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Can The Simpsons Apu problem be fixed? Castlevania producer Adi Shankar says he has a solution

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Oct 27, 2018

Since The Simpsons producers seem reluctant to improve their ongoing problem with the character Apu, outside creators are stepping up with their own ideas.

Adi Shankar, producer of Netflix's Castlevania series, has raised the issue again in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, where he discussed Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, a South Asian immigrant who runs the Kwik-E-Mart convenience store in Springfield on Fox's long-running animated comedy. Critics have bemoaned the stereotypical representation of one of the very few South Asians on American television. (It has not helped that Apu is voiced by a white actor, Hank Azaria. Azaria has said he would be fine handing the role over to a performer of South Asian descent.)

“Apu’s offensive because he’s a byproduct of a white male’s writers’ room mocking what they think a billion people sound and act like,” Shankar, who is Indian-American, told EW. “They call it satire, but it’s not. The jokes around Apu have no truth, they are mockery.”

Earlier this year Shankar stepped into the debate by soliciting spec scripts from writers to see how to fix the issues with the character. Now he tells Indiewire that a winning script has been chosen. In a story written by Vishaal Buch, an Indian-American doctor from Maryland, "Apu goes from a single store owner to a thriving businessman in Springfield," according to the site. "The spec episode doesn’t just focus on Apu, but pulls in other prominent Indian Americans in hilarious ways to highlight the importance of diversity and individuality through the lens of The Simpsons.”

If The Simpsons producers are not interested in working with Shankar to improve the character, he tells EW he will produce the episode himself for his Bootleg Universe channel on YouTube. “The way to fix the problem isn’t just to take the blueprint and shred it and start it again… you can’t do it because the blueprint exists in people’s minds. Vishaal was effectively able to modify the [Apu] blueprint and enhance it by adding authenticity.”

In June, Shankar posted a short clip on Facebook. previewing how he might address the issue.

Shankar also told Indiewire that he has heard that the show is considering dropping the character altogether, following a poorly received attempt at defending the depiction earlier this year. In that April episode, "No Good Read Goes Unpunished," Lisa Simpson broke the fourth wall to address the issue. “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect," she said. "What can you do?” Criticism of that apparently flippant attitude prompted showrunner Al Jean to tweet that they "will continue to try to find an answer that is popular & more important right."

Fox did not directly respond to either Indiewire or EW's question about Apu's future, only pointing out that he had a (non-speaking) cameo in an episode earlier in October.

The issue gained widespread attention through TruTV's 2017 documentary The Problem With Apu, in which comedian Hari Kondabolu laid out his case against The Simpsons.

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