Disenchantment nails irreverent, but bails on relevance
Matt Groening’s trouble with Apu spoils the fun of the Simpsons creator’s new Netflix series
I love The Simpsons like a person. So many of that series’ jokes feel like they were written for me and maybe nine other people. Watching it, even alone, I hear some line or other fly by, and my head whips around the room, seeking corroboration that what I heard, which was so insanely specific, was actually said aloud and not just in my mind.
But series creator Matt Groening’s response to viewers’ objections that the character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon perpetuates racist stereotypes continues to be woefully inadequate.
On the PR trail for his new Netflix series (which drops on Friday), he’s said things such as this: “I think particularly right now, people feel so aggrieved and crazed and powerless that they’re picking the wrong battles.”
Disenchantment is the name of Groening’s new series. It’s also the feeling one gets watching him not-hear those objections.
I’m trying not to hold that against Disenchantment, the tale of a hard-partying teenage
medieval princess, Bean (beautifully voiced by Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson), and her companions: Elfo (Nat Faxon), a naive elf, and Luci (Eric Andre), a wiseass demon.
The five episodes I’ve seen, in which Bean has adventures while asserting her independence, are pleasantly amusing (though far more languidly paced than The Simpsons,
which frequently veers into a whole new plot seven minutes into a 22-minute episode).
But guess what I haven’t seen? Any attempt at racial diversity in Bean’s kingdom. (And no, it doesn’t count that the next kingdom over is populated with salamander-like swamp people who are an uneasy cross between Louisiana
crackers and vaguely eastern Europeans. Bean’s stepmother, who hails from this kingdom, calls to mind Melania Trump.)
It comes as no surprise to read that Groening began working on his tale of the Middle Ages in the last century.
It is a little surprising, however, that he hasn’t made more of an effort to acknowledge
where we’re at, culturally, in this one. Especially since his show is airing in the same TV universe as Degrassi: Next Class and Season 2 of Big Mouth — two very different shows, each of which explores its characters’ inner lives in ways that feel current.
Why Schneller doesn’t just blame Groening, but Netflix too at thestar.com/television/opinion
Disenchantment, a new series from Matt Groening, is amusing, but makes little effort at relevance, writes Johanna Schneller.