Hank Azaria on Apu: ‘It’s upsetting that it was offensive to anybody’

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Spoilers for The Problem with Apu follow
There’s a new documentary on TruTV called The Problem With Apu. If you subscribe to a cable network that carries TruTV, you can watch the show here. It’s by Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu and shows how Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon on long-running cartoon sitcom The Simpsons is a ridiculous stereotype. Of course so many characters on The Simpsons are stereotypes, but Kondabolu and the other prominent Indian-Americans he interviews convincingly break down why that character is so problematic and stigmatizing.

Utkarsh Ambudkar (Pitch Perfect) explained it best.

The Simpsons stereotype all races, the problem is we didn’t have any other representation in this country. [Voiceover by Kondabolu: There was no Aziz, no Mindy, no Kal (in the late 80s/90s)... Apu reflected how America viewed us, servile, devious, goofy] and that creates a problem when the most popular show on television is showing mainstream Americans what an Indian is and it’s a potbellied dude who can’t speak English [and] is an idiot basically.

(Ambudkar actually played Apu’s American nephew on The Simpsons in 2016 in an episode that half addressed the issue of Apu as a racist stereotype and then dismissed it. A clip from that is below.)

Kondabolu asked a room full of South Asian actors and comedians how many of them have been called “Apu” or otherwise mocked using Apu’s trademark phrases and almost everyone raised their hand. The former Surgeon General from 2014 – 2017 under President Obama, Vivek Murthy, shared a story about his seventh grade bully using Apu’s accent to taunt him. Aziz Ansari (Master of None) has a similar story about a guy pulling up beside his car and using Apu’s accent to mock him and his father.

As for why the accent is offensive, several South Asians explained that it’s usurping their culture when a white person does it. Noureen DeWulf (Anger Management) broke it down. “There’s nothing wrong with doing an accent. An accent is a crucial part of a character. It’s when the accent lends itself to being part of a joke about the person, it’s a racist dig. That’s when the accent is problematic.

Kondabolu describes Hank Azaria’s depiction of Apu as “a white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father.” Azaria has claimed it was the producers’ idea to make Apu Indian, but producers claim they only made Apu Indian after Azaria read the lines that way. Azaria is well aware of Kondabolu and of the issues around Apu being a racist stereotype. He did an interview with The Huffington Post in 2013, for an article titled “Is it Time To Retire Apu?” acknowledging Kondabolu’s argument against the character. “If the only representation of Jews in our culture was Robin Williams’ impression of a Yiddish guy [from “The Birdcage,” starring both Williams and Azaria], I guess I might be upset with that too.

However when Kondabolu tried repeatedly to get Azaria to sit for an interview for his documentary he declined, ultimately sending a polite email stating he would be interviewed only when the documentary wrapped as he wanted to control how he was portrayed. The irony of this was not lost on Kondabolu. Now that The Problem about Apu is out, Azaria has deigned to comment. He talked to a TMZ paparazzo at the airport about it:

“I think the documentary made some really interesting points and gave us a lot to think about and we really are thinking about it.

“Definitely anybody that was hurt or offended by it, or by any character or vocal performance, it’s really upsetting that it was offensive or hurtful to anybody.

“I think it’s an important conversation worth having. We’re still thinking about it. It’s a lot to digest.”

[TMZ via Digital Spy]

This is the classic “I’m sorry you were offended” response. As Kondabolu states this isn’t on Azaria, he’s an actor playing a part. The fact that Azaria has worked on the show for nearly 30 years gives him enough clout to request changes, however.

Dana Gould, a writer and producer on The Simpsons from 2001 to 2008, basically told Kondabolu that Apu wouldn’t be funny if he didn’t have an accent “Sober Barney, not funny, out Smithers, not as funny. Humor comes out of conflict.

There goes the argument I was forming in my head that if Barney got sober, Apu could lose the accent. I’m a longterm Simpsons fan although I have only caught it occasionally over the past few seasons. The show has lost its luster. That could be due in large part to its inability to modernize its characters, however many people claim that’s part of its charm and staying power. When a show refuses to change and clings to characters that are patently offensive, it’s a problem, which Kondabolu has decisively shown.

Here’s the episode of The Simpsons from January, 2016, “Much Apu about Something,” that addressed and then dismissed Apu as a stereotype, making a comparison to another stereotypical Italian character. The video starts at the relevant part.

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photos credit: WENN, Fox

 

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102 Responses to “Hank Azaria on Apu: ‘It’s upsetting that it was offensive to anybody’”

  1. aishoc says:

    It’s actually on truTV and not Vice, and truTV is a more common basic cable channel so hopefully people can watch! I haven’t gotten around to this yet but am really interested.

  2. marc kile says:

    Its been on TV for what at least 20 years and now people are starting to complain. Its a cartoon that’s it I hope the complainer’s never tune in on South Park they’ll probably die of shock.

    • HadToChangeMyName says:

      I’m torn. Apu is a racist stereotype, but so is everyone on the Simpsons. Even Homer is a stereotype of working class whites (lazy, ineffectual, dumb, fat). No one is portrayed in a good light in the Simpsons.

      • Veronica says:

        There is plenty of positive representation of white people, though, particularly white men. It’s not that stereotypes can’t work under certain conditions, but if it’s the ONLY representation certain groups have, it fails as a humor device because it teaches people to think of those ethnic groups through a dangerously restrictive lens.

      • Seraphina says:

        So that means the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding should be blasted too.

      • perplexed says:

        Homer is a white character satirized by other white actors/writers.

        I think it’s a little different when a white actor/writer satirizes an Indian character.

      • jwoolman says:

        Veronica – which white guys are positive on The Simpsons? Honest question.

        The only one I could remember that came close was Burn’s assistant, but that was counteracted by the fact that, well, he worked for Burns. Marge and Lisa are supposed to be positive, but Lisa is kind of full of herself and Marge – well, I’ve never forgiven her for caving in her anti-Itchy and Scratchy crusade during the obligatory “protesting violent shows aimed at children is unAmerican censorship” episode. Even Maggie the baby has a distinctive dark side and is considered harmless only because she’s so small. In the Simpsons game, she has a visual task sacrificing her stuffed lamb on a pagan altar. A lot of people were horrified, but I think it’s very consistent with the real Maggie.

        I haven’t really watched the show in years but play the Tapped Out game with a huge cast of characters and read synopses of current shows and occasionally watch clips. So I can’t claim to know all the current characters and their activities. But I can’t really think of anybody that I would like to live next door to…. Really, they’re all pretty bad. They have non-white (actually, non-yellow) characters, but they’re just as bad most of the time. The foreign-born business owners like Apu and Akira tend to be the workaholics – the game event has a 24-hour shift option for Apu (I try to send him for a 12-hour order a salad task in a restaurant instead, he really needs a break). The next generation of course is quite different. Apu’s teenage nephew has a task where he wanders around town taking selfies…

        I think the remark was on target that when the previous generation was growing up, Apu was pretty much the only Indian face on tv and so obnoxious kids latched on to his name and accent to use to insult other people. The Simpsons characters are all stereotypes, but when all you see is one person with an Indian face and accent, that looms large. Today, that’s not really true. Real kids cartoon shows have Indian characters, including as the main character in the title. Live-action shows also. And adult animated series likewise. Aziz voices an occasional character on Bob’s Burgers, for example. So I wonder if things are changing for the current generation, although Trump’s awful hate speech against anybody not pale and against immigrants in general might make it harder to sort out.

        The Simpsons is not a kids show. American parents just assume that if it’s animated, it must be suitable for children. It isn’t. It’s for adults and always has been for adults, starting from its origins as a short on the Tracy Ulmann (sp?) show. Too much to explain and counteract if you let the kids watch it, resulting in the kind of harassment these folks reported from other kids. Their parents were stupid to let them watch the show but more likely they picked up the obnoxious attitudes from their parents. The allegedly beloved Bart Simpson is an example. He’s a nasty brother, a minor-league bully, an unfaithful friend, lazy, just plain mean and disrespectful to everybody unless for some reason he admires them. They try to soften him periodically to show he has limits (which he does) and has a heart, but really he would be a nightmare to have as a son or older brother. The show, in “future” themed episodes, has him grow up into a classic moocher, divorced with children at an early age, living on phoney lawsuits and still hitting up his parents for cash.

        Don’t let your kids watch such shows unsupervised and without loads of discussion and “don’t do that”! Kids don’t see such things as deep satire, they take it all in at face value. I remember hearing the girl who played Kelly on Married With Children express her horror that she was getting fan mail from kids who really admired her character. They didn’t see the satire, they saw a role model. That’s why plunking young children and young teenagers in front of such shows (Married With Children was basically a live-action cartoon) is not a good idea unless you’re ready to do a lot of talking.

    • Jay says:

      I hope you’re joking instead of being incredibly obtuse. It is not that only now are people complaining. We HAVE been complaining and it’s only now that we have members of our community in mainstream/somewhat mainstream media (Aziz Ansari, certainly, Hari kondabalu, Hassan Minhaj, Kumail Nanjiani, etc) that our complaints are actually being heard.

    • MrsBump says:

      Indian people have always complained about Apu, now they’re being heard.

    • Payal says:

      So it’s been racist for 20 years. Do you mean we should accept it because of seniority?

      • HH says:

        Obviously. You didn’t know that unacceptable behavior gets to be grandfathered in?! My boss slaps me on the @$$ and calls me “toots” here and there, but I just laugh it off because he’s 63. It’s actually a compliment, ya know?!
        *BARF*

    • K says:

      If you watch the documentary and you should you’d see it’s basically a minstrel show. And we know those are wrong so is this. Also they could let him grow, why can’t he own the Kqicki- Mart? That is a more accurate portrayal of South Asian immigrant stories. They could also replace the actor with an Indian actor?

      A lot of options to make this better, and people aren’t overreacting when their culture are being mocked, especially when it is all that is shown. Those feelings should be respected and listened too.

      • me says:

        I love your comment. As an Indian, I can tell you Apu had a big effect on my school years. I can’t tell you HOW MANY TIMES some a$$hole would walk up to me and start talking like Apu. I also wonder why they hired a white man to do the voice. I am sure they could have found an Indian actor with a more authentic Indian accent who could have gave some real life input with regards to the portrayal of Apu. Anyways, a lot of the people on this thread are just blind to the racism Apu brought upon us Indians…it didn’t affect them so they don’t understand or care.

    • FF says:

      People were always complaining they just didn’t have a platform to be heard from in those early years and/or they were dismissed shouted over when they did.

      If there isn’t significant representation in a given medium to counteract a repeated negative stereotype then it is harmful.

    • Honest B says:

      But Apu is my favourite character, a successful business owner, Buddhist and member of the volunteer fire brigade.

  3. MartyMcFly says:

    Seriously, in terms of satire South Park is brilliant and would probably cause people to faint! I can’t get on board with this. As they note, The Simpsons satirize everybody. They’re the Mel Brooks of animation.

    • Rosalee says:

      People of different racial backgrounds should stop taking these things so seriously. It done in good taste, it’s humour, we don’t mean to offend anyone..stop being so sensitive it’s not about you. It’s a cartoon it’s not meant to be taken seriously. It’s so funny why can’t you see the humour in it…said no person of colour to a Caucasian

    • Wren says:

      I agree Marty. This whole ” Abu is a stereotype” thing is ridiculous. Of course he is! All the characters are. Just like in South Park. The Simpsons is in its 20+ season and people are suddenly so sensitive they are unable to understand and appreciate parody, as they have for hundreds of years.

      • Amy Tennant says:

        I’d like to give us credit as a society for being able to evolve. True, I’m in my 40s and watched the Simpsons as a kid, so I know it’s been around a while. Think about it. Folks used to laugh at blackface and minstrel shows too. We evolved past that. Watch any teen comedy from the 1980s and count the times somebody casually got called a f_g. We outgrew that too. It’s time to lay this one down too. And don’t compare to South Park, which has had its flashes of utter brilliance saying the things that no one dares to say, but just as often has its Gags that fall flat when they’re being gross for the sake of pushing the envelope. Yes, South Park is excellent when it’s doing satire, but that’s the key point. Satire has an object and meaning behind it. Where is the satire in Apu’s accent? That ha-ha foreign man in the convenience store speaks English funny? That’s hardly a groundbreaking observation, and kind of smacks of punching down, which is rarely if ever the best humor. I do give props for Apu having probably the best growth and story arc out of the characters and probably being one of the most admirable figures in Springfield society.

  4. Ally says:

    Perhaps Azaria has made enough millions off his work on The Simpsons that he could deign/afford to suggest/insist to the producers that they recast the part to an actor with an Indian background.

  5. Wilma says:

    I can definitely understand why people don’t want the one character representing their ethnicity to be a stereotype. I personally always thought Apu was the most normal character on the show. Works hard, polite, has a good marriage, often doesn’t buy into the idiocy of his surroundings, but I wasn’t familiar with the stereotypes of Indian people back when I watched The Simpsons or that the characters still haven’t evolved.

    • Erinn says:

      I started watching it when I was around 10 or 12. I never thought of Apu as a joke. Honestly, I considered him similarly to you – he was usually one of the most sensible characters, and I always really liked him. I know that he was a stereotype – but I kind of took it as a joke against stereotyping. It was so on the nose, and over the top in some ways, that it seemed to almost be calling it out. Everyone in that town is a different level of awful and stereotypical, so of course he was as well.

      But at the same time, I’m not going to tell anyone to not be offended by him. I don’t have the same experience as a white Canadian woman that someone else would have – so if it’s offended people, I respect that.

      • Wilma says:

        Yes, and Kondabolu has been very respectful, almost deferential, towards the show. This is not a hit job. And he’s not someone who doesn’t appreciate satire.
        We should just realize that as white people we really are clueless about the way it feels to only see sterotypical representations of your ethnic background.

      • Erinn says:

        Exactly, Wilma. I’m not upset to have to take a second look at something like this. At the end of the day – I’m more than happy to take note from the people who it DOES affect and go from there. Clearly it HAS offended someone – and the explanation was well thought out – and things have changed a lot in the last 15-20 years. It doesn’t mean that the stereotyping used to be okay and suddenly isn’t – but I’m thankful that we have people who feel more comfortable bringing this sort of thing to everyone’s attention now, and that they have more of a voice than they used to.

    • jwoolman says:

      My reaction to Apu was the same, but I’m an adult and know real people of Indian ancestry but am not Indian myself. So I wasn’t getting Apu and his accent thrown at me as a kid in order to make me uncomfortable.

      I saw him more as a parody of convenience store operators in general. I don’t recall anything on the show mocking Apu for his Indian origin or his accent. He was accepted as a normal part of the town. The other characters interacted with him normally as far as I can remember.

      The kids who tormented other kids with the name Apu and his accent were not getting that attitude from the show itself. My bet is that they were picking it up from adults around them, in particular their parents, who latched on to the Apu character to insult other people who looked Indian. Trump voters in the making….

  6. Wisca says:

    The comments above show why this film is so necessary. Kondabolu is a true ally, & we should listen to our Indian-American citizens about Apu. Saying “It’s just a cartoon,” is such an unintrospective cop out.

    • Lucytunes says:

      Thank you! I seriously hope all commentators this far will watch it. Serious education is needed. (That’s never a bad thing)

    • Veronica says:

      It’s also an uninformed approach to media. There have been many, many studies that suggest media consumption strongly influences our views on gender, sex, ethnicity, race, etc.

    • PauKay says:

      It’s not though, because that’s what it is.

    • Jay says:

      THANK YOU!! I’m scrolling down thinking, “look at all these racists……”

      “STOP CALLING ME A RACIST BECAUSE IM TELLING NONWHITE PEOPLE HOW TO INTERPRET ATTACKS ON THEIR CULTURE AND DIGNITY!!!” Cool, bro. You’re still being racist.

    • Umyeah says:

      I think people keep saying “well the Simpsons has stereotypes of everyone” but people are failing to see that Apu was the only South Asain character on tv, so he was no longer a stereotype he became the standard and thats the problem.

    • Valiantly Varnished says:

      Seriously! But I’m not surprised honestly. As a WOC I have had these types of conversations more times than I care to count and there is a serious blindspot a lot of white people have about stuff like this. They simply don’t get it. They think their desire to laugh at a racist stereotype supercedes a POC’s right to be offended. And they refuse to see the hypocrisy and inherent racism of that way of thinking

    • Amy Tennant says:

      Thank you. I was kinda stunned at the first few comments I read and had to leave for a while. Came back to say exactly this. I’m so glad this documentary exists. It doesn’t seem like we should still have to be having this conversation over and over again, but we still do. The hallmark of privilege is never having to think about privilege. It’s the background radiation of your life. That’s why it’s so hard to get people to recognize it when they’re in it.

    • magnoliarose says:

      I don’t understand it. If a group says something is offensive believe them. It is very simple. Why fight for a something as nothing like a cartoon if it is hurtful to people. If it is hurtful to a community, then it is essential to understand that.
      I don’t like the Smurfs because the villain is a Jewish stereotype.
      It isn’t funny for the minority.
      Someone taking who you are and making it a joke when you are the target of bigotry isn’t funny. It is punching down. At one time it was easy to pick on a new immigrant community, but we should be better people now. Just because no one spoke up loudly doesn’t mean it didn’t bother anyone.
      Woman are being believed so we should just extend that to all groups. It is past time we start treating each other better.

  7. Wren says:

    The Simpsons is a parody. ALL The characters are stereotypes. Parody is a form of satire and humor that apparently our world has become too dumbed down or ” sensitive” to appreciate anymore. You don’t think all white housewives are like Marge or all school principal’s are like Skinner. Homer himself is a stereotype. They are supposed to be stereotypes. No one claimed, ” this is a comedy show accurately representing people of all races and socioeconomic classes.” Get over it and enjoy the humor.

    • Nic919 says:

      I guess they should bring in a character that eats watermelon and has blackface. That used to be pretty funny back in the day too. Or maybe a squinty eyed character who eats rice and runs the laundromat.

      • Wren says:

        its called parody. I don’t see all the white blue collar guys getting upset that HOmer is so stupid…

      • Nic919 says:

        It’s great how you are telling non white people to not be offended about a racial stereotype. Homer doesn’t represent all white working class dudes because there are tons of different kinds of representations out there. Whites are still the majority and in power. So making fun of a white guy is laughing at someone in a place of power. Parody isn’t this at all. It is the weaker party making fun of the people in the stronger position. White guys, even dumb ones, are still in a power position compared to brown guys. Look at the current president.

    • Umyeah says:

      I think the problem was for a very long time Apu was the only South Asain on tv, white blue collar men where repersented on many tv shows giving a full picture of what being a working class person was. I understand its a parody but if you only see one brown person on tv then it becomes the standard. Back in the 90s we didnt have Mindys, Aziz’s and Kals to counter those stereotypes.

    • justcrimmles says:

      It’s not about everyone is a stereotype. It’s about representation, and that white people have always been represented, good and bad, whereas POC have largely either been only negatively shown, or not at all.

    • K says:

      Really you don’t see a lot of wcw getting mad about homer or media portrayal of them? I’m pretty sure we have a orange baboon in the White House because they were tired of being “picked on” ignored” and that their values and what they wanted wasn’t most important. So yeah they get mad all the time. It’s just because they are white men we have to listen to them whine constantly and actually think about their feelings.

  8. phaedra says:

    There was an episode a while back — I haven’t watched it in 20 years, yikes — when Apu was the most eligible bachelor in Springfield. There was a charity auction for bachelors and he was in it. Homer was aghast that anyone would consider Apu a good catch, then the women point out to him how he is actually the best catch in town: a business owner, smart, kind, etc. And Apu got the highest bid, and all the slovenly jerks who thought they were better than him were shown up.

  9. Veronica says:

    The comments on this thread are…revealing, to say the least.

    I’ve seen worse than Apu where stereotypes go, since he at least was given storylines where he could encounter character conflicts and undergo development arcs, but it is a very valid point that stereotypes are problematic when they’re the only form of representation available. If Asians had more of a presence in culture and media, it wouldn’t be an issue, but reducing human beings to exaggerated features and failing to offset that by adding characters who exhibit more complex humanity definitely influences how people view these minorities. Contact and familiarity with ethnic variety is important, not just for the sake of the minorities themselves, but for all of us. Most studies suggest we are all improved by confrontation with morals, cultural differences, and social tendencies that require us to navigate and accept the complexity of the human experience. The same cannot be said for stereotypes.

  10. PIa says:

    I get that the Simpsons are a parody, but the show aired at a time where there was no other South Asian representation on TV, and the character of Apu lead to other stereotypical characters like Raj from the Big Bang theory. Apu’s last name is not even a real name.

    That being said I actually own The Simpsons DVDs, and do appreciate that the character of Apu is complex and multi-dimensional.

  11. Ana Stacia says:

    To me this is a step too far and I think an example of the fun being sucked from things. The Simpsons makes fun of all people. Look at Ned Flanders, Skinner, Homer, Burns, Chief Wiggum, Smithers, Patty and Selma etc. Plus The Simpsons has been out for ages – why get pre-emptively upset about it? Isn’t there enough going on in our world now? I’m just not seeing anything worth being offended by here.

    • supersoft says:

      Especially Chief Wigum. And i loved the early episodes for making a little fun of everyone, and showing respect for everyone at the same time. Homer might be dumb, but he is a loving father, Apu as a Vegan if i remember correctly, etc. This is why i loved the show so much, the makers clearly loved their characters.

    • magnoliarose says:

      I don’t mean to be harsh, but Indian Americans are not having fun.
      Think about something about yourself that defines you. Say you have beautiful curly red hair and you are Irish. But no Irish people are ever shown on TV. A TV show comes along, and the character has a thick fake Irish accent, runs a pub, drinks too much, goes to a Catholic church and has 15 kids, and they all have red hair that is the butt of jokes. No Irish or Catholics are ever seen in the media, and you live in Japan. Everywhere you go, they yell Hallo Shannon pull me a pint? Or sing Dannyboy and laugh. In thick bad accents.
      Then imagine if you told someone it offended you and they told you to get over it you are being sensitive. They aren’t laughing with you but laughing AT you.

  12. Valiantly Varnished says:

    Gotta love all the white folks on this thread saying, “it’s satire. It’s just a joke”. Showing your privilege and ability to shrug off racist stereotypes that don’t affect you.

  13. Tiffany says:

    This show has been on the air so long that a twelen viewer is now a former Surgeon General.

  14. Miss Grace Jones says:

    Glad to see a lot of the people on this thread revealing what kind of oblivious racists they are demanding that people of color not be offended.

  15. eto says:

    Some of ya’ll are only as woke as far as it doesn’t inconvenience you or make you uncomfortable. Thanks for the “solidarity”.

  16. Sorrynotsorry says:

    This is the problem with white feminism. So many of you here think you’re so woke, especially when it comes to women’s issues. But time and time again, when the conversation turns to issues of race, specifically issues involving non-black people, the comments turn into a flaming pile of turd. Think about what the people of color here who are offended by Apu are saying, instead of trying to tell us why we shouldn’t be offended.

    • supersoft says:

      But Apu is not a negative stereotype. Did you even watch the show? No one is not a parody in some ways in the Simpsons. Apu is one of the best characters in that show actually. He loves his family, is vegan, even friends with Paul McCartney. He is never being made racist fun of in any kind.

      • magnoliarose says:

        That is not the point.
        Sometimes I have a hard time articulating this point because I have always lived in diverse situations so I knew Apu was a problem. But most people don’t grow up in New York and Los Angeles and they don’t get to travel a lot much less to countries where the people are predominately brown. So for MOST white people, Apu is the only Indian representation they have ever experienced. They don’t know the differences between Pakistani or Indian or Sikh or Hindu or Muslim. Just Apu.
        And he is voiced by a Greek Sephardic Jew. ????

        Just take a moment and understand people of color are sick and tired of being stereotyped and told what to do and how to feel. When you ignore their voices it is hurtful. Many times they are patient but what has to stop is not listening and accepting their feelings. Believe her is the same as Believe them.

      • grumpy says:

        MOST white people in the UNITED STATES perhaps, not the whole world.

  17. Hehe says:

    And you all were recently making fun of southern accents in the post about Kate Winslet. Hypocrites

  18. Littlestar says:

    I did find irony in Azaria wanting control in how he’s portrayed, meanwhile that’s what the Indian American community is asking for and being dismissed by Azaria, among others. I know I get tired of seeing how Native Americans are portrayed in media, even with kids shows I have to explain to my kid what these shows are portraying. Also tired of the mestizo* trope of using Mexicans/Central Americans for maids or other servant positions like a gardener or nanny.
    *Mestizo being someone of mixed Amerindian and European ancestry, the European being Spanish and mestizo meaning mixed. Typically what people imagine when they think of someone who’s “Latino” or “Hispanic, but the reality is you can white/black/brown & anything between and be Hispanic/Latino.

  19. Anatha A says:

    Wow. I’m appalled by the comments on here. People say that they got specifically bullied, because of the stereotype and white people on here still scream “It’s a parody. Get over it.”

    Yes, it is a parody, but it has quite obvious negative consequences. How can you be so racist to ignore that?

  20. bookgrl63 says:

    The thing is, Barney did get sober (for a little while) and Smithers did come out of the closet so it’s not like characters don’t change. Personally I think the show should have ended 20 years ago. The show was parodying something that really doesn’t exist anymore, the everytown USA seen in older sitcoms. And so they can never really be relevant because the core of the show has become outdated.

    • supersoft says:

      This. The show actually still plays in the beginning of the nineties so to say. And thus lost its momentum.

      • bookgrl63 says:

        That’s one of the reasons the problem of Apu exists: the show’s characters are inherently stereotypical, but those stereotypes have become more offensive over time. And the show can’t just get rid of core characters and bring in new ones, like Doctor Who or Star Trek, and it can’t let the characters get older so that a new generation can take over, like a soap opera. I don’t see a way they can really evolve.

  21. Caty Page says:

    This thread is appalling. And I’m not going to point out why just to have some basic tell me to “take a joke.”

    Seeing Coco recently really drove home the importance of culturally relevant representation. I hated my brown skin and textured hair through most of my youth.
    The representations I saw of people who look like me made me feel like I should expect and accept less from society than girls who were thinner, blonder, and had fairer skin. Seeing someone who looked even slightly more like me being shown as brave, kind, and smart literally left me in tears.

    If you think this stuff ‘doesn’t matter,’ you have never had to deal with it so you might not understand. That’s fine. But when I tell you why it matters and you tell me I’m wrong, you’ve crossed the line from clueless to callous.

    • magnoliarose says:

      I don’t know why it is hard to get. Some of the comments make me sad.
      It is ironic you said that about blonde because I always wanted dark curls when I was little. My mother’s college roommate and best friend is black and we grew up with her family and my best friend her daughter has curls like Tracee Ross’ hair, and she would get braids for the summer, so I made my mother get mine done the same. You don’t think of race or color when you are six years old. I wanted her hair.
      We never went to the same schools because they lived a few hours away but she used to get harassed because has always worn her hair natural, her mother is a feminist and never relaxed it. Now it is cool but back in the 90s she got mean comments.

  22. Tanesha86 says:

    I am absolutely disgusted by your comments Wren. You’ve been completely dismissive and tone deaf and you don’t come off well at all. Who are you to try to police POC?

  23. cf86713 says:

    I’m Indian American, never watched the Simpsons but did hear about Apu and well found it eye roll worthy and not surprising.

    But I can’t comment on being personally offended since I never watched the show I do know other Indians who have watched the show and didn’t care.

    However there are those that do and I won’t dismiss that either.

  24. Kath says:

    I always thought Apu was one of the only sane/normal characters on that show, and he will always have a special place in my heart for Lisa’s vegetarian episode :)

  25. ms says:

    I didn’t see his response as “I’m sorry you’re offended” at all. That sounded like a person who is genuinely taking the concerns seriously and is contemplating his role in it. Irony aside, I can’t blame him in the slightest for deferring from participating in the documentary, based on the tone of this post alone.

    Apu’s character is offensive, and that might have been something they could get away with 30 years ago, but not now. That’s a good thing.

  26. Cate says:

    I’ve never been a big Simpsons watcher, but from what I did see it always puzzled me, and the portrayal of Apu was something I found particularly weird–to me it was obviously racist and I’ve never understood how a mainstream TV show could get away with having a long-running character shown like that. I agree that for the show to portray white guys (e.g. Homer, Bart) negatively is different as the show is (I believe?) largely written and produced by white guys–it’s one thing to mock yourself, another to mock a minority. Anyway, I’m glad this issue is getting some airtime.

  27. Dee says:

    I never found Apu offensive. If anything he was the only normal likeable character. HOWEVER. Hank Azaria is from the community I grew up in and he is known to be a POS. Like, lacks empathy, really mean to his fans POS. So I’m not surprised by his response.

  28. Jenn says:

    People are making a horrible analogy saying “oh but Homer was a stereotype too!”

    There are SO many representations of blue collar white men in media- probably only second in representation to white collar white men?

    They range from noble to ridiculous – but the humanity of blue collar white men has certainly been explored and humanized in media and literature – A LOT, both in the past and present. So of course blue collar white people can see the humor in Homer.

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