Al Jean says show has been trying to make Apu "nuanced, sympathetic and admirable" for 30 years
The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean has said that the show will “continue to try to find an answer” that is both “popular” and “right” in response to the controversy surrounding the character of Apu.
Last year, comedian Hari Kondabolu’s The Problem With Apu documentary looked at the problematic nature of the Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
In response to initial criticism that the character is a racist stereotype, The Simpsons aired an episode last week (‘No Good Read Goes Unpunished’) that saw Marge and Lisa approach the issue.
In one scene, Lisa turns to the camera and recites the monologue: “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”. The camera then pans to a framed photo of Apu, which features the words, “Don’t have a cow, Apu”. Watch in the clip below.
Following the episode’s airing, the show’s tackling of the subject was criticised and labelled “toothless” by some fans.
Al Jean – who has been showrunner since 2001 – has since taken to Twitter to respond to the feedback from fans, saying that he “appreciates all responses pro and con” and that the show will “continue to try to find an answer that is popular & more [importantly] right”.
In a response to a fan’s tweet, Jean said that “something could be unpopular but still be right”. He also described the furore as “a free speech issue”, adding that he favours “open expression of all types to a pretty large degree”.
The producer also said that the show has been trying to “make Apu nuanced, sympathetic and… admirable for 30 years”. Jean pointed to the introduction of Apu’s nephew, Jay Nahasapeemapetilon, in 2016, saying that the new character was “deemed unsatisfactory” at the time. “There’s no solution I fear that will satisfy,” he added.
Kondabolu tweeted last week that the show’s response to his documentary’s criticism was “sad”. See his tweet below.