The Simpsons creator Matt Groening says the long-running animated series is committed to keeping fan-favorite Kwik-E Mart clerk Apu despite accusations the character is a racist caricature.
"Yes, we love Apu," Groening told a young fan during a D23 Expo presentation when asked if Apu would stay on the show following reports claiming the character would be quietly eliminated. "We're proud of Apu."
Executive producer Al Jean previously told IndieWire the controversy surrounding the character, raised most famously by documentary The Problem with Apu, presents the Simpsons creative team with a "difficult choice."
"Some people are offended by the character and I take that very seriously. Others really love the character. It's a difficult choice," Jean said in 2018. "I don't want to offend people but we also want to be funny. We don't want to be totally politically correct. That has never been us. It's given us a lot of thought."
Producer Adi Shankar, who is not involved with The Simpsons, said in October the show planned to "drop the Apu character altogether," citing insider sources close to the show. "They aren't going to make a big deal out of it, or anything like that, but they'll drop him altogether just to avoid the controversy."
The Simpsons fielded criticisms when an April 2018 episode waved away the controversy in a scene between Lisa and Marge, who exchange brief lines of dialogue before turning and looking directly into the "camera."
"Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?" Lisa asked when sat next to a framed photo of Apu on her bedside table. When Marge told her the issue would be addressed later on, Lisa added, "if at all."
Dana Walden, then FOX CEO before becoming chairman of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment after Disney acquired 20th Century Fox for $71.3 billion, previously said the decision to keep or drop Apu is one that is held by the filmmakers.0comments
"We have had the conversation with [executive producer] Jim Brooks and his team and we've basically left it up to them," Walden told press. "They've treated the characters with so much respect. We trust them to handle it in a way that will be best for the show… ultimately we decided that would be their decision."
Groening has since said there have been discussions under Disney about a potential spinoff or second theatrical film following 2007's The Simpsons Movie. The Simpsons returns to FOX with its Season 31 premiere Sunday, September 29 at 8/7c; all past episodes of the show will be available to stream on Disney+ starting November 12.