On last night’s Simpsons, the show’s creators poked fun at comedian Hari Kondabolu’s documentary, The Problem With Apu, which critiqued the show’s portrayal of its primary Indian character.
The Problem With Apu, which aired on TruTV in November of last year, explored Kondabolu’s relationship to The Simpsons, a show he loves, as well as the character Apu, who he hates. The movie spun out of a segment Kondabolu did for Totally Biased With Kamau Bell, where he described Apu’s voice as, “A white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father.” Hank Azaria, the voice of Apu, declined to be interviewed for Kondabolu’s documentary, but told TMZ that it “made some really interesting points.”
In last night’s episode of The Simpsons, characters Marge and Lisa seemingly make a reference to Kondabolu’s criticisms. Speaking directly to the camera, Lisa says, “It’s hard to say. Something that started decades and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” The camera then pans to a portrait of Apu, which has “Don’t have a cow, man!” written on it. Marge replies, “Some things will be addressed at a later date,” and Lisa adds, “if at all.”
Kondabolu addressed this response on Twitter, saying, “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. The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress.”
Today, The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean retweeted a tweet saying, “Loved how you guys handled this non-issue. People just want to cry about everything nowadays b/c it makes them feel like they’re doing something. … Oh and I’m Indian and according to Twitter my opinion matters more on this topic.”
Speaking to Kotaku before the documentary aired, Kondabolu said, “People say to me that you can’t change this beloved thing. It’s like, Maude Flanders is dead, Krabappel is gone. They make changes, things happen and you adjust to it.”
Correction, 11:33am: A previous version of this article referred to Apu as The Simpson’s “lone” Indian character, and has been change to say that he is the show’s “primary” Indian character.