Sunday’s new episode of the long-running series included a scene of Marge reading a favorite childhood book with daughter Lisa. However, she finds the story about a tyrannical slaveowner much more racist than she remembered and tries to edit the story to fit modern standards of political correctness.
“Well, what am I supposed to do?” Marge asks.
“It’s hard to say. Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” Lisa says directly to the camera before the shot zooms in a photo of Apu with the message “Don’t have a cow.”
Marge responds, “Some things will be dealt with at a later date” before Lisa adds, “if at all.”
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Last year, comedian Hari Kondabolu made a documentary called The Problem With Apu in which he argues that the convenience store owner — voiced by Hank Azaria, who is not Indian — perpetuates negative stereotypes.
“Wow. ‘Politically Incorrect?’ That’s the takeaway from my movie & the discussion it sparked? Man, I really loved this show. This is sad,” Kondabolu tweeted in reaction to the episode.
He later added, “In ‘The Problem with Apu,’ I used Apu & The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups & why this is important. The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress.”
Many others also were disappointed in the episode.
“I think the fact that they put this ‘argument’ in the mouth of Lisa’s character, the character who usually champions the underdogs and is supposed to be the most thoughtful and liberal, is what makes this the most ridiculous (as in worthy of ridicule) and toothless response,” wrote comedian W. Kamau Bell on Twitter.
Meanwhile, others pointed out that the show is full of stereotypical characters.
“People actually think the portrayal of Apu in The Simpsons is racist?” wrote one fan. “It’s an exaggerated comedic STEREOTYPE, like Homer as a fat dumb American.”
Azaria responded to Kondabolu’s documentary at the Television Critics Association in January, according to EW.
“The idea that anybody, young or old, past or present, was bullied or teased or worse based on the character of Apu on The Simpsons, or the voice or any other tropes of the character is distressing, especially in post-9/11 America,” he said. “The idea that anybody was marginalized based on it or had a hard time was very upsetting to me personally and professionally. It’s a character I’ve done for 29 years now, and I’ve done it with a lot of love, and joy, and pride. That certainly wasn’t the intent. The intent was to make people laugh and bring joy. For it to cause suffering or pain in any way, it’s disturbing, actually.”