american mainstream-TV comedy show, and an animated one at that. It featured what it wanted to featured, it pissed people of, and it didnt back down. It doesn't need to back down this time either. Maybe it would be a nice gesture if it did, but it doesnt need to.
nothing they Need to understand you can not and should not please everyone
I don't understand why it's so difficult for Jean and co to take a step back and realise they're in the wrong. I would bet they haven't even watched the documentary.