On Sunday, The Simpsons addressed the Apu non-troversy and pretty much told the humor police to drop dead, and now the Social Justice Warrior snowflakes are melting down all over social media.
Here is how it started: Hari Kondabolu made a documentary in 2017 called The Problem With Apu. Although Kondabolu identifies as a comedian, he used this doc as a means to bully the iconic television show The Simpsons into doing things his way, specifically with the beloved character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
Although Apu is a beloved and sympathetic character, America’s fascist humor police are angry because they see him as a caricature of an Indian immigrant (I think we are supposed to say South Asian now — it is hard to keep up). Because of his accent, his propensity to say “Thank you, come again,” and the fact that he runs a Kwik-E-Mart, the Joke Gestapo is on the march. An additional sin is that Apu is voiced by Hank Azaria, who is a white guy (and has won three Emmys for his work).
Apu holds a Ph.D. in computer science. His decision to run the mini-mart is purely a voluntary one, a desire to stay in contact with his customers, many of whom, are his friends. Apu is not just a joke machine. Over 29 seasons, The Simpsons has devoted a number of storylines and episodes to Apu, and as a result, he is a fully-fleshed out, multi-dimensional character.
Nevertheless, because the humor police have nothing better to do than to feign offense, The Simpsons’ producers felt the need to respond, and to their everlasting credit, did so by telling the Satire Stasi to pound sand.
A disappointed Entertainment Weekly described the response this way:
The scene in question involved an exhausted Marge reading The Princess in the Garden [a book filled with stereotypes] — or at least a version of the book that she has edited to make [politically] acceptable for 2018 — to Lisa.
“This new Clara sounds like she starts out pretty perfect,” Lisa says to her mom. “But since she’s already evolved, she doesn’t really have an emotional journey to complete… Kinda means there’s no point to the book.”
“Well, what am I supposed to do?” asks Marge.
“It’s hard to say,” answers Lisa, turning to the camera. “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” As she says that last line, she looks at a nearby picture of Apu featuring Bart’s catchphrase, “Don’t have a cow!”
“Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” says Marge.
“If it all,” adds Lisa.
Naturally, the left-wing fascists in the social justice movement were quick to put and rage over not getting their way:
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.
— W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) April 9, 2018
So disappointing. https://t.co/pWamT61BJh
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) April 9, 2018
Kondabolu, predictably, is very unhappy that his emotional blackmail failed to result in censorship:
“In ‘The Problem with Apu,’ I used Apu & The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups & why this is important,” the offended comic tweeted. “‘The Simpsons’ response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress.”
In “The Problem with Apu,” I used Apu & The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups & why this is important. The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress.
— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) April 9, 2018
Using prose that has never been so purple, some accused the show of “losing its way:”
Many have done their best to pinpoint exactly what The Simpsons lost after its first decade on air. At first, it was hard to put a finger on, but now you can point at virtually any gag in any recent episode and you’d find an example of how the show has utterly given up on itself.
The show’s most recent episode, No Good Read Goes Unpunished, is a gaping wound where the show’s funny bone used to be. A malignant tumor in its brain blocking the path of any possible introspection whatsoever.
The scene that so many have taken issue with is a thinly-veiled response to the criticisms of the character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon that arose from Hari Kondabolu’s 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu
As expected, the far-left Vox pretty much had a cow over the show’s reply:
And why on earth is Lisa — the Simpsons character who’s always been the most passionate about sticking up for people and issues that get less attention and care than others — the one to deliver this tired, anti-PC culture blow?
Most importantly: This throwaway scene makes no effort to consider that the book — and by proxy, Apu — may not have been “applauded and inoffensive” to everyone. It’s very clear that this scene is written from and for the perspective of people who weren’t challenged on their assumptions before, and now find the idea of revisiting those assumptions annoying and unnecessary.
NRP used our precious tax dollars to freak out:
Furthermore, Apu is not appearing in a 50-year-old book by a now-dead author. Apu is a going concern. Someone draws him, over and over again. Azaria makes money to keep imitating Peter Sellers imitating an Indian man. Scripts are still being written. What if Marge were confronted not with reading Lisa an old book, but with reading a new book in the same series that continued to embrace the same racist portrayals it did 50 years ago? Is Marge really supposed to relax and read Lisa a new racist book because she loved an old racist book?
This is not about sensitivity, it is about bullying. The quickest way to strut your own phony moral superiority is to assume the role of victim, to say something should not be allowed because it is “hurtful.”
Sorry, but there is nothing inherently wrong with stereotyping. What matters is the approach. Is it affectionate and sympathetic, or is it mean-spirited, an attempt to denigrate.
Christians, southerners, white guys, and conservatives, are mercilessly stereotyped in popular culture. As someone who is in all four of those groups, I know the difference between a hilarious stereotype like Al Bundy or Cousin Eddie, and this. Even when it comes to other cultures, because of our shared humanity, I know the difference between this and this.
Regardless, I would never demand those who use denigrating stereotypes of me and mine censor themselves. Instead, I do this — watch something else. Seriously, it works like magic. I certainly will, though, point out that the stereotyping of me and mine is the only acceptable form of bigotry still allowed in our country, and bigotry is what it is when you are singled out.
The truth though is that nothing would make me happier than to go back to the Norman Lear era when everyone was fair game, when there were no sacred cows. That era was not only funnier and smarter, it helped bring us together. There was also no crybabying. We could all take a joke and we were stronger for it.
Stereotypes are usually stereotypes for a reason. There is some truth to them and the best humor comes from truth. Are satirists supposed to ignore the fact that a disproportionate number of Indians run convenience stores and speak with an accent?
Here is my suggestion for those offended by Apu or anything: If you don’t like, don’t watch it.
No one is forcing you to sit there and get offended. Change the channel. There are about 500 of them now. That is the American way to respond to such a thing. The un-American way is to try to bully and emotionally blackmail artists into creating the art you want. This is called censorship.
Here is an even better idea: Instead of spending a half-hour a week getting offended by a cartoon, turn off the TV and use those thirty minutes to create your own art, something to compete with The Simpsons.