The ongoing controversy surrounding "The Simpsons" stereotypical depiction of convenience store owner Apu doesn't look to be ending anytime soon. In fact, the episode addressing the criticisms of the character only seems to have added more fuel to the fire.
Adi Shankar, then Indian-American showrunner behind Netflix animated series "Castlevania", has drafted an open letter to both "Simpsons" showrunner Al Jean and comedian Bill Maher for how they've addressed it in recent weeks.
Hari Kondabolu's documentary, "The Problem with Apu," first brought to the topic to light, with the series addressing it via allegory by having Marge tell Lisa, "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?" She then looked at a picture of Apu with the words "Don't have a cow!" written across it.
Maher doubled down on that stance, saying on his show "Real Time," "If you spend your time combing through old TV shows to identify stuff that by today's standards looks bad, you're not 'woke', you're just a douchebag."
Neither response sat well with many critics, including Shankar, who wrote that Apu was never applauded or inoffensive, adding, "We are the most educated minority in America yet that fact was completely extricated from 80's and 90's pop culture and all that existed was a hurtful caricature, a cousin to the coon and Jewface caricatures, that reinforced our fears of how we were perceived by gatekeepers such as yourselves."
In his letter, which he addressed to both Maher and Jean, he said that Apu "has and was used to hurt countless kids who were already struggling to fight in." He urged both men to used their platforms to "affect change on an unprecedented level."
Jean did respond to the initial backlash to the recent episode, tweeting, "I truly appreciate all responses pro and con. Will continue to try to find an answer that is popular & more important right."
Read Shankar's full open letter below.
Dear Mr. Maher and Mr. Jean,
Apu wasn't 'applauded' or 'inoffensive' at any time. We are the most educated minority in America yet that fact was completely extricated from '80s and '90s pop culture and all that existed was a hurtful caricature, a cousin to the coon and Jewface caricatures, that reinforced our fears of how we were perceived by gatekeepers such as yourselves. By dismissing this issue as a joke, a fad amongst entitled millennials worthy of a light chuckle, neither of you are acknowledging that this creation has and was used to hurt countless kids who were already struggling to fit in.
We have a fabulous platform and with it the ability to affect change on an unprecedented level, and as such you both have the responsibility to do better.