Lay off Apu . . . and Hank!

September 20, 2013 at 3:39 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

HuffPost TV asks a question: “Is it time to retire Apu?” and in doing so, they bring attention and, dare I suggest, attempt to validate a frustrated rant given by Hari Kondabolu over a year ago on the FX(X) show, Totally Biased in which he riled the crowd with his desire to “kick the shit” out of Hank Azaria (at 1 minute 30 seconds) for doing the voice of Apu. 

At a time when there were no Indians on American television–no Kelly Kapoor, Mindy Lahiri, or Raj Koothrappali–The Simpsons presented Apu, a PhD working at a convenience store. Darn that Fox (the network that, when it wasn’t showing Cops marathons, was presenting the antics of the lovable, delightful Bundy family) for not having its cartoon show of yellow people who don’t age or change their clothing be more socially responsible* in its depiction of its sole Indian character.


Hari Kondabolu’s problem with Apu/Hank shows a complete and utter lack of understanding of the humor of The Simpsons (rather ironic for a comedian). The Simpsons is a satire. Thus, when the show depicts a stereotype, simplification, or mischaracterization, it is calling on the viewer to question the stereotype or whathaveyou and to analyze the overarching culture and systems that allow such ideas to exist. The show isn’t perpetuating an Indian stereotype through Apu any more than they are perpetuating the attention-starved middle child stereotype through Lisa or the disaffected, alcoholic elementary teacher through Mrs. K. and Miss Hoover.  

*As far as socially responsible goes, is the depiction of Apu actually so bad? He’s educated, hardworking, kind, ethical, religious, and respectful. And to prevent him from being two one-dimensional, the writers even made him more complicated: human, flawed, and weak.

1 Comment

  1. Reading Digest: Backhanded Season 25 Preview Edition | Dead Homer Society said,

    […] Lay off Apu . . . and Hank! – I’ll agree with pretty much everything our old friend Denise says here in defense of Apu as an Indian character on television, with one addendum.  Apu debuted on television just six years after Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which an Indian buddy of mine always describes as “the most racist movie ever made”, was #3 at the box office.  If you were creating an Indian television character for a network show in 2013 (or 2012, when the video she’s rebutting was recorded), you’d never in a million years make him a convenience store owner.  But in 1989/90?  That was different, and they didn’t just leave him in the background to do nothing but say “Thank you, come again”.  In just the first three seasons we see him on the cover of a gun magazine, dating Princess Cashmere, and hanging out at Homer’s with all the other guys to watch a heavyweight championship fight; not to mention he’s there every time Springfield has a meeting or a riot.  This is (yet another) thing that pisses me off about Zombie Simpsons: the show used to be way ahead of the curve on stuff like this, and now it are far, far behind. […]

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