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James Johnson
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Posted: 14 December 2017 at 3:13pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

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Adam Schulman
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Posted: 15 December 2017 at 5:19pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Simpsons writers have a John Byrne-like power of precognition.

Edited by Adam Schulman on 15 December 2017 at 5:20pm
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Matt Hawes
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Posted: 25 April 2018 at 11:29am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

Hank Azaria says he will step down from voicing Apu on "The Simpsons" if that's necessary after criticism that the portrayal is a racist one. This comes after a documentary,  "The Problem With Apu," that examines how the character has affected those of South Asian/Indian heritage. 

The documentary is enlightening, and while I do think society these days is often overly politically correct,  I confess that since Apu first appeared on "The Simpsons" I was kind of shocked such a stereotype was still allowed on television. Yes, it was nearly 30 years ago, but in the early 1990s, PC was already becoming a thing.

Anyway, any thoughts on this from you guys?



Edited by Matt Hawes on 25 April 2018 at 11:31am
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John Byrne
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Posted: 25 April 2018 at 11:43am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Slippery slope. Caricature and satire are all about, well, caricature and satire! When we begin to proscribe the caricatures, how tightly will the noose be drawn?
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 25 April 2018 at 1:49pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

In college, I remember sitting with one of my co-workers outside the library, where we both worked. He was of Indian descent. Some frat bros walked by and called out to him. “Hey Apu... Hey Apu...”. He tried to ignore them at first, but when they wouldn’t stop, he walked over to confront them. They ran off laughing. I got the impression this wasn’t the first time he had dealt with something like that. This was in LA in the late 90s, hardly a place devoid of diversity.

It would be easy to dismiss Apu as a playful stereotype if there were more representation of Indians on television, and we’ve been seeing that in the last few years. But for a long time, he was the default representation of Indians on TV and that had an effect.
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Ed Aycock
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Posted: 25 April 2018 at 5:02pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

I don't know.  I never saw Apu as offensive as he inhabited a world of silly, offbeat people.  It's not a show about representation.  I sure never looked to it for gay representation as for the longest time we only had a man who was closeted in love with his withered, ancient boss (iiieewww) and had a huge collection of Malibu Stacy dolls. And god, he was portrayed more humanely than on so many other shows where it was a gag or a VERY SPECIAL EPISODE.

Maybe I'm even surprised at myself for this but had this been a season or two into the show, ok.  But nearly three decades on?  This is how the Dems lose.
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Joe Boster
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Posted: 25 April 2018 at 6:25pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

I always thought Apu wask Pakistani. Apu is a successful business owner. As a small business owner I admire Apu. I should be offended at the Fat neck-beard comic store guy, next. 
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 26 April 2018 at 7:39am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

I'd agree with Matt's comment that Apu seemed a bit un-PC from the get-go. What was uncomfortable to me was that it seemed as though part of what was supposed to be funny about him was the 'comedy' accent by Azaria.

At the same time, stereotype as he may be, Apu is presented as hard working and intelligent and over the years, the writers have done a lot more with him. He is far smarter than many other characters in the show and I think characters like Homer, Barney and Mo tend to be the butt of the jokes far more than someone like Apu, who actually is often portrayed favourably in comparison to many of the characters with whom he interacts.

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Bill Collins
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Posted: 26 April 2018 at 8:18am | IP Logged | 9 post reply

Where do we draw the line though? Is a comedy Scottish
accent not offensive to the Scottish? Or the stereotype
that they are tight fisted? Same goes for the comedy
Irish accent and stereotype that they are piss heads?
Italians being lecherous bottom pinchers with ties to
organised crime?
As for Michael`s example of a colleague being called
Apu, if Apu didn`t exist, those types would likely find
some other name to call him, Raj from Big Bang Theory
maybe? That`s their mentality.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 26 April 2018 at 8:25am | IP Logged | 10 post reply

Being called "Scottish" is likely more offensive!
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Bill Collins
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Posted: 26 April 2018 at 8:44am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

Och aye!
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Matt Hawes
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Posted: 26 April 2018 at 12:42pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

I'm not a fan of how crazy the PC crowd has gotten, but I do understand the complaints against Apu from those of South Asian heritage. The point made in the documentary about Apu is that for so many years there has been virtually NO other representation of that culture in American entertainment,  not even Raj from "The Big Bang Theory" (which Bill mentions above,  and who was oddly not mentioned in the documentary) until  many years later.

Peter mentioned above that it seemed what was supposed to be funny about Apu initially was the accent, and according to the documentary,  based on interviews with writers for "The Simpsons," that is true. Supposedly,  the writers didn't want a stereotypical Indian accent for the then-unnamed convenience store clerk, but when Hank Azaria read for the part he used the accent anyway, and the writers all laughed and went with it anyway.

I agree that since then, the writers for the show have fleshed out the character and added more dimension to Apu, but it's obviously a sticking point with many people of that culture. It seems to them Apu is as offensive as Stepin Fetchit is the the black community.

About the other nationalities and races that are stereotyped on the show, again, according to the critics of Apu, this is more about how in American pop culture, Apu has been the default representation for South Asians, one based on an acknowledged stereotype. 

Are these critics being overly sensitive?  I'm not sure, but I can say I have never had to deal with someone mockingly calling me "Apu" based simply on my skin color or accent. I don't know that I would want to see the character removed from the show, but I can at least emphasize with why some people do feel the way they do about it. 




Edited by Matt Hawes on 26 April 2018 at 12:43pm
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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 26 April 2018 at 4:36pm | IP Logged | 13 post reply

Dammit, it's the Simpsons. THE SIMPSONS!

Is Apu offensive? Yeah. What about the Simpsons ISN'T? Maybe Lisa?

It's a cartoon, it's a satire and insensitive... so what's the problem? Someone feels offended? Who hasn't been offended about bits on that show? Lesbians? Eskimos? Goldfish?

Does Apu perpetuate a stereotype? He does, but that's not the point. There are REAL WORLD CONCERNS that demand attention far more than the Simpsons.

For heaven's sake, if nothing can have a joke based on it anymore, humor is dead, and we're going to have to start going to underground clubs to see cartoons, even moderately outrageous comedians, funny movies...and that iron boot is plummeting towards that face, and it seems to be destined to last forever after all.
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Neil Lindholm
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Posted: 26 April 2018 at 4:38pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

It might be an old-fashioned idea but if you don't like something, don't watch it.

For example, I despise Rap "Music" and its negative stereotypes so I simply don't listen to it. I don't go on talk shows and make documentaries complaining how much I hate it so therefore it must be banned or changed to suit my sensibilities. Some people enjoy it so why does my feelings trump theirs?

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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 26 April 2018 at 5:24pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply


 QUOTE:
Does Apu perpetuate a stereotype? He does, but that's not the point. There are REAL WORLD CONCERNS that demand attention far more than the Simpsons.

Just because it's not a real world concern for you doesn't mean it's not a real world concern. I've been lucky to live in diverse areas (which is still not a complete protection from stereotypes), but I've known a few people who grew up the only minority in their hometown, and those media portrayals had a big impact on how they were treated.



 QUOTE:
It might be an old-fashioned idea but if you don't like something, don't watch it.

But the discussion isn't really about being personally offended by something you watch. South Asian kids could never watch The Simpsons and still be affected by Apu. East and Southeast Asian kids could go without watching SIXTEEN CANDLES and still have to put up with the Long Duk Dong impressions.

And why do people respond to "Hey, this is problematic, let's discuss this," with "Why are you trying to ban this you sensitive snowflake?!" For all the talk about people being oversensitive and offended, there are a lot of people in the anti-PC crowd acting oversensitive and offended at the idea that people have different perspectives than they do.

Here's a question: Do you think the normalization of homosexuality on TV, with shows aimed at teens depicting boys kissing boys, has had an effect on the growing acceptance of gays in high schools?


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Brian Hague
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Posted: 26 April 2018 at 7:09pm | IP Logged | 16 post reply

I agree that the skins of those offended by SJW efforts are usually thinner than those of the SJW's themselves and their reactions more reactionary.

Regarding Apu himself, he was a racially insensitive character from the beginning. Not nearly as offensive as he could have been, but the point of the character was an observation about how it seemed that every corner convenience store of that era was now owned by someone Middle Eastern. It was offensive because shock and (gasp) saying things on TV that can't be said in polite company is kind of funny in and of itself. Insensitivity sells the joke. That the character has acquired some dimension in the interim is good and keeps the joke from being strictly one-note, but the essence of the joke remains the same.

I usually have no problem with insensitive jokes being made, but then I'm not the one who pays the price when the insensitivity spreads and empowers those who hold such views without the benefit of a punchline waiting in the wings; When racists smile with fond recognition that their favorite TV shows hold the same racist views they do, the value of the joke alone is not enough to outweigh the harm being caused. 

And Apu's been the same joke now for 30 years. Thirty years. We can let him go now. The joke wasn't all that funny to begin with. 

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Wallace Sellars
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Posted: 27 April 2018 at 5:48am | IP Logged | 17 post reply

What Brian said…

It is very easy for folks to dismiss Apu as just one caricature among many, but
when a character is pretty much the only one of his/her kind - particularly
year after year after year - it becomes representational.

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Michael Penn
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Posted: 27 April 2018 at 6:34am | IP Logged | 18 post reply

What's truly sad is that if Apu is dropped as a mere sop to legitimate concern about the portrayal of Southern Asians, we might be left with no other prominent representation. A smart sweet movie like THE BIG SICK perhaps shows that unless Southern Asians craft their own work, they may not get treated significantly.
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Michael Sommerville
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Posted: 30 April 2018 at 7:01am | IP Logged | 19 post reply

What character on the Simpsons is not a stereotype? The evil billionaire, the fat dumb blue collar worker, the guy who everyone knows is gay but thinks he is closeted, the evangelical family, the bully is from a poor white trash family, etc. Why should the Apu character be any different, is it because it is a racial stereotype? Seems like cherry picking to me. Either they are all offensive or all satire.

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Neil Lindholm
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Posted: 30 April 2018 at 10:22pm | IP Logged | 20 post reply

The Scottish groundskeeper, the buffoon police officer, the town drunk, the dumb father, it goes on and on. I have a friend who is Jewish and who collects Jew jokes. Whenever I find a new one I send it to him since he finds them hilarious. I doubt he is offended by Krusty's father. This entire "controversy" is inane.
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 30 April 2018 at 11:01pm | IP Logged | 21 post reply

Michael Sommerville wrote: " Either they are all offensive or all satire."

Negative. If I do a cartoon series starring an overbearing mother-in-law, a boisterous sports fan, a lying used car salesman, and at some point in every episode they all get together and gas a Jew, is there one part of that formula that's more offensive than the rest, or does it all get a free pass because, satire, right? 

The point is that someone has taken offense, so yes, Apu is... wait for it... offensive. See how that works? If a group of Scots wish to take legitimate umbrage over Groundskeeper Willie, we'll deal with that issue when it arises. Until it does, this is what we're dealing with. 

If closeted gays everywhere wish to come out against Smithers, well, they wouldn't exactly be closeted anymore, but still... we'd deal with that one. Here, the people offended have said so, so it sets this one element apart from the false equivalence the hand-wavers wish to slather over the entire show.

Denying a voice to one segment of society because no one's complaining about all the stereotypical white characters is disingenuous at best. And rather revealing.

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Michael Penn
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Posted: 01 May 2018 at 5:57am | IP Logged | 22 post reply

I'm a Jew and I think Rabbi Krustofsky is hilarious. Of course, he is voiced by very Jewish Jackie Mason, and many of the writers of "The Simpsons" are Jewish, and it's easy to feel an authentic self-parodying there that is affectionate rather than insulting (viz. Mel Brooks). Plus, in America, we Jews have not only "made it," hit the highest levels of success in all industries and occupations, but we're known for having down so (to our detriment, often!), such that it would be patently ridiculous today to have our only Hollywood representation be a Yiddish-speaking tailor with a small shop on the Lower East Side of NYC. It's not 1910...!

When it comes to Apu not being voiced or (co-)written by Indians, I can see how that taken by itself (and perhaps that's not completely fair) could raise hackles.* Plus, we easily see in America successful Indians at the highest levels everywhere, but -- and this is the rub -- where do we see that reflected in prominent Hollywood representations? According to the last Census, Indians are nearly 1% of the US population. And if you live in a major metropolitan areas, like NYC and parts of New Jersey, the percentage skyrockets. 

Bill Maher referenced Apu in his diatribe about judging the past by modern standards, and he made some tremendous points in his tour-de-force. But whereas, say, THE BREAKFAST CLUB will never be anything but a 1985 movie, the character of Apu, created around the same time, is still here today. It's not my opinion that Apu is the real problem or necessarily must be dropped or changed. But the conversation about his what he represents about Indians today and his virtual cultural singularity is important and necessary -- but especially if it spurs significant change far beyond the realm of this one intentionally over-the-top cartoon TV show.



*A movie like MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, if it been, without changing a thing, not made by a Greek would likely (justly?) have been taken to be an incredibly mean-spirited attack. Even if it had, though, Greeks can look around at any and every corner of Western civilization and proudly see their legacy undeniably reflected and acknowledged. (I'm a Greek Jew, fluent in Greek, and my son-in-law is in medical school, and he regularly asks me the meaning of terms derived from Greek. We see Indian doctors everywhere in America, but imagine if our medical terminology was a mix of Latin and Sanskrit instead of Latin and Greek.) And, finally, nobody I presume is yelling a la John Belushi "cheez-booga! cheez-booga!" as a taunt to Greek kids today. My father had a diner back then and, yup, I got hit with some of that! But a half hour later, we'd be sitting in social studies class discussing how democracy began in Athens, etc., and that was that. Plus, that goofy Greek diner character isn't still around 40 years later.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 01 May 2018 at 6:12am | IP Logged | 23 post reply

There is much in this that reminds me of times I've been in a group of people, with jokes and jibes bouncing around like mad, all in good fun -- until somebody takes offense. Reacts as if, in the middle of this free-for-all, something has been said that is meant to be taken seriously.

In our PC society, that one persons seems more and more to reflect a larger group. Or, if not actually larger, at least louder courtesy of the internet.

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Michael Penn
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Posted: 01 May 2018 at 6:35am | IP Logged | 24 post reply


 QUOTE:
...in a group of people, with jokes and jibes bouncing around like mad, all in good fun... this free-for-all...

Yes, that is what "The Simpsons" is. In the context of the show, Apu isn't offensive. Neither was Mr. Creosote a vignette in favor of fat-shaming

Apu taken out of the show's context and put into a galactically broader societal context may reveal a lot about society -- but it doesn't make the character or the show themselves offensive.
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Michael Sommerville
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Posted: 01 May 2018 at 2:13pm | IP Logged | 25 post reply

My comment was not about a what if, it was about The Simpsons.  So only if a group voices their offence, and is heard, it is truly offensive? I think it is more the squeaky wheel gets the grease here. More often than not, when people find something offends them they just turn away.  

Here is a question, in what other role would an East Indian character have been a regular role on the Simpsons. The Simpsons, a show about a working class town with caricature people.
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