Hank Azaria, who has performed the voice of the Indian convenience store owner Apu since 1990, now says the series will capitulate to The Woke and Widiculous, and eliminate the character, who represents a stereotype. You know, unlike all the other characters on “The Simpsons.” “All we know there is I won’t be doing the voice anymore,” Azaria told the website SlashFilm. “We all made the decision together… We all agreed on it. We all feel like it’s the right thing and good about it.”
OK, what’s right and good about it? Hank is a Hollywood actor, so I don’t expect much nuanced ethical analysis from him, or any kind of analysis, really, but if an animated satire show can’t defend using stereotypes in a cartoon, then it might as well just give up.
I’m embarrassed to say this is the fourth post on this silly story, but like so many others, it is canary dying in the mine stuff. Yes, it’s just one canary. Still, the mine is looking awfully toxic.
A recap: The controversy was launched when a new documentary debuted Nov. 19, 2017 called “The Problem with Apu.” It reveals that Indian-Americans….well, at least some, viewed Apu as a charged stereotype, and were especially upset that a non-Indian actor (Azaria), did the voice. I responded,
Move through the muck and emerge in the bright sunlight of reality, and one sees that there is no problem with Apu. There are problems with lacking a mature reaction to humor and satire, being deliberately hyper-sensitive, power-grabbing using group-identification politics, and cynically looking for offense to justify claiming victim status, but there is no problem with Apu.
I would love to know why Indian-Americans feel all the other characters in the show can be outrageous stereotypes and extreme caricatures, but Apu is unacceptably offensive and insensitive. This is contrived victimization. One cannot reasonable compare the Indians feasting on bugs and chilled monkey brains in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” to Apu because 1) Apu is entirely benign: he is one of the smartest, sanest and nicest characters in “The Simpsons,” and 2) he’s a cartoon.
“The Simpsons”writers initially took the responsible approach to this contrived controversy: they ridiculed it, taking my route and noting that it was a cartoon, meaing to sane people that the accusation that the show was marginalizing human beings was not worth arguing about, being box of rocks dumb. Here was the woke rebuttal to that, from a white female critic offended on behalf of cartoon Indians everywhere:
“I know: It’s a cartoon. That is the easiest, silliest response to this debate. It’s just a cartoon. It’s just a comedy. Or, as the photo of Apu pointedly says, don’t have a cow. But the show doesn’t have this defense to call on, because it has accepted accolades for decades as a thoughtful, intelligent, satirical work that deserves to be taken seriously. It has accepted a Peabody Award, and a GLAAD Media Award. It has been praised and slobbered over and quoted and praised again, and to plead insignificance at this point is unavailing.”
I responded to that—I’m always having arguments with people who never see what I write and couldn’t care less, have you noticed that?—by writing,
I hate to be harsh, but this is idiotic beyond excusing. To say “It’s a cartoon” is not to say that it is insignificant, and to say “It’s just a comedy” is not to argue that its content doesn’t matter. It’s a cartoon means that cartoons as an art form, exaggerate, stereotype and mock individuals and groups using funny faces, voices, words and actions, and anyone who takes personal offense—or who works hard to find offense– at a cartoon that was not intended to offend is best dealt with by saying to him or her, “Avoid animated entertainment. You don’t understand it.” And maybe a pat on the head will help.
I should have added that I was unaware of the rule that if a show gets a GLAAD Award, it is too weighty to have comic characters who hail from Bombay. I ended the post,
Why are Indian-Americans anointed with special privileges that they should be immune from the gentle self-mockery that was once a strength of this culture? They’re not. I think “The Simpsons” should kill off Apu, and announce the cause of death as excessive political correctness.
Then the social media mobs and others kept flogging this—I refuse to believe Indians are any more offended by Apu than I am by fat, bald, stupid Homer, a white middle-aged man, which is to say, not at all; the complaints are coming from non-Indians who want to flex their censorship muscles. Here’s me as a Simpson’s character, by the way—
until the news came in 2018 that Apu was doomed. From my Ethics Alarms note:
It is being reported that “The Simpsons” will eliminate Indian-American and Quik-E-Mart owner Apu from its cast of thousands because the political correctness assault on the character as a “stereotype” is more trouble than Mr. Nahasapeemapetilon is worth. So now “The Simpsons” will have no Indian-American characters at all, like most sitcoms. The comedian/activist who initially attacked Apu, Hari Kondabolu tweeted that the rumor of Apu’s apparent demise actually isn’t good news to him: “There are so many ways to make Apu work without getting rid of him. If true, this sucks.”
Good job Hari! Apu in fact DID “work,” you just didn’t like him, and now because you didn’t like him, there will be no Indian-American character on “The Simpsons” at all. A better example of allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good would be hard to find.
Now it’s done. No more Apu. Though from a personal viewpoint I wouldn’t care if I never saw Apu again, my mind has again raced to the Jacques Brel quote that increasingly appears to be the looming epitaph for what was once a vibrant American culture:
“If you leave it up to them, they’ll crochet the world the color of goose shit.”
The Twitter link, so can post this on Facebook without being accused of being a Nazi: https://twitter.com/CaptCompliance/status/1219050898338414592
11 thoughts on “And That’s The Rest Of The Stupid Story: Finally, Apu Is Officially Toast. Or A Somosa. Whatever.”
So they eliminate Apu (and, by extension, his brother Sanjay, wife Manjula and his Octuplets) because he’s voiced by a white guy and is a comical character. He’s far more developed a character than many of the others.
I wonder when they’ll eliminate Carl the Policeman?
I was talking about this earlier today and the sentiment I was hearing from some very vocal imbeciles was “it’s about time”. My reply was a very vocal, “it’s about time people learn to get a sense of humor again. Social justice warriors have destroyed common sense in our society”. Needless to say, I got a few people really pissed off at me and a couple more chose to shake my hand.
I don’t know why people continue to contradict my assertion that society has gone over the edge of reality and it will take generations to recover. The army of social justice warriors intimidating the public have already won the minds of a huge swath of the United States populace and a lot of the rest have clammed up and or actively doing things to preempt social justice warrior interference in their lives/business’ for fear of being targets of the hoards of lunatic social justice warriors. Social justice warriors have have either deeply infected or are actually taking over school boards, town/county boards, city counsels, state houses, all the way up to the United States Congress. These are the people that will be controlling the indoctrination, making the laws and controlling your lives in a few short years. It’s a deeply rooted malignant cancer.
I would love for someone, anyone, to figuratively beat an alternate foreseeable reality into my head and prove me wrong.
It will take an act of God, Steve
Turns out I have some free time this morning. (I was going to try to schedule you for this Wednesday next.) However, this is not my normal beating zone you must understand. I will try my best however, figuratively of course. 🙂
[Kondabolu wrote ‘The Problem with Apu‘ and started the controversy]
I would mention — I am not sure if you are aware of this — that The Simpsons program is international in its reach.
This cannot constitute the *beating* you seek — can we call it a poking or a prodding instead? — but the resistance to the characterization of Apu has arisen within an international Indian/Asian community and is not specifically the property, so to speak, of the classic American social justice warrior.
You wrote: “My reply was a very vocal, “it’s about time people learn to get a sense of humor again. Social justice warriors have destroyed common sense in our society”.
I agree that this has been made into just another munition in a large-scale social war going on today. I would not metaphorically beat you down for seeing it as such. But in the spirit of *full and accurate view* as well as *full and accurate telling* this is more an issue of an international audience resisting a limited portrayal which they feel is demeaning. Simply put, The Simpsons is not any longer a strictly American cartoon/situation comedy. It began as that (I assume) but with processes of globalization, and the globalization of American movie products, the ‘ethics’ of portrayal have come into the light. What is interesting, and also strange, in all this is the outrageous influence of an American cartoon and the degree to which its *message* (whatever that message is) penetrates into other cultures.
In such a situation it is inevitable that those in the international community that are portrayed with somewhat hollow or shallow characterizations will voice their opinion and their view. Is it so ‘wrong’ that they do not wish to ‘take the joke’ when, in fact, the program is international and not strictly American?
It is interesting to consider this in the larger context of ‘globalization’ and the spread of shallow and essentially childish (and frankly stupid, yet funny) American humor (I mean no particular offense in saying this, it is just that it is true). I think this could be classed in a critical sense as a destructive aspect of The Americanopolis: the over-influence of a shallow culture and the reach of depthless *meaning* and meaning that means nothing. Strangely enough it is these hollow and shallow tropes that seem to have the most reach.
What I would ‘beat into your head’, to use your turn of phrase, is that the entire world is focused on America right now and what is going on in America politically and socially. The *theatre* as it were being rehearsed here has a world-audience. Isn’t that peculiar? I have friends in Australia, in Holland, in Britain and all over the Americas who only seem to discuss what is going on in America! Given the nature of the ‘global’ community and the role of America in creating it, this is not surprising. But it sure is weird.
America has essentially set up these world-conditions. That is, the ethical philosophy of the United States has become one of Multi-Culturalism, of Globalization, and reducing distinct peoples into shallow and stereotypical portrayals. That is ‘the road to Americanization’. It is a road in which people are reduced by Americanization to being ‘mere cogs in a Multi-Cultural American Walmart’. (That is sort of where Apu is situated really).
Next they’ll be yelling about a lack of diversity.
You think you’re kidding…
It needs chemotherapy and major surgery to kill this huge cancer of woke social justice warriors who are destroying this society. The outcome is in question due to cynical politicians along with the petty tyrants who run our public schools and universities and allow these jerks to florish.
This is not a very promising metaphor! 1) the patient may not survive no matter what the treatment, and 2) killing a cancer and ‘major surgery’ can only be interpreted as war and destruction, imprisonment and re-indoctrination.
What and who are ‘destroying the society’, and how this has come about, has not been settled in any sense to my satisfaction. It should really be still a question.
It’s a new minority category based on bellybuttons.
(Fixed it. Thanks.)
then my Simpson character reacted like this…