"The Simpsons" is under fire for a second time after issuing a vague and non-committal response to a documentary filmmaker who claims the character of Apu, the Indian-American owner of Springfield's Kwik-E-Mart, is a racist caricature.
It turns out, "The Simpsons" doesn't much care what leftists think about the show's now-iconic characters, and used their resident social justice warrior, Lisa Simpson, to deliver this blow: Apu is a beloved part of the Springfield community and that isn't changing any time soon.
Last year, "comedian" Hari Kondabolu made an entire, full-length documentary titled "The Problem With Apu," arguing that "The Simpsons" and other cultural touchstones had further marginalized oppressed peoples by relying on "racist" stereotypes to create what Kondabolu felt were inaccurate representations. Kondabolu claims to have started a national "discussion" on the subject which he hoped would reach all the way back to the "Simpsons" writers, who would, of course, issue a heartfelt apology for their years of ignorance, and perhaps completely retool the cartoon sitcom to be more acceptable to leftists' tastes.
Sadly for Kondabolu, that isn't what happened. In Sunday night's episode, Marge re-edits one of Lisa's favorite bedtime stories, "The Princess in the Garden," to eliminate stereotypes of Irishmen and American southerners, and recasts the protagonist as a "cisgender girl" who "releases horses and fights net neutrality," according to Mashable.
Lisa — perhaps the only social justice warrior not willing to ascribe to Kondabolu's theory of oppression-by-television cartoon — waves off Marge's modern update, saying she understood the context of the story and that she was fine with it the way it was.
"Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?" Lisa says, before the camera cuts to a photo of Apu.
#TheSimpsons completely toothless response to @harikondabolu #TheProblemWithApu about the racist character Apu:— Soham (@soham_burger) April 9, 2018
"Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect... What can you do?" pic.twitter.com/Bj7qE2FXWN
Needless to say, leftists were incensed.
Kondabolu called the rebuttal an insult and declared he would no longer watch the show.
Wow. “Politically Incorrect?” That’s the takeaway from my movie & the discussion it sparked? Man, I really loved this show. This is sad. https://t.co/lYFH5LguEJ— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) April 9, 2018
Others declared "The Simpsons" "over," and voiced their concern that the cartoon's only leftist delivered the bad news.
I think the fact that they put this "argument" in the mouth of Lisa's character, the character who usually champions the underdogs and is supposed to be the most thoughtful and liberal, is what makes this the most ridiculous (as in worthy of ridicule) and toothless response.— Wakanda Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) April 9, 2018
No this is the ultimate slap in the face. Delivering it through Lisa is their way of saying: “this *is* the reasoned, progressive and culturally sensitive perspective.” https://t.co/2naBrnAJi3— William Mullally (@whmullally) April 9, 2018
Some were even visibly triggered.
Others tried to audition for roles as "Simpsons" writers.
They should and could have done an entire episode with Apu responding to @harikondabolu's movie. They wouldn't have to agree with him but they missed a huge opportunity to add in more layers and be topical. Instead, they went the lazy route and did this. https://t.co/ciUq39A4t6— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) April 9, 2018
In fairness to the writers, it actually isn't the lazy route. "The Simpsons" is not required to respond to its critics, whether from the Left or the Right. But had they taken the suggested path, there's no guarantee a full episode devoted to making a case and/or apology for a character who has been a part of the show for 29 seasons would have satiated their critics. An in-your-face defense of Apu would have prolonged Kondabolu's cultural relevance, and perhaps his career, but it would have done little for a show that has a strong, loyal audience.
Fortunately for the "Simpsons," they've tackled enough current events to know exactly how to handle yet another cultural fad: joke about it until it passes.