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Simpsons Thumb Nose at Stereotyping Claims Over Indian Character Apu

The Simpsons cites the dangers of political correctness in its response to racial stereotyping. (Photo: Fox)

“The Simpsons” warn about the dangers of “political correctness” in its latest episode titled “No Good Read Goes Unpunished.” Marge and Lisa make the point in a scene, pondering how classic literature would lose its meaning if updated to meet modern standards.

The point segment might have left a lot of viewers scratching their heads without the backdrop of a documentary released last year titled “The Problem with Apu.”

Apu, of course, is the show’s beloved Indian character. His befuddlement of all things American in contrast to his Indian traditions has made for more than one punchline over the years.

Comedian Hari Kondabolu wrote and directed the documentary which asked celebrities of South Asian descent about the character. There was widespread feelings that Apu portrayed negative stereotypes about South Asians. The fact that the character was created and even voiced by Caucasians was billed as a form of “racial microaggressions.”

The controversy boiled over last year. IM reported that political correctness may have finally caught up with “The Simpsons.

At the time, Hank Azaria, one of the show’s founders who voices the character, said Apu may be written out of the show. But the latest episode suggests otherwise.

Instead, the show’s creators appear to be thumbing their nose at its critics in what it suggested was a case of political correctness run amok.

The scene opens with Marge realizing that her favorite childhood book, “The Princess in the Garden” by Heloise Hodgeson Burwell, is loaded with stereotypes. The book is fictional, but closely resembles “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Marge dreams that Heloise and 19th century Victorian author Rudyard Kipling urge her to update the book to meet today’s cultural standards. Kipling wrote extensively about India during Britain’s colonial rule and many of his works have also been widely criticized for steretyping.

In any event, when Marge reads the updated version to Lisa she realizes that “the spirit and character” of the book are gone.

“What am I supposed to do?” Marge asks.

“Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” Lisa replies.

The analogy was clear. “The Simpsons” first aired in 1989 and was lauded because Apu was the first Indian character portrayed in a regular television series.

The scene cuts to a black and white photo of Apu next to Lisa’s bed, featuring the words “Don’t have a cow.”

“Some things will be dealt with at a later date, says Marge. To which Lisa adds with a touch of snark: “If at all.”

Boom, issue addressed. Um… not quite.

Kondabolu fired back on Twitter:

“Wow. ‘Politically Incorrect?’ That’s the takeaway from my movie and the discussion it sparked? Man, I really loved this show. This is sad,” he wrote.

“In ‘The Problem with Apu,’ I used Apu and The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups and why this is important. The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress,” he added in a follow up Tweet.

The episode is drawing a lot of heat on Social Media.

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