Controversy has surrounded Simpsons’ character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon since comedian Hari Kondabolu questioned the stereotype portrayed by the character in his documentary The Problem With Apu.
The documentary sparked debate over whether Apu was depicting a damaging reputation of South Asians in America, especially due to his character being voiced by a white male American, Hank Azaria.
The Simpsons response to The Problem with Apu: a callous and resentful shrug. pic.twitter.com/8N6XRzNvsi
— William Mullally (@whmullally) April 9, 2018
In a new interview with The Daily Beast showrunner Al Jean has suggested that the character could be significantly changed going forward.
Jean admitted that the character was “a work in progress” and added that he was “very sorry” that the character had been used to bully or discriminate against South Asians.
“As a writer, I always wanted to make Apu an original character—more noble, more hardworking, and more intelligent than the average Simpsons character,” Jean said. “When we were doing episode four, there was a big joke that Reverend Lovejoy didn’t even know what religion he was, and Apu was just being this wonderful volunteer fireman, and there was an article in the Guardian recently by a South Asian writer who said that moment made him feel really proud.”
He added: “So I think there are a lot of things about Apu that have made South Asians very proud, and it’s a very complicated issue. But no one should be bullied because of him, and I’m very sorry about that.”
The showrunner also addressed the decision to pull a Simpsons episode featuring Michael Jackson in the wake of the controversial Finding Neverland documentary, suggesting that the episode’s removal was “appropriate” and that it now served a “false purpose.”
“I think it was part of what he used to groom boys,” Jean said of Jackson. “I really don’t know, and I should be very careful because this is not something I know personally, but as far as what I think, that’s what I think. And that makes me very, very sad.”