‘Simpsons’ Boss Slams Apu Controversy: People ‘Pretend They’re Offended’
Just when Simpsons voice Hank Azaria seemed to turn a corner on the Apu controversy, creator Matt Groening drags us right back. The longtime producer accuses viewers of “pretending” the character is more offensive than they actually believe.
Groening was asked about the controversy in conversation with USA Today, just days after Apu voice Hank Azaria admitted he’d be willing to “step aside” from the character if South Asian voices deemed it best. Concerns about Apu’s long-running stereotypical portrayal reached an apex with comedian Hari Kondabolu’s The Problem With Apu documentary, but flared up again when a recent episode saw Marge and Lisa directly dismiss the issue. Where executive producer Al Jean walked back his position with fans, however, Groening did anything but:
Do you have any thoughts on the criticism of Apu as a stereotype?
Not really. I’m proud of what we do on the show. And I think it’s a time in our culture where people love to pretend they’re offended.
Asked about the episode’s insinuation little would be done to alter Apu’s role on the series, Groening offered “We’ll let the show speak for itself.” The creator even likened concerns about Apu to The Simpsons’ initial controversies with rude content:
When we first started, we were part of the downfall of civilization. Bart said he was “an underachiever and proud of it, man.” Simpsons T-shirts were banned in grade schools. I felt that the controversy at the beginning of the show was, again, people pretending to be offended by Bart’s very mild sassiness. I knew it would blow over. At the heart of our show is a churchgoing family who eats dinner together every night and is very traditional. They drive each other crazy but they do love each other.
Sure, but no one is “pretending” to be offended about Apu. Hank Azaria and others have admitted the character was deliberately exaggerated with Indian stereotypes, and Kondabolu’s documentary was about using his hard-won voice to draw attention to concerns present from the beginning. And even then – the current controversy is as much about those very real objections as it is The Simpsons’ response, which went out of its way to dismiss thoughtful criticism with racial condescension. This isn’t going to “blow over,” no matter how long the series runs.
Producer Jean still hopes to find the “right” response to the controversy, so stay tuned.
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