Hari Kondabolu took on racist depictions of South Asians in television with his documentary, “The Problem With Apu.” The comedian’s film primarily focused on Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the Kwik-E-Mart owner from “The Simpsons,” and the series’ disinterest in addressing the character’s impact on pop culture.
“The Simpsons” finally acknowledged the critique at the end of last night’s (April 8) episode, provoking more criticism from Kondabolu and his supporters.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the episode included a scene where Lisa and Marge Simpson discussed how to handle celebrated older media that is now considered problematic.
“Something that started decades ago, and was applauded and inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” Lisa asked before looking over at a photo of Apu on her bedside table. The photo features an autograph that reads, “Don’t have a cow, Apu”—a jab at Apu’s Hindu faith and a callback to Bart’s popular saying.
“Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” Marge responded, with Lisa adding, “If at all.” Both characters then look directly at the “camera.”
Watch the clip below.
#TheSimpsons completely toothless response to @harikondabolu #TheProblemWithApu about the racist character Apu:”Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect… What can you do?” pic.twitter.com/Bj7qE2FXWN— Soham (@soham_burger) April 9, 2018
Kondabolu commented on the scene via Twitter. He accused the show of reducing his and others’ criticisms to “political correctness” and ignoring the perspectives of marginalized groups:
Wow. “Politically Incorrect?” That’s the takeaway from my movie & the discussion it sparked? Man, I really loved this show. This is sad. https://t.co/lYFH5LguEJ— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) April 9, 2018
Clever…because he’s Hindu. They double-downed on white. https://t.co/F6hvudObxh— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) April 9, 2018
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
TO THE JOURNALISTS WHO HAVE ASKED ME FOR A PUBLIC STATEMENT ABOUT LAST NIGHT’S SIMPSONS EPISODE, I JUST WANT SAY: “Congratulations to the Simpsons for being talked about & being seen as relevant again.”— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) April 9, 2018
Supporters added their own clapbacks:
This is SO dumb. Apu was never applauded and always offensive, but 20 years ago it was impossible for us to make this heard. Now every South Asian actor was in ‘The Problem With Apu’ talking about how damaging it was to grow up with this character. https://t.co/O8yLCSScUy— Proma (@promawhatup) April 9, 2018
I love when a bunch of Harvard white guys tell us what’s racist— osama bin eatin (@taIiban69) 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
And so now, the very thoughtful and nuanced thoughts of desi folks who grew up with complicated relationships to Apu/The Simpsons becomes a tired, dumb argument about “political correctness run amok” + defending the honor of the denizens of that show’s alabaster writers room.— Gene “GD” Demby (@GeeDee215) April 9, 2018
Buzzfeed News reached out to “The Simpsons” creators, who reportedly responded with, “The episode speaks for itself.”