Film Forward

This TV Producer Is Giving Writers A Chance To Reimagine Apu On 'The Simpsons'

"'The Simpsons' is sick and this contest is crowdsourcing the cure."

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Controversy has surrounded The Simpsons character Apu in recent months, sparked by the release of a documentary called The Problem With Apu, which examined how many Indian Americans were affected by the show's problematic portrayal of the convenience store owner. Now Castlevania executive producer and showrunner Adi Shankar is offering a solution that also gives an opportunity to aspiring writers. 

Shankar is hosting a contest for screenwriters to submit their own spec script of 21 to 23 pages which reimagines Apu. "The Simpsons is sick and this contest is crowdsourcing the cure," reads the contest website.

"We are looking for a screenplay centering on the character 'Apu' set in the world and cannon [sic] of The Simpsons that takes the character of Apu and in a clever way subverts him, pivots him, intelligently writes him out, or evolves him in a way that takes a mean spirited mockery and transforms him into a kernel of truth wrapped in funny insight aka actual satire," reads the contest rules.

The contest is open to everyone, however, the website advises that "if you don't have any experience with Indian culture in America then you may not have the perspective and experience to write well on this topic." The jury that chooses a winner will be made up of "South Asians and other minorities who work in entertainment."

Shankar will take the winning script to The Simpsons writing room to recommend it as an official episode and suggest they hire the winning writer for the next season. If the show rejects the episode, it will still get made as an "unofficial fan film" financed by Shankar. 

Earlier this week, Kanye West shared a video of Shankar talking about the contest, explaining that he is an Indian immigrant who didn't want to use his real accent when he moved to the United States because of how Apu was portrayed on The Simpsons. "This is not a stereotype, it is a mockery," Shankar says.

Shankar's contest has also gained support from Amar Shah, who went viral last month when he tweeted the story of his father, an Indian immigrant who owned a convenience store like Apu. "We have to write our stories and tell our tales," he tweeted in response to Shankar's video.

The Simpsons itself has disappointed many with its response to the controversy, seeming to brush off the criticism in a recent episode. As the show's creator Matt Groening recently told USA Today, "I'm proud of what we do on the show. And I think it's a time in our culture where people love to pretend they're offended."

However, actor Hank Azaria, who voices Apu, told Stephen Colbert that he would be willing to step aside from the role, and also suggested that the show hire a more diverse writing staff. We'll see if Shankar's contest makes that happen.

For more information on entering Shankar's contest, see the website. Entries are due June 30, 2018.

(H/T: CNN)

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