Now we know why The Problem With Apu continues to be problematic, despite Hank Azaria acknowledging that the voice he has used on The Simpsons for an Indian immigrant running the Springfield convenience store might not be as funny in 2018 as it was in 1988.
The Simpsons defended Apu in a recent episode.
And creator Matt Groening just went even further in a new interview with The New York Times, telling Dave Itzkoff:
Well, I love Apu. I love the character, and it makes me feel bad that it makes other people feel bad. But on the other hand, it’s tainted now — the conversation, there’s no nuance to the conversation now. It seems very, very clunky. I love the character. I love the show.
How will you handle the character going forward?
We’re not sure exactly how it’s going to play out. Back in the day, I named the character after the Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray. I love Indian culture and Indian film and Indian music. I thought that the name was a signal that we had, at least, a scholarly intention. I thought maybe a kid was going to grow up and find out what the name came from and go watch the Apu Trilogy, which are the greatest films, basically, in the history of cinema.
He continued, saying that his beef with kids these days being offended wasn’t specifically about Apu but about culture in general shifting. “I think particularly right now, people feel so aggrieved and crazed and powerless that they’re picking the wrong battles.”
Do you believe the people who have raised questions about the depiction of Apu are sincere in their beliefs?
Sure, and my guess is I agree, politically, with 99 percent of the things that Hari Kondabolu believes. We just disagree on Apu. I love the character and I would hate for him to go away. I am sorry that “The Simpsons” would be criticized for having an Indian character that, because of our extraordinary popularity — I expected other people to do it. I go, maybe he’s a problem, but who’s better? Who’s a better Indian animated character in the last 30 years? I’ve been to India twice and talked about “The Simpsons” in front of audiences. That’s why this took me by surprise. I know Indians are not the same as Indian-Americans.