Film Forward

Apu May Be Written Off 'The Simpsons.' Here's Why Some Disagree With The Choice.

"I feel like sidestepping this issue doesn’t solve it."

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Following criticism of its depiction of Indian-American character Apu, The Simpsons may be removing him from the show completely. Although it hasn't been officially confirmed by Fox, TV producer Adi Shankar says he heard the news from "multiple sources" who work for the show.

"They aren't going to make a big deal out of it, or anything like that, but they'll drop him altogether just to avoid the controversy," Shankar told IndieWire.

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Earlier this year, the Castlevania showrunner launched a contest giving writers the opportunity to reimagine Apu in a spec script of their own. It asked for a script which "takes a mean-spirited mockery and transforms him into a kernel of truth wrapped in funny insight aka actual satire."

Shankar has been one of the most outspoken critics of Apu's stereotpyical portrayal, along with comedian Hari Kondabolu, who explored the controversy in the documentary The Problem With Apu. However, they both seem to agree that dropping Apu entirely isn't the right way to deal with the issue.

"If you are a show about cultural commentary and you are too afraid to comment on the culture, especially when it's a component of the culture you had a hand in creating, then you are a show about cowardice," Shankar told IndieWire. "It's not a step forward, or step backwards, it's just a massive step sideways. After having read all these wonderful scripts, I feel like sidestepping this issue doesn't solve it when the whole purpose of art, I would argue, is to bring us together."

Kondabolu, meanwhile, retweeted a post arguing that removing Apu from the show "misses the point" about the need for better representation to challenge stereotypes. "There are so many ways to make Apu work without getting rid of him," Kondabolu wrote. "If true, this sucks."

Unfortunately, The Simpsons hasn't been particularly receptive to feedback on the issue. An April episode seemed to brush off the criticism, while creator Matt Groening commented that "people love to pretend they're offended." However, Apu's voice actor Hank Azaria said he would be willing to step aside from the role and shared that it made him "sad" to learn people were hurt by it.

So how does Shankar suggest the show deal with Apu? According to IndieWire, he has chosen a winning script from his contest, written by Vishaal Buch, a Maryland doctor with no screenwriting experience. His script takes Apu from the owner of a single Kwik-E-Mart to a "thriving businessman," and touches on other famous Indian Americans.

"It wasn't preachy. It wasn't hammering us over the head," Shankar said of Buch's script, which he argues will even appeal to those who rolled their eyes at the controversy.

Assuming Fox will not produce the script as a Simpsons episode, Shankar is producing it for his Bootleg Universe YouTube page. Bootleg Universe already made a short video demonstrating its ability to mimic the show's style, featuring a cartoon version of Shankar confronting the character of Apu about his depiction.

Apu's official fate on the series remains to be seen, but there's no doubt that Shankar, Kondabolu, and others have opened up an important conversation.

Cover image: Fox

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