An executive producer for The Simpsons has responded to claims that the controversial character of Apu is being written out of the show. Last week, YouTube personality and film producer Adi Shankar told IndieWire that Apu was on his way out.
“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.”
However, executive producer Al Jean responded on Twitter saying that Shankar “does not speak for our show.”
The long-running series has been criticized in recent years for its depiction of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the owner of the Kwik-E-Mart. Fans have complained the character promotes Indian and Asian stereotypes and that it is problematic that he is voiced by white actor Hank Azaria. The recent documentary The Problem With Apu attempted to deconstruct the West’s rendering of Indian characters in pop culture with a central focus on The Simpsons and Apu. Azaria has said that he is willing to “step aside” from the character due to the recent backlash.
Shankar told IndieWire that he had attempted to crowdsource a script that helped solve the “Apu problem” but that it had been rejected. “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,” he said.
The Simpsons drew further criticism when it attempted to address the issue in an episode this past April that featured a pointed discussion between characters Lisa (Yeardley Smith) and Marge Simpson (Julie Kavner).
During the exchange Lisa complains about a bedtime story Marge is reading to her that has been distilled with socially conscious terminology.
“What am I supposed to do?” Marge asks in response to Lisa’s questioning.
Lisa replies by breaking the fourth wall and saying directly into the camera, “It’s hard to say. Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” Meanwhile, a photo of Apu sits on the nightstand.
“Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” adds Marge, also to the camera.
“—If it all,” Lisa concludes.
At this point, it is unknown exactly how The Simpsons will proceed. The latest episode from Season 30 airs on Fox this Sunday.