Side Note

‘The Simpsons’ finally addressed ‘The Problem With Apu’

Anyone who has seen Hari Kondabolu’s 2017 documentary The Problem With Apu, in which the comedian interrogates the cultural context of the popular Simpsons character, knows that one of the most frustrating conflicts in the film is his attempt to get in touch with Hank Azaria, who voices Apu. Though Kondabolu was able to interview Simpsons producer Dana Gould, Azaria never makes an appearance to discuss Kondabolu’s criticism face to face.

On last night’s episode of the show, he finally got an answer. In the episode, Marge revisits her favorite childhood book, and finds it filled with racist stereotypes. In response to Marge’s frustration at not knowing how to reconcile her happy memories of the book with its offensive reality, Lisa looks at a framed photo of Apu on her bedside and says “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”

“Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” says Marge. “If at all,” responds Lisa, before the two look pointedly at the viewer.

Posting to Twitter, Kondabolu was clearly disappointed in the show’s response to his critical and deeply personal film. “Man, I really loved this show. This is sad,” he wrote. (Later, more pointedly: “TO THE JOURNALISTS WHO HAVE ASKED ME FOR A PUBLIC STATEMENT ABOUT LAST NIGHT’S SIMPSONS EPISODE, I JUST WANT SAY: ‘Congratulations to the Simpsons for being talked about & being seen as relevant again.’”) Judging from a supportive tweet retweeted by the show’s producer Al Jean, the show isn’t ready to give him — or the viewers — a better response.