For nearly 30 years, The Simpsons has offered audiences irreverent humor that never shies away from pushing boundaries with the numerous topics they attempt to satirize, typically in a lighthearted fashion. In recent years, more attention has been focused on some of its characters and the stereotypes they reinforce, with comedian and filmmaker Hari Kondabolu creating 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. In last night's episode, the series took a moment to address the controversy, saying the issue might be dealt with at a later date.
"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
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.
The creative forces behind the series have managed to sidestep directly addressing the concerns, with this scene being the first official response to the controversy. Given the series' comments of the issue being addressed at a later date, if ever, understandably didn't sit well with Kondabolu.
The filmmaker 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."
Kondabolu continued in a follow-up tweet, "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."
Earlier this year, Hank Azaria, who voices the character, shared his thoughts on the matter
"The idea that anybody, young or old, past or present, was bullied or teased or worse based on the character of Apu on The Simpsons, or the voice or any other tropes of the character is distressing, especially in post-9/11 America," Azaria confessed at the Television Critics Association press event. "The idea that anybody was marginalized based on it or had a hard time was very upsetting to me personally and professionally. It's a character I've done for 29 years now, and I've done it with a lot of love, and joy, and pride. That certainly wasn't the intent. The intent was to make people laugh and bring joy. For it to cause suffering or pain in any way, it's disturbing, actually."
As evidenced by last night's episode, it's unclear if the issue will ever be addressed in the future.
The Simpsons airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.
Do you think the series handled the issue correctly? Let us know in the comments below!