Apu may not be gone just yet.
In response to film producer Adi Shankar’s claim that “The Simpsons” was going to quietly drop the character, showrunner Al Jean said that Shankar has nothing to do with the long-running animated series.
“Adi Shankar is not a producer on the Simpsons,” Jean tweeted on Sunday. “I wish him the very best but he does not speak for our show.”
Adi Shankar is not a producer on the Simpsons. I wish him the very best but he does not speak for our show.
— Al Jean (@AlJean) October 28, 2018
However, Shankar said in a statement emailed to TheWrap: “Al Jean’s statement was directed toward the very poorly researched click bait reporting from @NME who incorrectly credited me as a producer on ‘The Simpsons.’ I’m not and never stated that I am. Al’s simply clarifying that I’m not on the show, which once again I am not. He’s not addressing the Apu controversy.”
Last week, Shankar told Indiewire that the longrunning animated sitcom was going to quietly drop the character.
“I got some disheartening news back, that I’ve verified from multiple sources now: They’re going to drop the Apu character altogether,” said Shankar in that interview with IndieWire. “They aren’t going to make a big deal out of it, or anything like that, but they’ll drop him altogether just to avoid the controversy.”
The question of the future of Apu has followed the show since the November 2017 release of the documentary, “The Problem With Apu.” The film studies the effects of what star and director Hari Kondabolu believes to be negative stereotypes perpetuated by the popular animated East Indian character. The fictional Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, who has a very thick accent and runs a convenience store, is voiced by a white man, Hank Azaria.
In a statement on Friday, Fox pointed out that Apu appeared in the Oct. 14 episode “My Way or the Highway to Heaven,” but did not elaborate any further. Previously, “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening said there have been no discussions about retiring the character.
Shankar started a contest in April to see who could come up with the best way to, as he puts it, “subverts him, pivots him, writes him out, or evolves him in a way that takes a creation that was the byproduct of a predominately Harvard-educated white male writers’ room and transforms it into a fresh, funny and realistic portrayal of Indians in America.”
Groening made his displeasure with the criticism of Apu known in April, telling USA Today, “I think it’s a time in our culture where people love to pretend they’re offended.” He expanded on those comments earlier this month to The New York Times.
“Well, I love Apu. I love the character, and it makes me feel bad that it makes other people feel bad,” said Groening. “But on the other hand, it’s tainted now — the conversation, there’s no nuance to the conversation now. It seems very, very clunky. I love the character. I love the show.”
In April, the show’s writers addressed the issue in an episode in which mom Marge painstakingly edited a bedtime story for Lisa to make it “inoffensive as a Sunday in Cincinnati.” Unfortunately, in doing so, the benign tale has now become pointless, per the middle Simpson kid.
“What am I supposed to do?” an exhausted Marge asks.
“It’s hard to say,” Lisa responds. “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”
With that last rhetorical line, Lisa glanced at a picture of Apu, which rests on her nightstand. “Don’t have a cow,” the autographed photo reads.
“Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” Marge then says.
“If at all,” Lisa adds.
Comedy Central’s “South Park” also took a shot at “The Simpsons” in a recent episode this season.