It looks like the Apu controversy is nowhere near to an end.
In a recent interview, The Simpsons co-creator Matt Groening brushed off the criticism with a succinct phrase: “I’m proud of what we do on the show”.
The Simpsons has turned into one of the internet’s favourite topics of debate since the November release of The Problem with Apu, a documentary distributed by TruTV in which Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu criticises the cartoon for supposedly spreading harmful stereotypes of South Asians on American television.
People all over the net have taken sides – many I suspect, without even watching the actual doco – engaging in fierce debate over whether the show is racist or not.
The discussion grew at such a rate that the producers decided to answer. In the episode “No Good Read Goes Unpunished” which aired in April, Marge and Lisa basically tell the audience to chill out in a now-infamous scene.
The response was like pouring kerosene on a bonfire, and the debate rages on to this day.
The Simpsons recently achieved the milestone of 636 episodes, snatching the record for the most episodes for a scripted prime-time series in television history.
In the wake of the impressive feat, USA Today interviewed series co-creator Matt Groening in a questionnaire that unsurprisingly touched upon the Apu scandal.
To the question, “Do you have any thoughts on the criticism of Apu as a stereotype?” Groening said, “Not really. I’m proud of what we do on the show. And I think it’s a time in our culture where people love to pretend they’re offended.”
Comedian Hari Kondabolu was quick to respond to Groening’s statement, calling him a “troll”.
Well, that seals it. Matt Groening finally responded & sounds like every other troll on the internet who didn’t see the documentary. No one is offended by this character. It was, at times, insulting & was frustrating to many of us who were solely represented by that one image. https://t.co/AfYNAeaU7Z
— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) April 30, 2018
Now Indian-American producer Adi Shankar is riding the wave and has launched his own crowdsourced initiative.
Shankar, who’s producing credits include the films The Grey and Killing Them Softly, has put up a screenwriting competition to write a Simpsons episode centred around Apu.
The producer says in his call to arms, “The Simpsons is sick and this contest is crowdsourcing the cure.”
He looks for submitted scripts in which contestants “subvert” Apu, “intelligently write him out” or “evolve him in a way that takes a mean-spirited mockery and transforms him into a kernel of truth wrapped in funny insight aka actual satire.”
Which makes me think, what if every single individual, race, country, profession or creature that has ever been mocked in the show put their own crowdsourcing campaign to be “intelligently written out” or transformed in a “kernel of truth”? What would that show be like?
The contest is called “Crowdsourcing the cure for The Simpsons” and Shankar promises to take the winning script to Fox to make it an official episode of the show.
He says that in the event of the script being rejected, Shankar will finance and produce it as an unofficial fan film to be posted in his Bootleg Universe YouTube channel.