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Simpsons showrunner Al Jean addressed Shankar’s assertion in a Sunday tweet, suggesting that Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is staying put. “Adi Shankar is not a producer on the Simpsons,” wrote Jean. “I wish him the very best but he does not speak for our show.”
Shankar then responded, “Let’s work towards common ground. Ignoring only fans the flames. The world is polarized & getting more so, and the onus is on us to bring people together. Engage in a constructive way and this matter will go to bed.”
I wish you well too. Let’s work towards common ground. Ignoring only fans the flames. The world is polarized & getting more so, and the onus is on us to bring people together. Engage in a constructive way and this matter will go to bed. I see you, now I’m asking you to see me.
— Adi Shankar (@adishankarbrand) October 29, 2018
Earlier this year, Shankar launched an online competition, challenging his YouTube subscribers to write a script which “in a clever way subverts [Apu], pivots him, writes him out, or evolves him” in hopes to solve the “Apu problem.” He promised the winner that he would make the winning episode on his YouTube channel, which is known for its parodies and fan films.
Additionally, the problematic portrayal of Apu was explored in The Problem With Apu, a documentary released last year by Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu. Directed by Michael Melamedoff, the documentary interviewed a number of prominent stars of South Asian descent including Aziz Ansari, Kal Penn, Aasif Mandvi and Hasan Minhaj.
According to Kondabolu, Apu’s stereotypical portrayal resulted in him being bullied and made fun of for his ethnicity. “Apu was the only Indian we had on TV at all, so I was happy for any representation as a kid,” he told the BBC last year. “And of course he’s funny, but that doesn’t mean this representation is accurate or right.”
The Simpsons responded to the controversy surrounding Apu’s character during an April episode titled “No Good Read Goes Unpunished.” While looking at a picture of Apu, Lisa Simpson says, “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”
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