The makers of The Simpsons have hit back at criticism of their portrayal of the show’s Indian shop owner, Apu.
But the reaction might not be what they expected.
The comedian who helped spark a conversation about the character said the show’s response was “sad” and downplayed a valid debate about racism in popular culture.
At issue is whether or not the character of Apu, a heavily-accented Indian shopkeeper, is an offensive racist stereotype and should be reframed.
"Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect… What can you do?" pic.twitter.com/Bj7qE2FXWN
— Soham (@soham_burger) April 9, 2018
Sunday’s episode in the US featured Marge sharing her favourite childhood book with her daughter, Lisa.
Marge realises the book is more racist and offensive than she remembered and attempts to edit it as she reads.
Lisa reacts by saying: “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”
A photo of Apu appears and Marge says: “Some things will be dealt with at a later date” and Lisa adds, “If at all.”
Comedian Hari Kondabolu, who wrote a documentary called The Problem With Apu about how marginalised groups are represented in pop culture, criticised the scene as an affront to cultural progress.
“In The Problem with Apu, I used Apu & The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalised groups,” Kondabolu posted in a tweet.
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
“The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress.”
The Simpsons producers declined to comment further, a spokesman for 20th Century Fox Television said.
On the show, Apu runs the Kwik-E-Mart, where he sells expired food, rips off customers and delivers a sing-songy slogan, “Thank you, come again.”
People of South Asian heritage have criticised the character for reinforcing stereotypes which they say lead to world bullying, self-loathing and embarrassment.
The character is voiced by Hank Azaria, a white Jewish man who was raised in the New York borough of Queens.
Kondabolu, who also grew up in Queens, has said the character of Apu was the only one many US children of South Asian descent had while growing up.
“If you don’t nip racism in the bud from the beginning, it mutates and finds other ways of surviving,” he told The Associated Press last year.