Earlier this week, an episode of The Simpsons attempted to address a controversy surrounding their Apu character, with many viewers being upset that an Indian character has been represented as little more than a stereotype for nearly 30 years. Most viewers considered the way the series handled the situation disappointing, resulting in showrunner Al Jean taking to Twitter to share his thoughts on the matter.
Jean, who has served as the series' showrunner for 20 years, shared on social media, "I truly appreciate all responses pro and con. Will continue to try to find an answer that is popular & more important right."
The controversy surrounding the character gained steam last fall when comedian and filmmaker Hari Kondabolu created the documentary The Problem with Apu, which highlights the Indian convenience clerk becoming the most well-known character from South Asia depicted in pop culture.
For months, the series had yet to officially address the issue or reveal how they would correct the reductive depiction of the character, with this week's episode being the first official time the show tackled to the topic.
In the episode, Marge and Lisa were discussing an old fantasy novel which had politically incorrect themes. Lisa then turned to look directly into the camera, saying, "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?"
Marge then added that the controversy would be handled "at a later date," with Lisa offering the disclaimer, "If at all." The scene also included a shot of Lisa's nightstand, which featured a picture of Apu, making the intended message much more direct.
Prior to Jean's comments about handling the issue the "right" way, he took to Twitter to explain why Lisa was the character to make the comments.
"For those who'd ask why Lisa would defend Apu: he's her friend. He taught her to be vegan. She admires him," Jean shared.
Following the airing of the episode, Kondabolu shared on Twitter, "Wow. 'Politically Incorrect?' That's the takeaway from my movie & the discussion it sparked? Man, I really loved this show. This is sad."
"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," he added. "The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress."
It's unclear at this time how the series will address the issue going forward, though Jean's comments confirm that he's aware that the show's response was unsatisfactory to most.
The Simpsons airs Sunday nights on Fox at 8 p.m. ET.
How do you think the series should handle the issue? Let us know in the comments below!
[H/T Twitter, AlJean]