The Simpsons writer Al Jean has responded to claims that controversial character Apu will be cut out of future episodes.
The long-running show has come under fire for it’s depiction of Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, with viewers complaining that the character promotes racist stereotypes of people of Indian and Asian descent.
Apu first appeared in The Simpsons episode ‘The Telltale Head’ in 1990, voiced by white actor Hank Azaria.
Castlevania animator Adi Shankar spoke to IndieWire last week about his attempts to crowdsource a script that tackled the ‘Apu Problem’, and subsequently claimed that it had been rejected as the character is to be dropped from the show.
“I’ve verified from multiple sources now: They’re going to drop the Apu character altogether,” he 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, who is not connected to The Simpsons, added: “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.
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’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.”
However, longtime Simpsons scribe Al Jean has now distanced himself from the reports.
Posting on Twitter, he wrote: “Adi Shankar is not a producer on the Simpsons. I wish him the very best but he does not speak for our show.”
Hank Azaria, the actor who voices Apu, has previously said that he is willing to “step aside” following criticism over the character.
Shankar also expanded on his plan was to find a script that “takes a creation that was the byproduct of a predominately Harvard-educated white male writers’ room and transform it into a fresh, funny and realistic portrayal of Indians in America”.
He claims to have found the “perfect script”, but it is highly unlikely it will be used.
Last year, comedian Hari Kondabolu hosted The Problem With Apu, a documentary that saw him interview figures from the world of entertainment including Aziz Ansari, Whoopi Goldberg and Kal Penn to look into the problematic nature of the iconic shop owner. Watch the documentary trailer below.
“Kids in the playground would always mimic the accent and say ‘Thank you, come again!’ or ‘Hello, Mr Homer!’” Kondabolu told the BBC. “Sure, growing up in New York City everyone tries to be funny. If you grow up there you learn to make jokes and how to make comebacks, but it’s hard to counter an accent – what’s your comeback for an accent?”
The show was further criticised in April over the episode ‘No Good Read Goes Unpunished’, where the issue of Apu’s depiction was tackled head on as Marge and Lisa discussed the portrayal of the character.
Lisa Simpson is heard to say “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”
The show now plans to side-step the controversy with Apu by ensuring he quietly vanishes from Springfield.