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‘Simpsons’ Showrunner Promises to Seek ‘Popular’ and ‘Right’ Solution to Apu Problem

Fox comedy recently came under fire for its response to criticism of its Indian-American character

“The Simpsons” showrunner Al Jean has answered some of the criticism to the show’s response to “The Problem With Apu” documentary, ultimately promising to contemplate the issue further.

“I truly appreciate all responses pro and con,” Jean wrote in a tweet on Friday after engaging with several of his followers about Sunday’s episode. “[We] will continue to try to find an answer that is popular & more [importantly] right.”

The statement echoes what was said in the episode, set up as a response to comedian Hari Kondabolu’s documentary criticizing the show for its stereotypical Indian-American character Apu (voiced by Hank Azaria with a thick accent). Titled “No Good Read Goes Unpunished,” the episode delves into the issue through the lens of a beloved children’s book that seems racist and offensive from a modern day perspective.

“Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” one character says in the episode. The line is met with the response, “Some things will be dealt with at a later date.”

In a separate tweet, Jean explained the moment to a confused viewer: “There’s no answer that will satisfy.”

Kondabolu’s truTV documentary, “The Problem With Apu,” released in November, studied the effects of what he believed to be negative stereotypes perpetuated by the popular Eastern Indian character. The show’s fans and critics have spent the intervening months waiting to see how “The Simpsons” would answer those criticisms.

“In ‘The Problem with Apu,’ I used Apu & ‘The Simpsons’ as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups & why this is important,” Kondabolu wrote on Twitter following the episode. “‘The Simpsons’ response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress.”

Up until Friday, however, Jean continued to defend the episode, saying it “could be unpopular but still be right” and equating the entire debate to a “free speech issue.”

“We tried bringing in Utkarsh Ambudkar as Apu’s nephew. It was deemed unsatisfactory — there’s no solution I fear that will satisfy,” Jean wrote in reply to one fan. “We’ve been trying to make Apu nuanced, sympathetic and (more than our other characters) admirable for 30 years.”

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