Update 10/29: The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean responded to Adi Shankar's comments about his script contest and claim that Apu is being dropped from the show, writing on Twitter that "Adi Shankar is not a producer on the Simpsons. I wish him the very best but he does not speak for our show."
Adi Shankar is not a producer on the Simpsons. I wish him the very best but he does not speak for our show.— Al Jean (@AlJean) October 28, 2018
It looks like The Simpsons is phasing out Apu altogether amid criticism that the character embodies damaging stereotypes about Indian people.
Producer Adi Shankar — who is not employed by The Simpsons — told IndieWire that the animated comedy series will drop Apu from its lineup of Springfield characters as a result of the controversy, despite Shankar's efforts to crowdsource a teleplay that might help the show satisfactorily address the problematic nature of the long-lived Kwik-E-Mart owner.
"I got some disheartening news back, that I've verified from multiple sources now: They're going to drop the Apu character altogether," Shankar said. "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 said that his sources are two people who work for the Fox animated sitcom and a third who works for creator Matt Groening.
Backlash against the character erupted after comedian Hari Kondabolu's 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu shed light on the troublesome depiction of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, an Indian character created by white men and voiced by a white man (Hank Azaria, who has said he's willing to stop playing the character or help transition it into something else). An April 2018 episode attempted to address the issue with a humorous bent — the segment showed Lisa Simpson explaining to Marge that the book she was reading was outdated, and when asked what could be done about it, she looked up at a picture of Apu with the signature "Don't have a cow" on it (a wink to their shared veganism), and lamented, "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?"
That effort was immediately panned as being unfunny and unhelpful, after which showrunner Al Jean promised to take a different approach to the issue. However, despite Shankar believing he has found a successful script option from his contest entrants to submit to the show, it doesn't look like it'll happen. According to Entertainment Weekly, Fox didn't directly respond to questions about Apu's fate, but instead provided a statement saying that the character appeared in Oct. 14th, 2018's episode ("My Way or the Highway to Heaven") alongside the crowd surrounding God. Apu has not spoken a line in over a year. It seems like the show's producers are already in the process of retiring Apu.
Shankar, for one, is not impressed with the erasure decision, saying, "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. 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."
The winning script from Shankar's contest was written by a doctor in Maryland and would've elevated Apu from convenience store owner to full-on entrepreneur while bringing in more Indian-American characters.
The Simpsons airs Sundays at 8/7c on Fox.