The Simpsons has finally addressed the controversy surrounding one of its most iconic characters.
Hari Kondabolu's 2017 documentary The Problem With Apu criticized the show for perpetuating negative stereotypes of South Asians through Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, owner of the Kwik-E-Mart convenience store. The animated series responded to the criticism in Sunday night's episode, titled "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished," through Marge and Lisa who indirectly discussed the portrayal of Apu's character.
The episode saw Marge update the fictional book The Princess in the Garden to 2018's standards of what is acceptable and inoffensive. "It takes a lot of work to take the spirit and character out of a book," she explained to Lisa. "But now, it's as inoffensive as a sundae in Cincinnati."
The story centered on cisgender heroine Clara who, after Marge's edits, now fights for wild horse rescue and net neutrality in South America. Lisa observed that this new version of Clara has no flaws, thus making her an uninteresting character.
"Since she's already evolved, she doesn't really have an emotional journey to complete," Lisa said. "Kinda means there's no point to the book."
When asked by Marge what she's supposed to do about the sanitized version of the character, Lisa directly addressed the audience while taking a jab at PC culture. "It's hard to say," she said. "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect." The camera then focused on a picture of Apu on her nightstand which read, "Don't have a cow, Apu."
"What can you do?" Lisa added.
The segment didn't sit well with Kondabolu, who spoke out about the show's response to his documentary on Twitter. "In The Problem with Apu, I used Apu & The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups & why this is important. The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress," he wrote.
Others also took issue with the way the show handled the criticisms of Apu's portrayal. "That whole response is ugly, ugly, ugly, not to mention profoundly illogical and straw-man-slaying," wrote user Lisa Holmes.
Here's what the rest of Twitter had to say about the episode.
In "The Problem with Apu," I used Apu & The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups & why this is important. The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress.— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) April 9, 2018
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
Simpsons To 'The Problem With Apu': Drop Dead.— Linda Holmes (@lindaholmes) April 9, 2018
That whole response is ugly, ugly, ugly, not to mention profoundly illogical and straw-man-slaying.
i still need to check "the trouble with apu," but this is a silly way to respond to it from the simpsons. the defensiveness is a bit disheartening. https://t.co/aFtkgGS4rZ— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) April 9, 2018
I wish the Simpsons writers had some idea of how shitty they made the childhood & teenage years of so many brown kids. The show turned our parents into punchlines. We never clapped. Apu was a cheap joke in an otherwise clever show. How hard would it be to admit that? https://t.co/f3rgT1RYP0— Erika H. (@DrCanonic) April 9, 2018
However, not everyone was up in arms over the show's response.
Lisa looking at the camera to give a direct message to Politically Correct people as the camera pans out to Apu is one of the best moments of my year so far. #TheSimpsons— Crispy Gin (@CrispyGin_CGE13) April 9, 2018
Apu has an accent and works at a Kwik-E-Mart. There are a lot of people with accents who work at convenient marts. Should they be ashamed of themselves?— RustyShacklefordJr (@EvanPoulas) April 9, 2018
I'm happy with the way The Simpsons handled the Apu controversy.— David @ The Ultimate Hope (@DavidGN40) April 9, 2018
The Simpsons airs Sundays at 8/7c on Fox.