‘Simpsons’ Producer Al Jean Tackles Apu Issue

Al Jean
Al Jean

Addressing the growing controversies surrounding what many see as the stereotypical character of The Simpsons’ Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu, show runner Al Jean took to Twitter today. He said he’ll “try to find an answer that is popular & more important right” following several days of chatting with Twitter followers on both sides of the recent.

Last Sunday’s episode feature a plotline wherein Marge reads an old book to Lisa which has been updated for a modern social climate. Lisa complains that the heroine described as a “cisgender girl” is “already evolved” and “doesn’t really have an emotional journey to complete.” Marge asks her, “Well, what am I supposed to do?” and Lisa replies, “It’s hard to say. Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” At that point, Lisa looks at a framed photograph of Apu (voiced by Hank Azaria, who is not South Asian) inscribed, “Don’t have a cow.” Marge adds, “Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” and Lisa adds, “If at all.”

Hari Kondabolu, the actor, comedian and filmmaker behind the 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu was not happy with the flip way the producers of the show had handled the criticisms. He tweeted, “Wow. ‘Politically Incorrect?’ That’s the takeaway from my movie & the discussion it sparked? Man, I really loved this show. This is sad.”

Observers also pointed out that white actor Hank Azaria has been voicing Apu since the beginning of the show. Many took issue with the stereotypical way the actor has voiced the minority character. Jean noted “We tried bringing in Utkarsh Ambudkar as Apu’s nephew. It was deemed unsatisfactory — there’s no solution I fear that will satisfy.”

Jean also tweeted, “We’ve been trying to make Apu nuanced, sympathetic and (more than our other characters) admirable for 30 years.”

Commenters asked Jean to apologize and say that the writers and producers are going to learn to create something less hurtful to many of the fans. Jean responded that he believes hiring more people of color in the writers room is a good idea.

Al Jean

Al Jean

The Simpsons

The Simpsons

The Simpsons

The Simpsons

  • Mario Bros

    The Simpsons response was on point. Enough with this PC insanity.

  • Barbara Anne Langridge

    Everything about Bart and the tribe is non PC. Without it there’s no show. Marvel tried the who PC character thing a few years back and reported backlash on sales. Next the PC police will be onto Shameless. Now there’s a whole bunch of non PC.

  • Cameron Ward

    This was a very disappointing reaction and rather ignorant on the side of the Simpson’s writers. It was like they didn’t watch the friggin documentary.

    • Hiran

      No the reaction taken by the Simpson’s writers was on right. I’m Indian (born in Mumbai) and I take no offense with Apu as do most Indians. Why on earth does one mediocre comedian speak for the rest of us brown people. The documentary itself was absurd in that a man was offended by a fictional cartoon character.

      • Cameron Ward

        it would have been better if they didn’t just shrug their shoulders and go “oh well it’s too late to turn back” when it’s not due to how the status quo for that show has not risen or lowered.

        It wasn’t just him. if you actually watched it, it’s more the impact of the character had on Hollywood than anything else. other middle eastern actors had to deal with crap, because of how Hollywood wanted an “apu” style performance. it’s about the stereotyping and slightly uncomfortable roles middle eastern actors have had to deal with for decades.