By Joe Harker
When the documentary "The Problem With Apu" aired it prompted discussion about the long running Simpsons character and the impact he had.
Hari Kondabolu spoke to people who said that the stereotype of Apu had been used to bully them and others, who auditioned for parts, explained how they were told to play up to the stereotype and put on a fake voice. There was an expectation that The Simpsons would respond to the documentary in some way but that has prompted more criticism.
The show addressed the controversy with the recent episode "No Good Read Goes Unpunished", where Marge tries to read her favourite childhood book to Lisa, only to discover that it is more racist than she remembers. The characters discuss the issue and end with Lisa, accompanied by a picture of Apu, giving The Simpsons response to criticism, saying: "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?"
Unfortunately for those working on the show, this response has not had the intended reception. Some have called it "toothless" and believe it missed the point of the original criticism. While it recognises times have changed since the character of Apu was created, it dismisses the criticism as political correctness and some believe they have missed the point.
Writing in The Independent, Biba Kang argues that the creators of The Simpsons have refused to understand why some people find Apu offensive. She also laments that Lisa, usually the moral core of The Simpsons, was the one to deliver the response.
Some believe the response is a symptom of a show that has been on the air far too long. No Good Read Goes Unpunished is the 633rd episode of The Simpsons, which has been running for decades.
Perhaps a show that has been running for so long becomes "lazy and complacent" while also becoming "fiercely defensive of one's legacy" as Jen Chaney suggests. She believes the show has now become part of the establishment, struggling to deal with the suggestion that one of the longest running characters is offensive to some. Rohan Banerjee of the New Statesman agrees, arguing that The Simpsons' response trivialised the criticism and misrepresented the complaints about the character.
However, Rajiv Saytal of CBC News suggests that the initial documentary, The Problem With Apu, takes a short sighted view that sets back its own argument. He argues that Apu is a three dimensional character, smarter than most of the inhabitants of Springfield and possessing a PhD in Computer Science. There are many positive qualities about the character and though he is a stereotype so is almost every other character on the show.