‘The Simpsons’ Owes No One an Apology for Apu
Long-running and successful sitcom has been in hot water recently for a popular immigrant character — but the criticisms are weightless
The longest-running cartoon comedy in history, “The Simpsons,” felt the need to break the fourth wall last Sunday to address recent allegations of racism that came its way.
The characters of Marge and Lisa (mother and daughter) discussed the character Apu, an Indian man on the show with a long last name (Nahasapeemapetilon) and eight children. He owns the Kwik E Mart, a store similar to a 7-Eleven.
The two characters announced the depiction of Apu was not politically correct for a TV show — and Lisa finished by saying, “Some things will be dealt with at a later date, if at all.”
This part of the show came in response to comedian Hari Kondabolu’s production of a documentary in 2017 called “The Problem with Apu.” In the film, he criticized “The Simpsons” for a “racist” depiction of a minority character, tried to tie it to racism as a whole, and then predictably attacked such right-wingers as Ann Coulter, Milo Yiannopoulos, Sean Hannity, and Tomi Lahren. However, even though some leftists do not like the character of Apu, “The Simpsons” has nothing to be sorry about at all.
Is Apu a stereotype? Yes — but the entire show is based on stereotypes. The point of “The Simpsons” is to laugh at ourselves — and just about everybody.
Homer Simpson, one of the show’s main characters, is a caricature of the average working man. He comes across as unintelligent, overweight and lazy — while caring deeply about his family. His boss, Mr. Burns, owns a nuclear power plant in town and is depicted as a greedy capitalist; and Homer’s next-door neighbor, Ned Flanders, embodies the stereotypes of the devoutly religious. The chief of police, Chief Wiggum, is heavy and eats a lot of donuts.
And to top all this off, Mayor Quimby pokes fun at the Kennedy family; the Democratic mayor speaks in a thick Boston accent and cheats on his wife.
Many of the show’s minor characters are underdeveloped and one-dimensional for comedic effect. In one episode, Homer actually faced a bowling team called The Stereotypes. The characters included Groundskeeper Willie (an angry Scotsman), Cletus (a redneck farmer), Capt. McCallister (an old sailor), and Luigi Risotto (an Italian restaurant owner with a mustache).
Though every character is the butt of jokes, each is also given a lot of heart.
“The Simpsons” has transcended time and been a hit because the writers haven’t worried about offending people. The program goes after everyone — from average townsfolk to Yale social justice warriors (poked fun at in the episode “The Caper Chase”) to even George H.W. Bush (the same treatment in “Two Bad Neighbors”).
Perhaps if comedian Hari Kondabolu had paid closer attention to the show itself and its writing — instead of hyper-focusing on one character — he would understand its perspective.
The writers of “The Simpsons” clearly know what they’re doing.
The writers of “The Simpsons” clearly know what they’re doing — and they shouldn’t change their show now just because someone feels offended in today’s political correct environment.
Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, ESPN, and other outlets.