The Simpsons are planning to quietly drop Apu due to the backlash, says producer
By Barfi Culture Team
27th October 2018

Producer Adi Shankar was trying to find away for The Simpsons writers to reimagine and rewrite the character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.

He even held a contest to find new ideas and crowdsource the perfect script. But that's when he learnt that writers at the animated TV series were planning to 'quietly' drop the character altogether.

"I got some disheartening news back, that I’ve verified from multiple sources now: They’re going to drop the Apu character altogether,” said Shankar in an interview with IndieWire. "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."

Shankar had hoped that his contest would help The Simpsons avoid controversy.

He wanted to crowsource a script that: "in a clever way subverts [Apu], pivots him, writes him out, or evolves him in a way that takes a creation that was the byproduct of a predominately Harvard-educated white male writers’ room and transforms it into a fresh, funny and realistic portrayal of Indians in America."

In fact he had even found a winner - a script from Indian-American doctor Vishaal Buch, who lives in Maryland.

"The contest was never meant to be an attack against anyone, but I think in a lot of ways we weren’t asking for anything too radical than to be viewed in three-dimensions," Adi Shankar told IndieWire.

"I think the beauty of Vishaal’s script is it did just that. It wasn’t preachy. It wasn’t hammering us over the head. When a lot of people hear ‘The Problem with Apu’ they roll their eyes, ‘there is no problem with Apu, it’s these millennials, they’re out of control.’ I think in a lot of ways those people will really like this episode."

Why is Apu controversial?

The controversy was reignited last year with comedian Hari Kondabolu's documentary: 'The Problem With Apu'. It featured a range of well-known American desis saying the stereotype associated with Apu had caused them problems.

(For an alternative view, read this by Rohin Francis in praise of Apu).

Even Hank Azaria, the actor who plays the voice of Apu, said Apu was 'out of date' and he wouldn't mind if he was dropped.

"As I say, my eyes have been opened," Hank Azaria told Stephen Colbert in an interview. "The most important thing is we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people, in this country when they talk about what they feel and how they think about this character, and what their American experience of it has been."

Turns out The Simpsons writers couldn't stand the heat.

Adi Shankar says they have taken the cowards way out. "If you are a show about cultural commentary and you are too afraid to comment on the culture, especially when it’s a component of the culture you had a hand in creating, then you are a show about cowardice."

"It’s not a step forward, or step backwards, it’s just a massive step sideways. After having read all these wonderful scripts, I feel like sidestepping this issue doesn’t solve it when the whole purpose of art, I would argue, is to bring us together."

In a response, a representative from Fox studios simply said: "Apu appeared in the 10/14/18 episode 'My Way or the Highway to Heaven'."

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