An upcoming documentary is causing quite a commotion for its take on The Simpsons‘ Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
Indian comedian Hari Kondabolu and director Michael Melamedoff have teamed up to create a documentary called The Problem with Apu, which will debut on November 19.
The trailer has hit the interwebs and has led to some pretty furious online debate.
In one corner you have the fans of the The Simpsons who see the show equally offensive to everyone (for example, Homer, the white suburban dad is a drunk idiot), and in the other you have those that see Apu has a harmful racist stereotype.
Kondabolu, who is a fan of The Simpsons, says that Apu has haunted him for most of his life.
“Everything with Apu is like this running joke,” he told The New York Times. “And the running joke is that he’s Indian.”
Kondabolu speaks with celebrities with Indian heritage such as Aziz Ansari (Master of None), Maulik Pancholy (30 Rock) and Aasif Mandvi (The Daily Show).
— truTV (@truTV) November 10, 2017
He also takes to the streets to talk to regular folk, and enlists the help of some non-Indian celebrities such as Whoopi Goldberg.
Judging by the trailer, many of his interviewees have been pretty damaged by Apu. Some describe being called “Apu” when they were younger and others discuss being forced to “do the accent”.
Apu’s voice is another bone of contention for Kondabolu, who notes that Apu is performed by the very white Hank Azaria. Kondabolu describes this as “a white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father.”
In what constitutes a bit of a reach, Kondabolu calls Apu a “minstrel” due his “brown paint” (it’s a cartoon fella) and white guy’s voice. He also finds some choice sound bits which make Azaria come across as a bit of a racist. Context is everything, so we’ll have to see the full clip before passing judgement.
Needless to say, The Simpson’s fans have taken the news that one of their beloved characters is a racist stereotype very well.
Nah, actually they have taken to Twitter to rage. Grab some popcorn and buckle up:
The entire premise of the show is to use stereotypes to provoke laughs. Dumb cop, narcissistic/alcoholic white father, pathetic car salesman, etc., and guess what? No one died and millions laughed at the jokes for decades. The end. #Apu #thankyoucomeagain pic.twitter.com/Dof6AsQNsE
— jace (@jacycaruth) November 12, 2017
Been reading about the #apu from simpsons thingy.
The whole show takes the piss out of everyone: fat Americans, power hungry white men, angry Scottish folk stupid deep south yokels etc. The list goes on.
Dont cherry pick, acting as if its only you being made fun of. Its all of us
— Lame Herb Boy (@LameHerb) November 13, 2017
Apu from The Simpsons is trending because he's suddenly a racist stereotype? He first debuted in 1990 – Over 27 years ago. Why is this an issue just now? Is our bubble-wrapped society that fucking bored? Good lord, people. Find a hobby! #Apu #TheProblemWithApu pic.twitter.com/fXJ1g3Weli
— Matt Galpin (@Matthew_Galpin) November 12, 2017
This stuff about #Apu being a racist stereotype is absolute nonsense talk. He is always painted in a positive light. Remember that episode where he was like the most eligible bachelor? Hard working, family oriented, god damn people suck in 2017.
— Stuart Blair (@ForgottenRomeo) November 13, 2017
Im not with this #Apu stereotype thing. #TheSimpsons have made fun of everyone for over 20 years. It’s a cartoon. That’s like turning on South Park and being mortified. You knew what you were tuning into
— Dominic Ashton (@DominicAshton12) November 12, 2017
"Apu is a racist stereotype."
Oh bore off. Literally *every* character in @TheSimpsons is an exaggerated stereotype. And that's kinda the point. What else do these worry-warriors expect from a cartoon comedy? Smh. pic.twitter.com/FKSs7w7C84
— Marc Winsland (@Marc_Winsland) November 9, 2017
Kondabolu does concede that Apu has some nice qualities. But for him, the bad far outweighs the good. There is also the problem of underrepresentation, as for a long time Apu was one of the only high-profile Indian characters on television.
#TFM310 When you're watching old Simpsons episodes and you can't decide whether Apu's positive characteristics and actions make him a good character or if the fact that he's a racial stereotype makes him bad from the start pic.twitter.com/iCol1Gn53z
— Matthew Looney (@LooneyMatthew) November 8, 2017
Apu was a family favorite if only because he was an Indian on American TV. Sure it was a racist stereotype, but..Hey look! We exist! https://t.co/qLG115F2nb
— Sid Chaudhury (@direwolfc) October 4, 2017
Isn't the entirety of the Apu joke his accent and his unremitting desire to exploit the gullibility of his customers? Last I heard, "sleazy businessman" is not an Indian stereotype.
— Darwin Prime (@Darwin_Prime) November 12, 2017
If Apu is indeed racist, then we can expect a lot more docos. How about Fat Tony, Luigi Risotto, Cletus and Groundskeeper Willy?
— Nick Brisbon (@NBrisbon) November 12, 2017