'Simpsons' Criticized for Response to Apu Controversy

Fox's The Simpsons is under fire for the way in which the show responded to controversy around one of its most recognizable and oldest characters, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.

The outcry over the stereotypical portrayal of Springfield’s Kwik-E-Mart owner, voiced by Hank Azaria, was addressed Sunday night in the episode “No Good Read Goes Unpunished" when Marge Simpson reads a book to daughter Lisa that has been changed from its original version to something not so controversial. 

“Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?,” says Lisa. The show then panned to a picture of Apu.

While some viewers were fine with the response (before the show aired, showrunner Al Jean tweeted, "New Simpsons in five minutes. Twitter explosion in act three," and he retweeted numerous positive takes afterward), there were those who felt like the moment was a slap in the face. 

Comedian Hari Kondabolu, who last year released the documentary The Problem With Apu, was among those displeased. 

"Wow. 'Politically Incorrect?' That’s the takeaway from my movie & the discussion it sparked? Man, I really loved this show. This is sad," Kondabolu tweeted. "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."

Comedian and TV personality W. Kamau Bell also blasted the Fox cartoon. 

“I think the fact that they put this ‘argument’ in the mouth of Lisa’s character, the character who usually champions the underdogs and is supposed to be the most thoughtful and liberal, is what makes this the most ridiculous (as in worthy of ridicule) and toothless response," Bell wrote among numerous tweets on the issue. "The 'argument' the episode makes is basically things used to better before political correctness when nobody cared about all these groups. It ignores the facts that ALL THESE GROUPS ALWAYS CARED ABOUT ALL THESE GROUPS. But these groups' complaints weren't respected/supported."

Al Arabiya English journalist William Mullally wrote, "The Simpsons response to The Problem with Apu: a callous and resentful shrug."

Representatives for Fox and 20th Century Fox Television said that producers prefer to let the episode "speak for itself."