The Simpsons Pokes Fun At Documentary That Criticised Apu

Screenshot: The Simpsons

On last night's Simpsons, the show's creators poked fun at comedian Hari Kondabolu's documentary, The Problem With Apu, which critiqued the show's portrayal of its primary Indian character.

The Problem With Apu, which aired on TruTV in November of last year, explored Kondabolu's relationship to The Simpsons, a show he loves, as well as the character Apu, who he hates. The movie spun out of a segment Kondabolu did for Totally Biased With Kamau Bell, where he described Apu's voice as, "A white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father."

Hank Azaria, the voice of Apu, declined to be interviewed for Kondabolu's documentary, but told TMZ that it "made some really interesting points."

In last night's episode of The Simpsons, characters Marge and Lisa seemingly make a reference to Kondabolu's criticisms. Speaking directly to the camera, Lisa says, "It's hard to say. Something that started decades and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?"

The camera then pans to a portrait of Apu, which has "Don't have a cow, man!" written on it.

Marge replies, "Some things will be addressed at a later date," and Lisa adds, "if at all."

Kondabolu addressed this response on Twitter, saying, "In 'The Problem with Apu,' I used Apu & The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalised groups & why this is important. The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress."

Today, The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean retweeted a tweet saying, "Loved how you guys handled this non-issue. People just want to cry about everything nowadays b/c it makes them feel like they're doing something. ... Oh and I'm Indian and according to Twitter my opinion matters more on this topic."

Speaking to Kotaku before the documentary aired, Kondabolu said, "People say to me that you can't change this beloved thing. It's like, Maude Flanders is dead, Krabappel is gone. They make changes, things happen and you adjust to it."


Comments

    Yeah, even as a borderline SJW, I found the criticism of Apu to be way too sensitive. When I go overseas and people learn I’m Australian I get asked about the boot because of that one Simpson’s episode.
    India has a very sensitive culture. As an atheist/realist why should I be expected to take an elephant man-god seriously outside of their country? That’s unrealistic.
    If I was Indian, I’d be more worried about the prevalent rape, lack of female education, class based society, and child abuse than Apu.
    The whole country has shit to get on top of before they can cry about this shit.

      Did you watch the documentary?

        Of course they didn't. This is the comments section; why would anyone educate themselves before weighing in?

      He's of Indian ethnicity and grew up in America. He lives in America and has for most of his life. He's experienced racism because of stereotyping and the culprits have responded by negating his life experiences. Seems like a dick move, no? What's the controversy?

        I think he should understand though, that he's not a special snowflake: The Simpsons is not targeting him. It is enjoyed by a lot of people, including people from South Asia.

          Where did you get that he is complaining about himself or his own feelings? Also, did you miss the part where it says that he himself is a longtime fan? He's talking about a widespread social attitude of which Apu is merely an example. And this comments section is another.

            Why would he criticize Apu if he loves Apu? I mean, I could do a documentary criticizing video game culture, even though I love it, but why the hell would I do that... It's like Chewbacca living on Endor!

              But you can and SHOULD criticize something you love, especially if you think its a negative portrayal of a race! I mean, if Disney can apologise to Mexicans about Speedy Gonzalez and took steps to change the character, I suppose The simpsons could probably do it too? But then again I also think Appu's portrayal isn't that bad considering how the other characters are in the show.

                I can't believe Disney apologised over Speedy Gonzalez... Everything's offensive these days...

                Speedy Gonzalez isn't from Disney man. So stop making up bullshit lies. Warner Bros owns Looney Toons.

                  Don't be that guy. Not everything is fake news, boy.
                  Yes you're right, I should have said Warner Bros not Disney.But my point is that they apologised.
                  I only know because right before it came on in Cartoon Network they had a disclaimer that went something like "We recognise the negative portrayal of mexicans blah blah, but to acknowledge that this cartoon was made and to not sweep things under the rug we have not made any edits to the show" or something like that.

                  Speedy himself is fine, but it's more about how his fellow mexican mice are always portrayed as lazy or dumb.

              He loves the Simpsons, not Apu. It's precisely because one loves something that one would attempt to make it become something better (i.e. removing harmful stereotyping depictions).

        Nope. Too sensitive. I’m Tasmanian. You think I get upset about the “show us ya scar!” question? There’s “fried chicken and watermelon” stereotyping and then there’s “your accent is different to most people I know and a lot of your people work in 7/11”. One’s harmful and demeaning, the other is acknowledged difference that may irk you. Like a Tasmanian incest joke might irk me. There’s racism and racial insensitivity.
        The only thing that can negate his life experience is him. He’s not even really a minority as he is from one of the two most populous ethnic groups in the world.
        I’ve gone on about racism a lot before here (see Counterstrike N-word article), but this is a stretch. He made somebody goody points in the doco, but I couldn’t get past the fact I was thinking “Yup, and I didn’t like the portrayal of Australia in The Simpsons when I was 14”.
        Here’s the reason he got a point across that you wouldn’t if you made a documentary about how Australians are depicted in comedy (i.e. kangaroo riding inbreds):

        - He’s brown which makes it easier to sympathise instead of empathise for whiteys
        - A white guy does Apu’s voice, which could look like, I guess, brown face?
        - He got teased and because he was around more white peeps than brown peeps race became a factor.

        It is so easy to jump on the victim bandwagon that Catholics even do it now. I watched the film expecting to just buy everything in it. Instead i came out with the above viewpoints.
        He has created a victim status of himself and others.

          I dunno mate.From what I've heard, facing a constant drip feed of assumptions of your character and traits based on bad info can really f*** you up over a long time. I don't think the Australia episode-which was so bizarre and unbelievable that I'm pretty sure people wouldn't change their opinion on Aussies-really equates. Apu's been on the show for decades and he's got character traits that are pretty frequently attached to people from India (dodgy business practices, workaholic, greedy, etc.) It's apples and oranges.

          For the record, I didn't watch the doco but I've heard him make his points before.

            That’s a really good point: The Australian episode was inherently odd and otherworldly in its depiction whereas Apu is a reoccurring character.
            Yup. I leveraged off that more than it was worth.
            Thanks, man. I like new viewpoints that let me think about my own attitudes.

              All good. Thanks for the civil discussion and honesty, it's very much appreciated

          how are yall treating the real natives of au?

            There’s a lot of work to be done.
            But we’re more on top of it than the US is with their indigenous people.

      "If I was Indian, I’d be more worried about the prevalent rape, lack of female education, class based society, and child abuse than Apu."

      But you cannot directly blame popular TV show or a successful (financially and otherwise) studio for those other things, there is no exposure in doing so and it may require criticising your own culture and country.

        Wut? Sorry man, didn’t get that.
        If you’re saying I took this on an unrelated tangent about lack of women’s rights in India you are 100% correct. Because if I had a voice to represent my people like he had, that’s where I’d go instead of “People called me Apu at school and hurt my feelz!”.
        Boohoo. Meanwhile other countries are sending there own people to your homeland to rescue child sex workers as young as three because the Indian government doesn’t care.
        But sure, big man. You have a little cry about being likened to Apu way back in high school.
        That’s how I feel about this.

          I personally get where you're coming from and agree there are bigger problems affecting the Indian community, but you do know there are many other actual well funded docos and videos on those topics? But these videos never gain the same traction or publicity in the western countries. Why? Lack of "relatability" (if that's even a word). If his ultimate goal is to make people aware of racism and to start that conversation rolling, I reckon tying it to a relatable product (in this case the Simpsons) is a good move. And the fact that Simpsons responded to it is even better!...as evidenced by even Kotaku picking it up.

      Truth is that the kind of world the "Documentary" maker wishes to apparently live in requires the type of loving inclusivity that wouldn't be bothered by a white man voice acting Indian man, or someone like Phil LaMarr voicing an Asian character. The guy just wanted a Simpson's Yellow-coloured soap box.

      Last edited 11/04/18 7:29 am

    The thing that made me roll my eyes about the whole situation was that most people completely missed the point with The problem with Apu and will most likely do the same with this episode of the Simpsons. (As evidenced by the provided Tweets)

    It was never about calling on the Simpsons to change and the response is not resistance to change, both are just fair comments from their own perspectives and neither was a call to arms against the other.

      "speaking to Kotaku before the documentary aired, Kondabolu said, "People say to me that you can't change this beloved thing. It's like, Maude Flanders is dead, Krabappel is gone. They make changes, things happen and you adjust to it."

      Hmmmm. sounds to me like he does want it to change...

        That was a response to a direct question from Kotaku on how he might change the character on the back of his statement they he in no way provides any examples on how they should change Apu or that he's asking them to.

          You don't go out of your way to create a documentary and utilise time and effort on a character to just give your opinion. He wants them to change the character. period. That's the whole point of the documentary as well as the direct quote, there's no "maybe" involved in his narrative.

            I think the point of the documentary is earning his victim badge. The dude got teased in high school. Like everyone else.
            This was a combination of self promotion and “poor me”.
            Bitch needs to get sent to his ancestral home to check his priveledge.

            Last edited 10/04/18 5:38 pm

            Oh? Can you name a Indian character in western media with such wide appeal or recognition?
            Apu is hands down the only character that is instantly recognisable across a massive audience.
            He's instantly the best, if not only viable choice on the subject.

            Of course it's a direct quote, but the choice to ignore context is purely yours in this case and it's exactly what I'm getting at, that folks prefer to ignore everything in favor of pushing the idea that Simpsons is being racist or that Hari is hating on the show to and calling for them to change when neither is the case, it's lazy outrage.
            I doubt posting the quote in full would even matter, you have clearly already decided that half a quote delivered second hand is saying everything you need it to say.

            See I don't have an emotional horse in this race, I see Apu as a beloved legacy character that isn't a malicious creation, but I'm also not getting upset that an indian person might take issue with the stereotypical representation in the entertainment industry.

              Oh? Can you name a Indian character in western media with such wide appeal or recognition?

              Rajesh Cooper Polly. He's one of the best known Indian characters in modern pop culture and has been for a decade now :)

                Ha, ok I will actually give you that one.
                Still a far cry from the level of recognition you will find with Apu though, most who wouldn't know who Rajesh is would still know Apu without a second glance.

      But just... what if they *did* get what he was saying and didn't agree with him? It's always the go-to saying 'you didn't understand what I was saying!', but again and I restate, what if they *did* and didn't agree?

        To be honest I thought the statement kinda speaks for itself, it's hard, it was never meant to be offensive but now it's something that's part of a greater conversation, what can you really do? Maybe things will change, but change isn't easy.

        Frankly I took it as recognising the documentry and a comment on the world we live in as opposed to a statement on if they agree or not.

    I think the Simpsons' response was pretty accurate of creators who made something decades ago, when people had different and less politically correct mindsets, who are attacked today using the standards that things are judged by today. Lot of works of classic literature that were written 10, 20, 50, 100+ years ago would be considered racist and outdated by today's standards.

    There really is no way to retroactively change what is considered outdated, racist, sexist, etc. So what are the creators meant to do? Remove their works from the shelves, cutting off their own knees financially? Do they rewrite the books to work with modern standards? Or do they just just tell people to stop being so touchy and just ignore that such things exist? There is no real way for the creators and those making this noise of judgement to come to a conclusion where things can change without destroying what already exists.

      Precisely. So what do they do, go censor out Apu and replace him with 'racist white guy' which itself, in ten years or so, will be seen as a racist stereotype? Or do they simply say 'hey we're just not going to introduce any more stereotypes'.

      There's actually the argument FROM Indian people themselves that Apu is a pretty well thought out character. He's representative of the 'American Dream' for foreigners. A self made man, he comes to the US, manages to play their game, makes money, is successful to a degree, has a family and a business and manages to be in his own way a legitimate representation of what people could aspire to if they see past the surface.

      But, quite a lot of the times, people just don't want to see past the surface.

        The argument from the documentary is not to go back and change the past, but that you could change future episodes, and just as importantly there is more comic opportunity in doing so than with staying with the status quo
        He is a single reference point, it would be interesting to introduce a few more characters to the Simpsons.

        its like Speedy. he was removed from tv because he was deem racially insensitive and a negative stereotype, yet was seen as hero to look up by Latin Americans

      Yeah its comepletely missed placed as well when content like books, shows and movies based on events 20+ years ago can also be seen as misogynistic, racist or homophobic when its a portrayal of that era. Dunkirk was somehow criticised by SJWs because they didn't feature many women, especially amongst the soldiers. Sometimes you can't makeup this level of stupidity and lack of understanding

        Criticise Dunkirk for a lack of women soldiers? How absurd, I must read this...

        Oh wait, they were complaining that the director chose a subject that had a lack of roles for women and they claimed that this resulted in a run of the mill war movie. Disappointing.

          Ah yep, that's the reason. I had a feeling my memory was off

        SJW werent even criticizing dunkirk. the person who made the critic of SJW got it wrong.

      Or its a cartoon and they just voice it with an Indian actor.

      I don't think it matters.

        But then the issue would shift to the character itself. People would start saying that having an Indian character working a 7-Eleven type store is a negative stereotype and they should make him a CEO or something instead.

          And why not a CEO? Why present that as an unreasonable extreme to go? I, in fact, know several Indian CEOs.

      Exactly.

      The past is in the past, history is history. You can't change that. A lot of us aren't proud of stuff that happened in the past, but it still happened. You can't just pretend it didn't. Our standards have been raised over the years as we look to stamp out all kinds of discrimination, and this should ultimately be the end goal. But you can't rewrite history and pretend it never happened, which is what some of the more extreme people seem to be trying to do.

        Nobody is talking about rewriting history. The conversation regards stop the hold that problematic historic issues have in the present via the use of normalised stereotypes and attitudes.

      Or, considering it's still an ongoing series and not a book from the '20s, tweak the character from now ow?

        But then the criticism would keep shifting. First it's the fact that a white man plays an Indian character, then it'll be the depiction of family, his job, his position in the community, etc. Every time something is addressed, then the issue just gets changed to something else. Then once Apu is changed into a successful CEO who owns the Simpson home and kicks Mr Burns in the balls every episode, things shift to another character till the show is full of bland, undeveloped, character-less things that don't resemble anything ever.

        Once you open the floodgates "for the future" then where do things stop? Answer: They do not stop.

          Since when is tweaking the character the same as completely rewriting the show?

          Tone down his accent a touch to reflect how Apu's been in America at least 15 years, even allowing for the flimsy passage of time on the show. Something minor like that. Instead of completely brushing it off with contempt, like they did. Honestly, they should be glad someone even still cared enough about their dead-horse show to bother critiquing it.

            Not everyone loses their accent after living in another country. Plus, could you imagine what would happen if Apu lost his accent or if the accent was lessen into sometime more American/Indian hybrid? People would be accusing the show of white washing.

          Wait, so inverting the status quo and establishing a minority representative as a person of power is bland and undeveloped? You mean blander and more undeveloped than the status quo where almost every single person of power and influence in Springfield is white? (er, yellow), or a man?

    Something that started decades and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?
    This is something that annoys the hell out of me. Something happens that was perfectly fine in society years or decades ago, but because the standards of today have changed so much, peoples careers and lives are getting destroyed. If some of these things were so wrong, why weren't they dealt with when it happened?

    Specifically with Apu, the thing that annoys me here is that the stereotype they're portraying is what I see all the time. Doesn't matter if its a doctor, lawyer, or convenience store staff, its an accent I hear all the time. If its accurate, whats wrong with it? Especially when there was no reaction to the character for a quarter of a century.

      Apu wasn't offensive back then, he's not offensive now. Just as the Australian episode wasn't offensive back then and isn't now. Tobias was cute and adorable AF. Now, where's me damn Prime Minister... AYE! ANDY!

        Reminds me of the 2016 blow up about the removal of Huckleberry Finn (1884) and To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) from schools in Virginia due to their use of racial slurs (specifically, the 'N' word).

        IMO, removing distasteful references from history make it virtually guaranteed that it will happen again. How do you learn from history if you scrub out the yucky bits?!

          That's disingenuous. So hey, let's keep using the N word and other similar epithets; they're basically the only thing keeping the return of slavery at bay! Heaven forbid we instead try to treat these people as normal human beings. Showing courtesy and humanity to them basically guarantees somehow the worst possible outcome!

            I'm not sure what you mean by disingenuous? Nowhere in my post do I ever imply that we should be allowed to continue using racial epithets, and if that's what you inferred then I apologise for not being clear enough. Racism is awful, and our documented history is full of horrendous examples. Even the casual racism in Huckleberry Finn is illustrative of how enmeshed in society it was. We don't ever want to go back there. We should be using it to teach our children how damaging it has been. Hiding our collective heads in the sand by burying the nasty parts of our history leads to ignorance and guarantees that we will repeat those same mistakes.

            I am a white, middle aged man. I have no concept of what it is like to live a life as a target of bigotry and discrimination. But I am currently studying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture at University and I've learned a lot. I'm doing my best to assimilate what I'm learning to improve my behaviour. I know I won't always get it right, but I also know that hiding our past will not help.

            Last edited 12/04/18 1:45 pm

              My genuine apologies. You /did/ mean the argument about history. It's just that I've heard it thrown in so, so many times by people who just want to use it as a facile, thoughtless argument for enabling their reluctance to be participants of the change, that I just assumed that here again. Sorry once more.

                All good. It's a difficult topic to have a calm, rational discussion about. There are too many uninformed opinions being tossed up against too many (understandably) raw nerves. In honesty my first reply to your message was similarly snippy, but I realised that I was reacting to your irritation and that there must have been a reason for it. Fortunately I had the opportunity to edit my unproductive response. I appreciate your apology but, given the topic, I totally understand why you were on the look out for aggressive ignorance. It's unfortunate that most discussions start at that point these days. All the best.

          huckleberry finn isnt history, its a racist fictional book. tbh i dont think you even read those books and you can read them online. LOL

            Interesting - I have the impression you think you're making a point here (among the other non-points you've tried to make in these threads). Perhaps you'd like to have another go?

        In that same episode they depicted all Germans as literally Hitler.

          Actually, that was Argentina, where according to some conspiracy theories Hitler fled to after the war. Buenas noches, mein fuhrer!

          Actually, you probably already knew that. I just wanted to flaunt my Simpsons cred. I love that episode!

        actually there was one thing that was culturally offensive in Bart Vs Australia and that was Lisa playing the didgeridoo. Women were not allowed to play the didgeridoo or attend corroboree

          I sat here watching that with Indigenous friends years back (seriously did), they actually pointed that out to me initially, I then asked them about that very topic, and they more or less put it that that's one of those 'old traditions we don't really stick to any more'. I get entirely what you're saying and not disagreeing with you, it was just interesting to see how traditions change.

      The argument is that Apu is the only representation you get of an Indian in America.
      They could have other townsfolk that were Indian. There is no problem with having an Indian convenience store owner, but when that is the only representation, and it is a bit of a cliche, then the show could do better, and get more opportunities for comedy by doing so.
      There are multiple African American characters, such as Karl, Dr Hibbert Bernice Hibbert and their family, Bleeding Gums Murphy, Judge Roy Snyder, Office Lou, Tatum, Luscius Sweet etc. It would be easy to have another Indian character or two from time to time, and could open up some new story possibilities.

        What's the population of Springfield? What's the Indian % population in the US? Where does it end? What about Apu's wife and all of their kids?

        When there are plenty of examples of straight-forward racism etc happening left, right and centre, why target a show that clearly has it's heart in the right place?

        Part of the appeal of the show is that it satires everyone, including low-IQ white male Americans. You know? The main character on the show.

        Last edited 10/04/18 1:04 pm

        Apu's wife Manjula, their 8 children, Apu's parents and other relatives that appear from time to time as well as one-off characters like the Kwik-E-Mart President have all shown up in the series.

        The Simpsons is all kind of about single stereotypes though. Groundskeeper Willie, Rainier Wolfcastle, the Irish boy Colin from the movie (that keeps being asked if his father is Bono), the Italian restaurant owner Luigi Risotto, Fat Tony, Bumblebee Man, Dr Nick Riviera, Rabbi Hyman, Uter Zorker (the fat German kid) - there are plenty of single racial stereotypes in the show - although admittedly, aside from perhaps Groundskeeper Willie, they aren't as regular on the show as Apu is.

      You don't understand and can't understand because you're not trying. As a white person, you laugh at a caricature of a non-white person, for no other reason that they are different to you and allow stereotypes that group entire communities of individuals under the umbrella of the lowest denominator (because it's not only the "funniest" but also because it's also the most self-validating).

      Then, when these non-whites try to tell you that they don't find it funny, you raise your hands and say "hey pal, I don't find it offensive so you shouldn't either, unless you are some sensitive snowflake. If I find you funny, then you are funny and if I say it's not offensive, then it's not. Now get in line and be funny for me."

        Excuse me? Did you just assume I was white? I am, but my heritage happens to be from one of the most stereotyped and ridiculed nations on the planet.

        I'm not going to lay my history out here, but the very thing you are complaining about is something I've had to deal with my whole life, along with ticking several other EEO groups along the way. My career doesn't help either. Believe it or not, it happens to white countries as well.

        This show hasn't changed in 30 years, so why wasn't this such a big deal in 1989? Or 1999, or 2009? Why now? Its that issue that annoys me. Not that someone is offended, but that it took 30 years for them to make it an issue.

        That's not the show, that's society, and they're judging 30 years of work on todays standards. Meanwhile, nobody cares that every character in the show is the same - characterisations based on stereotypes.

        I have thick skin, because I've had to deal with this very thing for nearly 50 years in almost every aspect of my life and career. Don't tell me how this works, its been my life. And what I've learned is that people ARE sensitive snowflakes these days.

        Heres a tip, if you don't like it, don't watch it.

          It wasn't a big deal because society has progressed. Minstrel parlour shows with white people in blackface ridiculing PoCs were all the rage 80 years ago. Why did we stop them? And it's precisely always the people like you who try to impede that progress by getting defensive: "It's just harmless humour! If they don't like it they can just watch it!" "My right to be entertained in the ways I like (i.e. making fun of peoples different to me) is more important than the "feelings" of this easily offended snowflakes!" "MY feelings are more important than other people's feelings, because those peoples are objectively ridiculous and despicable which is the subconscious lesson I get from this entertainment I defend so vehemently!"

    I mean the show aired years ago, things were different then.

    What's next? People taking issue with jokes about slavery and the promotion of Nazism?

    It's political correctness gone mad.

      So a Jew, a black slave and a Nazi walk into a pizzeria...

      :-P

    Do people not understand that the Simpsons is all about playing up certain stereotypes, especially white people.

    That being said the Simpsons haven't been funny in over a decade.

      "That being said the Simpsons haven't been funny in over a decade."

      Had to get that in, didn't you? Now there's a stereotype of which I am sick and tired.

        Of what, people not finding the Simspons funny? I don't see how that is a stereotype.

    I guess it's easy to be be offended by a stereotypical character in a show full of stereotypical characters.

    So no one actually watched the documentary itself it seems.

    The guy wasn't going "I HATE APU GET RID OF HIM" he instead told a pretty personal story of how Apu was the most popular Indian character of its time, and he was voiced by a white guy, and written by white guys who don't know his culture.

    He talks of how still to this day he is asked to "put on an indian accent" when auditioning for parts that don't need it, and when they say "an accent" they mean an Apu impression. He loves the Simpsons but can't help but notice the negative impact Apu had on his culture in America.

    i honestly think this was pretty shitty of the Simpsons writers, instead of owning up to it they instead go "stop complaining about it", if they wanted to say "He was offensive back then and we know this" they shouldn't have ended it with the "what can you do" because it shifts the blame to society instead of themselves. It's the equivalent of saying "i'm sorry you felt that way" instead of "I'm Sorry".

    Also, remember when Lisa was worried about bad representations of Women in the Malibu Stacey episode? To have her say something like this is a gross misrepresentation of the character, she would most likely by on the side of Hari, instead the writers used her as a mouthpiece because she's considered the smartest member of the family.

    I haven't liked the Simpsons for a while but i've been hearing that the latest seasons have been getting better, but after this i don't want to watch a show run by cowards who can't talk to a guy in person, and instead hide behind their characters. I can still watch and appreciate the older episodes, and Apu still makes me laugh, but i'm more aware of what he represents now.

      The thing is that most Indians born and raised in India do in fact speak English with an Apu-like accent. Most first-generation Indian-Americans speak English with an Apu-like accent. It's only the americanised, second-generation or later, Indian-Americans like Hari Kondabolu that might find Apu ridiculous, but even they might see in Apu a reflection of their parents or grandparents, who came to America and who might have struggled with language and culture.

      It's unfortunate that there aren't more representations of the variety of Indian-American experience in shows like The Simpsons, but people like Hari should accept that while Apu doesn't reflect who THEY are, he is a genuine parody, not a racist stereotype.

        In the Documentary he interviews his parents about Apu, and they don't see anything wrong with Apu, he literally talks about the exact thing you are saying but people are just getting angry at him first and not watching the documentary.

        I also don't see how him being second generation makes him not able to say a portrayal of his race isn't offensive, in fact it's worse because he's the one that has to deal with the stereotype after a generation has grown up with this misrepresentation of his culture (another thing he points out in the doco).

        Also, Parody does not give anything an excuse for being offensive, even if the parody was not mean spirited, and all the writers of The Simpsons had to say was "Yeah we understand what we did back then wasn't fair, we'll work on making things better" instead of passive aggressive half assed excuses.

          Also, Parody does not give anything an excuse for being offensive, even if the parody was not mean spirited
          No one has a right not to be offended. When it comes to racism, sexism etc we have laws around hate speech. So if it doesn't breach any of them it's ok.

          People's freedoms of speech don't end where you emotions begin.

            No one has a right not to be offended.

            What? that's a double negative that makes no sense.

            Freedom of Speech is in regards to government, not to people. You can say you hate the government and they won't put you in jail, that's what Freedom of Speech is.

            Freedom of Speech does not mean Freedom of Consequence, if you say something that offends someone they are allowed to get angry at you, and tell you what you did wrong.

            Hari isn't forcing the Simpsons writers to do anything, he's just raising a point about the character and hoping it reaches the Simpsons writers, which it obviously did, but they ignored what he said and reacted in a shitty way.

            I also don't understand why you are bringing in hate speech laws, no one is saying hate speech has happened, do you actually think that Hari is saying "The Simpsons writers should go to jail for Apu"? Because the only way your argument makes sense.

        But if it is truly a genuine parody (i.e. we're assuming the intentions of the people creating the character), what if it's indistinguishable from the existing racist stereotype? What if their humorously-intended parody serves to preserve the validity of the stereotype in the people who are actually racist?

          You might also ask whether, if a Jewish comedian and a goyish comedian tell the same joke about the holocaust, there is a difference? Does it depend on the audience?

            Hmm, I guess it would depend on the audience, but it would also depend on the comedian. A person living a stereotype or living the consequences of other people's iniquity uses humour as a way to lambast and remove power from those causing those circumstances.

        But if it is truly a genuine parody (i.e. we're assuming the intentions of the people creating the character), what if it's indistinguishable from the existing racist stereotype? What if their humorously-intended parody serves to preserve the validity of the stereotype in the people who are actually racist?

      I think the whole "he's voiced by a white guy" argument doesn't hold any water.

      The character of Dr Hibbert is also voiced by a white guy (Harry Shearer, same guy who does Mr Burns and Smithers). Nobody complains about Dr Hibbert.
      In fact, the characters of Carl and Lou are voiced by the same guy as Apu (Hank Azaria). You don't hear anyone complaining about Carl and Lou.

      So I don't buy the whole "he's voiced by a white guy" thing. I don't think it's a valid argument.

      The whole show is full of stereotypes and Apu is just one of them. Groundskeeper Willie is another huge stereotype on the show, and is a regularly recurring character just like Apu is. He's voiced by the same guy who does Homer (Dan Castellaneta), who is clearly not Scottish, yet nobody seems to have too much of a problem with Willie. In fact most Scots like him and find him amusing - just like most Indians find Apu amusing.

        Dr.Hibbert is a successful Doctor
        Carl is a normal guy
        Lou is a Policeman

        There's no bad stereotypes put on them because of their race, also, there was already a multitude of black characters around the time the show came out, Hari is more concerned that there was only one representation of an Indian person on TV, and it happened to be a white guy which doesn't help.

        The same goes for Willie, he wasn't the only point of reference for a Scottish person on television, if he was, you'd bet there'd Scottish people in america who'd be sick of being compared to Willie all of the time, hell i bet there are some red headed scottish people who hate Willie in a similar way as well.

        I agree that a character being voiced by someone not of the same race isn't an issue on it's own, but when it is being drawn from a stereotype that can be considered offensive it doesn't help their case that it isn't offensive.

    satire and parody seem to go over this guys head which is odd as he's a so called comedian.

    where on earth is he getting this racist vibe from?
    Clearly the simpsons are funny, and irreverant, but i never got the vibe its from the twisted minds of nazi hate mongers!

    The marvellous thing about this comments section is the extremely clear split between those who watched and engaged with the doco itself and actually understand the nuance of Kondabolu's argument (regardless of whether they agree with it or empathise with his stance) vs. those who absolutely didn't, and just want to get angry about "SJWs," "political correctness," and shut down any kind of debate or consideration for other groups of people.

    If you were Indian in America in the 1990s, Apu (often the butt of jokes based on insulting stereotypes, written by a team of non-Indian writers) was almost always the only cultural touchstone that non-Indian people had to understand you, which led to a pretty hard time.

    The documentary makes an extremely compelling argument for why the writers should rethink this approach nowadays.

    He's not calling for all past copies to be removed from existence or forgotten, he's just asking for understanding and empathy moving forward.

    TL;DR: Just watch the doco, it's very good.

    Last edited 10/04/18 2:14 pm

      I watched it. Yes, it was a well crafted package of an American Indian (dots, not feathers) first world problem.
      I did enjoy it even. But it was as I said already: A complaint about a first world problem by first world people who didn’t like being called Apu. I got called a fag HEAPS because I was quite effeminate as a teen (I’d argue elven, but whatevs) and my besty was the one gay kid. Should I make a “The problem with Smithers” doco?
      No, because high school is waaaaayyyyy back in the past there and all the people who hated on us at school are bogans, so zero fucks given about how our high school selves felt.

      Also, Aziz Asari got in on the Apu bashing, which is rich because his excuse for sexually harassing a woman by chasing her around his apartment while trying to bone her was “I didn’t understand the body language”.
      So he can identify he didn’t like being compared to Apu, but fuck the feelings of that gender that makes up 50% of us all because he just didn’t get that running away from an erect dick meant “no”. Poor guy.

        Except he's not talking about his high school experience in isolation. He uses that as a jumping off point to extrapolate the treatment of Indian Americans more broadly: his father being mocked and rejected at work for being treated like an outsider, for example.

        He then goes on to pretty clearly point out how Apu reinforces those misunderstood beliefs about Indians, and how he's quite often the only source of Indian culture that a lot of Americans were privy to, skewing their understanding and leading to more mockery and rejection.

        You got called gay in high school? It's not really the same thing, but are you ok with that experience? Are you happy that it happened, and do you think that it was a vital part of school?

        It really doesn't sound like you are, so would you rather that kids hadn't done that to you? Do you hope that in future kids won't be bullied in or out of school based on their ethnic appearance, cultural difference, gender identity or whatever? I do, and I hope you do too after having to go through that.

        At the end of the day, we, everyone, can choose be nicer to each other. Kids and adults aren't inherently nasty, it's learned behaviour. If all you learn about a group of people you've never met is through Apu, there's a chance that's going to manifest in some pretty disappointing times for the Indian kid.

        I'll ignore the Aziz comments as they're not particularly relevant to the discussion at hand. While the guy was a creep, suggesting that that reported incident means he doesn't get a voice on an entirely separate matter is a bit of an ad hominem.

          Kids and adults ARE inherently nasty, dude. It being a learned behaviour is a nice thought, but competition exists in all species. We’re an animal. And someone always has to get hind tit. You will never get a social structure without rejects. You will never not be measured by your fellow man for your flaws and vulnerabilities. If you’re physically foreign, outwardly gay, noticeably trans, you have an automatic target with mentally unresourceful people. If you’re atheist, believers think you’re going to hell. If you’re a pasty fat nerd, gym people look at you as an example of what makes them a superior specimen. We asses value via comparative data.
          We have the burden of conscious and that seperates us from our cousins in the animal kingdom, which means we get to choose to be better.
          So I agree with the sentiment of the film. I just don’t value it because it is a particularly small thing compared to everything else going on (and India just happens to be a great example of how much holding women back holds a country back).
          If somebody wants to be a c***, they’ll be a c****. Because that’s what c***s do. In this dude’s experience, they used his Indian heritage. In my grandfather’s they used his Egyptian heritage. In yours they used whatever you had.
          Racism is never okay. Linking Apu to his father’s plight was just cheap. It was just edited well to sell it.
          Like I said, I thought I’d have just accepted his plight as it was presented.
          But humans compare things to assess their value.

            I don't think we're going to see eye to eye on this one, but the brilliant thing about humans is that we have conscious choice, we can be thoughtful and we can reflect on the past with a view to doing and being better.

            Because some people in the past were dicks, it does not mean that more enlightened people in the future will be dicks.

            You always have the option to choose not to be nasty, and I'm pretty sure you know that. Just because some people give in to that urge, doesn't mean that you or I have to.

            To choose to bully or be a dick to another person is not something you're forced to do due to your nature. To blame it on that is just ridiculous. You're not a scorpion in a fable.

              So you didn’t read what I said and ended up saying the same thing?
              Look, it’s cool and I like your perspective.
              I’m pretty sure we see a lot more eye to eye than you realise.

                I read what you wrote, I just think we're using the same base information to come to two very different conclusions.

                I think we can choose to be better and have decided to try to do that in any small way I can (which, yeah - means occasionally weighing in on debates like this [and y'know, not bullying people, which isn't really a stretch]) while your position appears a bit more pessimistic - that you're not going to get everyone in the world to choose not to be a dick, so why bother putting in effort when it comes to things that you personally may think are insignificant.

                I have little doubt we'd probably get along irl, but yeah - I think if you wanted to be reductionist about the doco you could say it's a call for everyone to try harder to be cooler and more thoughtful day-to-day in regard to others, and not be that shitty guy as you move through life. I'm trying, and I'm sure you probably are too. It's not really much of a stretch.

                  I do think I present myself more pessimistic than I actually am. I guess I’ve gotten to a stage where my horse is too high and I feel like I keep trying to work on the shit things about myself but keep seeing people squander their opportunity to do the same. It’s a bit conceited of me, and I acknowledge it.
                  I’ve come to this realisation that there are just SO many people in the world that each individual life is starting to lose its innate value. And there’s just more and more of us coming. And the more of something you have, the less valuable it is. That’s the reality I think we’re facing, which means we all need to pick our game up and be better at humanising each other. We can’t bank on terraforming Mars to sort that out.
                  When I see people choosing to empower smaller (in the grand scope) issues; like this thing or celebrities like Demi Lovato and her rich kid bipolar problems, it makes me worry we’re all looking too deep within instead of pooling our resources to give a shit about the whole. Yeah, it’s important to feel good about yourself and gain confidence and all that jazz, but there’s also a point where it gets masturbatory.
                  I just wish people would work on shit like sustainable globalisation instead of “making America great again”, ya know?

                  Hey @superdeadlyninjabees

                  Doesn't look like I can respond to your last point, (thread limitation?) but yeah, don't disagree, really.

                  The one thing I'd say to keep in mind though, is that completely separate problems or issues are not mutually exclusive to one another other. I remind myself of that all the time. You can think that genocide is bad, and at the same time you can think that Apu is kinda shitty. If someone cares about something that I've never even thought about, if it's not harming anyone I'll accept that it's important to them and just respect that. Move on with a better understanding of the world.

                  It's not like if we care 100% about Apu or smaller, not-immediately-life-threatening-things we then cannot care about gas attacks in Syria or the sustainability of coal or whatever because all cares were given to Apu, right?

                  Sure, there are a million issues in the world and 24 hours in the day, but I came away from Kondabolu's doco thinking "huh, I see his point, and yeah - that's a disappointing thing that in hindsight could have absolutely been avoided. Hope it gets better for him, and I hope fewer people in future need to go through that, because it's clearly something that's impacted him and likely others." He's not asking for money, time, or the head of Hank Azaria (well, perhaps facetiously), just consideration of another human's experience.

                  You're right in saying that absolutely, we all need to pick our game up and be better at humanising each other. The doco, at it's very core, is a great (and legit, I found it pretty funny most of the time) appeal to that very sentiment.

    Nice.

    Here's some actual criticism:
    Poor Julie Kavner, you can just HEAR what 30 years of Marge's voice has done to her Marge vocal chords.

    Last edited 10/04/18 9:28 pm

    People still watch The Simpsons?

    Everyone needs to stop what they're doing - find the Avenue Q soundtrack on Spotify and listen to the song "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist".

    I geuss if people dont like it, they could just not watch it?

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