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"The Simpsons": the case of Apu and political correctness

It is almost 30 years that Apu Nahasapeemapetilon has been serving after the counter of his Kwik-E-Mart store the colorful and eccentric population of Springfield. But the endearing Indian character of "The Simpsons" has lost its tranquility in recent months by a controversy that arose with some delay, although quite in tune with these times of political correctness. Now they accuse him of embodying racist stereotypes because of his way of speaking and his religious beliefs, which seems to bother a good part of the population of India.

This is what, for example, the comedian and filmmaker Hari Kondabolu – the son of Indian immigrants – who with his documentary "El problema de Apu" unleashed the wave of criticism of the fictional character. The issue reached such a level that, a few days ago, the rumor began to spread that the creators of "The Simpsons" had decided to withdraw Apu from the series in a definitive way, so as not to hurt feelings. The news was finally denied by producer Al Jean. And Matt Groening, brain of the yellow universe, minimized the question. "I'm proud of what we do in the series and I think we live in a time when people like to pretend to be offended," he said. The controversy, however, continues.
So, is it offensive Apu or is it not? The discussion is interesting, although in the lightness of social networks runs the risk of banalizar in polarization. A more or less centered opinion was the one issued by the actor Hank Azaria, in charge of giving voice to the controversial Apu. He, aware of being a white American who parodies the way of speaking of an Indian man – one of the issues that most annoys the critics of the character – pointed out that it is important to listen to those who may feel affected by his interpretation. "I would like to see screenwriters from India and South Asia give their opinion on the direction the character should take, including how to fold it or not, I am prepared to stand by or help in its transition into something new," he said.
For his part, Bhaskar Sunkara, Indian-American journalist of the British newspaper "The Guardian", wrote a few days ago an article in defense of the noble merchant. "Apu was a kind of hero to me […]. My relationship with him is similar to the one I had with my parents: full of moments of fearful shame, but also of pride and gratitude. "Both in the opinion of Azaria and of Sunkara there is a tendency to nuance healthy, an invitation to debate rather than a clear statement, cold head helps.
Certainly, it may be surprising that the criticisms against Apu appear only now, when he has been a recurring character since the first season of "The Simpsons". But it is also undeniable that many humorous concepts have been obsolete with the passage of time. No longer laughing, and even uncomfortable, something that before could be funny is a normal process of maturity.
It happened, just to mention some emblematic cases, with some racist representations in the animations of Disney or in the famous cartoon "Tintin" by Hergé. It happened even in "South Park", uncontrollable satire, which killed Chef, his African-American character, when the man who gave his voice gave up the series for a religious polemic. And even a seemingly innocuous classic like "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has been the subject of inclusive and politically correct modifications: a project to adapt it in "La principesa" and place more female characters has generated another angry discussion in recent days . If it is justified or not, it will be in the opinion of each one. And the good Apu sure will continue to wait patiently. The dispute has for a while.



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