In a much-derided scene from ‘The Simpsons’ which aired last month, Marge and Lisa discussed the criticism the show has faced in recent times over its portrayal of Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu.
While many have voiced the opinion that the character perpetuates negative stereotypes about Indian people, particularly since the 2017 documentary ‘The Problem With Apu’, those behind the scenes at ‘The Simpsons’ seemed suitably miffed at the controversy.
In the scene, Lisa was heard saying to Marge (at the end of a storyline which mirrored the backlash against Apu): “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”
Well, celebrated film and TV producer Adi Shankar has a suggestion.
He has launched a contest for aspiring screenwriters to pen their own ‘Simpsons’ script, observing: “’The Simpsons’ is sick and this contest is crowdsourcing the cure.”
Adi has invited ‘Simpsons’ fans to write a script for a ‘Simpsons’ episode which “takes the character of Apu and in a clever way subverts him, pivots him, intelligently writes him out, or evolves him in a way that takes a mean-spirited mockery and transforms him into a kernel of truth wrapped in funny insight”.
He has said the winning entry, selected by a jury of South Asian people who work in the entertainment industry, will be presented to the writers’ room at ‘The Simpsons’, as well as Fox Broadcasting Company, who are behind the long-serving show.
If they reject the script, Adi has vowed to create it himself, “as an unofficial fan-film that looks identical to an official ‘Simpsons’ episode”.
He notes: “This contest is open to people of all ethnicities and cultures, however, if you don’t have any experience with Indian culture in America then you may not have the perspective and experience to write well on this topic.”
For more information on how to enter the contest, click here.
Hank Azaria, who has voiced Apu for almost 30 years, has said in the wake of the controversy that he would be willing to “step aside” if fans feel that’s what is necessary.
Show creator Matt Groening has been less willing to acknowledge the criticisms, though, writing them off as people “pretending to be offended”.