The latest episode of The Simpsons referenced the criticism that its Indian character, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, furthers negative stereotypes about South Asians, The Hollywood Reporter said. In the episode No Good Read Goes Unpunished, which was aired on Sunday, Marge and Lisa Simpson discuss a book titled The Princess in the Garden. Marge edits the story to make it acceptable and inoffensive in 2018, but the new version is shorter and lacks emotional heft. The duo then looks at a picture of Apu, and declares, “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” They later say: “Some things will be dealt with at a later date...if at all.”
The popular animated show, created by Matt Groening, satirises everyday middle-class life in the United States of America through the experiences of the titular family. When the show began in 1989, Apu, the owner of a supermarket, was the first South Asian character to appear regularly on mainstream American television.
Criticism over Apu’s portrayal grew in the wake of the 2017 documentary titled The Problem with Apu, in which comedian Hari Kondabolu and director Michael Melamedoff explored how the character’s exaggerated accent, speech and mannerisms impacted popular opinion of South Asians in America. The 2017 documentary features interviews by South Asian entertainers in the West, such as Aziz Ansari, Kal Penn, Maulik Pancholy, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Samrat Chakrabarti, Sakina Jaffrey, Aasif Mandvi and Hasan Minhaj, who speak of how the character impacted their personal and professional lives.
Kondabolu criticised The Simpsons episode in a tweet on Sunday, asserting that their response was not a jab at him, but at progress.
There was also some criticism to the response on Twitter.