Fans are not happy with the way The Simpsons responded to the controversy surrounding one of the show's oldest characters, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
The Controversy And The Show's Response
Last year, comedian Hari Kondabolu produced the documentary The Problem With Apu, which criticized The Simpsons for promoting negative South Asian stereotypes with the character voiced by Hank Azaria.
During the episode titled "No Good Read Goes Unpunished," The Simpsons finally addressed the issue with the character albeit indirectly in a conversation between Marge and Lisa.
The episode shows Marge telling her daughter about a new version of the book The Princess in the Garden, which has been revised to be more politically correct and less controversial, according to the Hollywood Reporter
"Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect," Lisa responds. "What can you do?"
The shot then pans to a photo of Apu, implying the exchange also applies to the controversy over the character.
Representatives from Fox and 20th Century Fox Television say they will let the episode "speak for itself."
The Public Outcry
Instantly, Twitterverse exploded with fan outcry over the decision to confront the controversy in such a flippant manner. While some of the commenters dismissed the issue completely, plenty of social media users blasted The Simpsons for its onscreen dismissal of the topic.
The biggest disappointment, to me, is that the Simpsons ran with a classic fallacy of the "PC culture" debate: essentially, "it didn't used to be offensive, but now it is!" The actual issue is that it was always offensive, it's just that the people hurt by it didn't have a voice.— Jessy! Jessi! Jessé! (@JesseThorn) April 9, 2018
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. — Wakanda Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) April 9, 2018
“Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect" is literally true of everything that is racist https://t.co/vPbrFVcv4q— Shuja Haider (@shujaxhaider) April 9, 2018
The Simpsons’ portrayal of Apu illustrates a problem for almost all shows on TV. Most of the time Asian-Americans aren’t even on the screen at all. The few times we are, it’s a very lazy one-dimensional view that ironically reveals the truth about systemic racism in this country. — Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) April 9, 2018
In The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Kondabolu explains why he took up The Simpsons for their representation of what many consider a very funny and harmless television character.
"[Post-9/11] we only had two representations, brown people, in this country, whether that's South Asian, Arab, Muslim American," Kondabolu explains. "We had Apu from The Simpsons, harmless convenience store character, and we had terrorists, right? And there's a huge range of humanity between those points."
He adds that a character like Apu, who's a very funny character, wouldn't be so controversial if he was only one of many "brown" characters. However, because the representation of these nationalities is so limited in media, these few representatives are even more critical in shaping how the rest of the world see them.
"I think Apu's a really funny character. Just because something's funny doesn't make it right. In fact, if something is wrong, the fact it's funny makes it easier to push it forward," he explains. "That's how any kind of propaganda works, that's how anything that is good art that has a messed up message works."