UPDATED with Al Jean response: The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean has weighed in on claims that the show’s controversial character Apu will be written out the show. Jean was responding to producer Adi Shankar’s remarks in an interview with Indiewire that he was told by “multiple sources” that Apu would be quietly dropped from the show. Jean, who has been with the show from the beginning, tweeted “Adi Shankar is not a producer on the Simpsons. I wish him the very best but he does not speak for our show.”
Shankar then replied to Jean: “Let’s work towards common ground,” Shankar wrote in response. “Ignoring only fans the flames. The world is polarized & getting more so, and the onus is on us to bring people together. Engage in a constructive way and this matter will go to bed. I see you, now I’m asking you to see me.”
Shankar had been running a competition for aspiring writers to come up with a script that would transform the Apu character from a bad stereotype into “a realistic portrayal of Indians in America”.
The Apu character has been the subject of complaints about stereotyping South Asians, intensifying in the last two years.
PREVIOUS, Oct. 27, 11:56 AM: Producer and filmmaker Adi Shankar has said in an interview that Apu, the long-running convenience store owner from The Simpsons, may be out of the series.
Shankar told Indiewire in an interview that “multiple sources” told him that Apu would be quietly dropped in order to avoid further controversy. The character has been the subject of complaints about stereotyping South Asians, intensifying in the last two years.
The cartoon character is voiced by actor Hank Azaria, who has said he’s “willing and happy” to step aside as the voice of Apu or to help transition the character into “something new,” calling it “the right thing to do, to me.”
The Apu controversy came to a head when Hari Kondabolu’s documentary The Problem with Apu emerged last year.
In April, Shankar created a spec script competition centered on the “Apu Problem,” hoping to get show producers to update the character with a more positive portrait.
Shankar claimed he received news on Apu from two staffers on The Simpsons and someone who works with creator Matt Groening.
Earlier, Fox Television executives said they would leave it up to the show on how to handle the Apu controversy going forward.
An April Simpsons episode made a glancing address to the controversy about what critics call the stereotypes embodied by Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the Indian-American owner of Springfield’s Kwik-E-Mart convenience store.
The episode included a scene in which Marge Simpson reads a book to daughter Lisa, who notes the book’s “cisgender girl” heroine is “already evolved” and “doesn’t really have an emotional journey to complete.”
When Marge asks, “Well, what am I supposed to do?,” Lisa responds, “It’s hard to say. Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” At that point, Lisa looked at a framed photograph of the Hank Azaria-voiced Apu inscribed, “Don’t have a cow,” the old Bart Simpson catchphrase given new and literal meaning coming from Apu.
“Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” Marge tells Lisa, who responds, “If at all.”