So last week I went to an event for The Simpsons writer Mike Reiss to promote his new book, Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons. And during the Q&A, someone understandably brought up The Problem With Apu by Hari Kondabolu.
A few responses have been made by the show, one from Hank Azaria and one, seemingly, from the show itself in a episode that aired earlier this year (a response that people really hated). So when broached about the subject, Reiss had a bit more to say.
Apparently a couple years ago in 2016, season 27 to be exact, The Simpsons did Apu’s last episode. It was called Much Apu About Something. The summary of the episode is that Apu’s nephew, Jay (voiced by a Utkarsh Ambudkar), takes over the Kwik-E-Mart when it’s destroyed and changes it into a Quick & Fresh. He modernizes it and when Apu protests, Jay insults Apu for being a stereotype. Dennis Perkins of The A.V. Club said about the episode, "About Apu’s nephew Jamshed (or Jay, as he prefers) turning the Kwik-E-Mart into a health food store, might reference a beloved episode about Apu’s dignity in the face of Springfield’s hairtrigger xenophobia, but it’s equally a referendum on the character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon himself.”
But the real thing that stood out from the event I went to was when Reiss stated that apparently this was the last time Apu has appeared in a speaking scene since that episode. They (the writers and Hank Azaria) decided it was time to retire the character, in a matter of speaking. Why this went unacknowledged until now is unclear to me, but the main point here is that they literally saw that it was terrible that this racist impression by a white actor had gone on for way too long, and rectified it. Reiss writes about it in detail in his book and ends the chapter with, "We'd hate to lose a beloved character from the show. But times change, and maybe after three decades, time has run out for Apu."
There are only two things that I’m angry about right now.
- The fact that I didn’t realize this issue was already resolved on the show since I pride myself on being a huge fan. (Living in a cable-free home is the culprit here, but as always I'll keep buying the seasons as they come out.)
- The fact that Hari Kondabolu has gained any kind of notoriety because of The Problem With Apu, since this was no longer an issue even before he filmed this documentary.
I really don't think Lisa’s MEH response above was supposed to be taken as a serious response to this documentary (and can I say real quick that I hate referring to this as a documentary since it's 49 minutes, I can't explain why that bothers me, I'm sorry). I think it was meant to infer that, 'If you knew anything about this show, you’ll know that we already handled this problem.' Maybe I'm wrong, but that's how I interpret it now.
And not to completely hate on Hari Kondabolu, but I should’ve realized something was wrong with this guy when he aligned himself with that sad little group of “everything-after-season-ten-sucks” losers who literally haven’t seen decades of a great, great show. And look, I get it, it makes sense to me that this man would successfully stir up this shit since it's emblematic of this age we’re in right now where dragging something great to get your two minutes is a totally justifiable move, since it works. It just makes me mad.
I wouldn't be in such a huff about this if HK didn't end it the way he did, challenging what the writers "were going to do about this issue" when the issue was already dealt with.