Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is considered by some to be a harmful racial stereotype. (Flickr: Doug Kline)
A head producer for The Simpsons has suggested rumours the show is set to quietly disappear its controversial character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon are not accurate.
Earlier this week, Adi Shankar, a critic of the show’s portrayal of Apu and its response to a recent controversy about racial stereotyping, said he had been told by “multiple sources” that the writers had decided to discontinue the Kwik-E-Mart manager.
“They’re going to drop the Apu character altogether,” he told the website IndieWire.
“They aren’t going to make a big deal out of it, or anything like that, but they’ll drop him altogether just to avoid the controversy.”
But Al Jean, the showrunner who has worked on The Simpsons since its beginning, suggested that was not true.
Shankar responded that “ignoring only fans the flames”.
Shankar, a film producer, had been running a competition for aspiring writers to come up with a script that would respectfully get rid of Apu, the depiction of whom has been characterised as harmful to Indian-Americans.
The idea was that he would then pitch the script to Fox, the network that airs The Simpsons.
But Shankar said that, after he had named a competition winner and approached the show’s creators, he was told producing the script would be unnecessary because they had decided to drop the character.
The Simpsons has addressed this controversy before
The problem of Apu has been bubbling away since the airing last year of a documentary called The Problem With Apu.
Who is Apu Nahasapeemapetilon?
- From India, naturalised US citizen
- Wed to Manjula in arranged marriage
- Father of octuplets (8 children)
- Owner of convenience store Kwik-E-Mart
- PhD in computer science
Comedian Hari Kondabolu explored the character through the prism of his own life and his love for the show, while interviewing other prominent American actors of South Asian descent like Aziz Ansari.
“There’s nothing wrong with being a convenience store owner — there’s nobility, I think, [in] an immigrant coming to a country and struggling and doing what they have to do for their family,” he told triple j’s Hack program earlier this month.
“But that’s not what Apu is giving us. It’s catchphrases, it wasn’t the complication of a life.
“We were irrelevant. We were a punchline.”
Since the documentary, the show famous for criticising popular culture has found itself the subject of criticism.
A recent attempt by the show to address the controversy via an interaction between Marge and Lisa in a new episode was met with a mixed response.
Creator Matt Groening followed that up by suggesting that “people love to pretend they’re offended”.
However, the actor who voices Apu, Hank Azaria, said in the wake of that episode that his “eyes [had] been opened” and that he was willing to step away from voicing the character and to see South Asian or Indian writers join the Simpsons fold.
“Not in a token way, but genuinely informing whatever new direction this character may take, including how it is voiced or not voiced,” he said.