Simpsons Creators Respond to Criticism

The Simpsons is one of the longest running and most popular animated programs on television. The show has also spawned countless pop culture icons and references, even adding to our language in certain circumstances.

The program has also built its reputation for smartly-crafted satire that, at times, cuts very close to the bone. When engaging in that level of satire, offending people can be par for the course. But there is one aspect of that offense that keeps coming back around and doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. That topic is Apu, the Kwik-E-Mart clerk that, some say, promotes negative stereotypes and is harmful to certain segments of the population. Some are even calling the Apu character overtly racist. There’s even been a “documentary” released called “The Trouble with Apu.” Now, Fox officials and Simpsons creators are responding to these criticisms…

Fox TV Chairman and CEO Dana Walden recently went on record about the question, saying: “We have had conversations with (executive producer) Jim Brooks and his team, and basically we’ve left it up to them… They’ve treated the characters with so much respect, we definitely trust them to handle it in a way that will be best for their show…”

Perhaps it’s not surprising that this response did not exactly go over well with critics. To that negative reaction, the Simpsons creators offered a truly “Simpsons” response. In a recent episode, Marge Simpson is reading a book with her daughter, Lisa. In the scene, Marge edits out content that would be considered offensive to some. Lisa questions the edits, and Marge says it’s a difficult situation. To which Lisa turns, glances at a framed photo of Apu, and says:

“Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”

The punchline: Lisa and Marge look at the audience and say, “Some things will be dealt with at a later date… if at all.”

Once again, for a show like The Simpsons, this is par for the course. Many fans loved it. After all, they argued, The Simpsons lampoons stereotypes of everyone, that’s what makes the characters relatable, and it’s part of the show’s charm.

But that response was not nearly good enough for comedian Hari Kondabolu, who wrote “The Problem With Apu,” in an effort to address what he sees as marginalizing of certain groups in American pop culture.

So, now, the battle lines are drawn. A message was sent, and it was answered. Consumers are lining up on both sides of the argument, and this one is far from over.  

-Ronn Torossian, 5WPR CEO

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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