Remember back in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, when The Simpsons was first getting started, and people still had a sense of humor? Or at least a different sense?
Way back then, starting with Episode 8 on Feb. 25, 1990, “The Telltale Head,” Fox’s groundbreaking animated show introduced the character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, and his stereotypical role as the Indian immigrant proprietor of Springfield’s convenient store, the Kwik-E-Mart. Now, 29 seasons later the show is still on the air, along with Apu, but some people’s tolerance for the character has come to an end.
One of the more vocal voices decrying Apu is that of comedian Hari Kondabolu, who produced the 2017 TruTv documentary, The Problem with Apu, which basically showed how Apu — one of the only characters of South Asian descent regularly portrayed on mainstream TV — and the stereotypes he exhibited were offensively parroted by many of the show’s viewers.
Well, on last night’s “No Good Read Goes Unpunished” episode, The Simpsons tangentially responded to such accusations, and it certainly wasn’t in the form of an apology.
During the bit in question, Marge is reading an edited-for-2018 version of The Princess in the Garden, but laments that the watered-down version of the character Clara starts out “pretty perfect,” and doesn’t leave any room for her to evolve, which “kinda means there’s no point to the book.”
So what’s a mother to do?
“It’s hard to say,” says Lisa, as she turns towards the camera, breaking the fourth wall. “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”
And because that wasn’t direct enough, her gaze then falls on a picture of Apu, which includes Bart’s classic catchphrase, “Don’t have a cow!”
Not surprisingly, that riled the offended, who took to the Twitterverse in dismay, including complaints from Kondabolu himself:
Before the episode, Simpsons showrunner Al Jean obviously knew the scene would be incendiary.
Indeed, in a statement this morning (via Entertainment Weekly), Jean said the “episode speaks for itself.”