The Apu ‘Par­ody’

India Today - - UPFRONT - @ShougatDas­gupta

The Simp­sons has over­stayed its wel­come, each suc­ces­sive sea­son more flac­cid than the last. It was rev­o­lu­tion­ary decades ago, prid­ing it­self on the sharp­ness of its satire, on be­ing, as its writ­ers in­sisted, an equal-op­por­tu­ni­ties of­fender. Ex­cept, as the In­dian-Amer­i­can standup comic Hari Kond­abolu pointed out in a re­cent doc­u­men­tary, for a long time Apu, the show’s lov­able if ridicu­lously ac­cented owner of the neigh­bour­hood con­ve­nience store, was main­stream Amer­ica’s only recog­nis­able rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the In­dian im­mi­grant. Apu be­came a play­ground in­sult, an ex­cuse for the ca­sual bul­ly­ing of In­dian Amer­i­can kids. The Simp­sons cre­ators re­sponded to the so­cial me­dia con­tro­versy gen­er­ated by Kond­abolu’s doc­u­men­tary with a scene in an episode last week in which Lisa, the show’s most thought­ful, ‘pro­gres­sive’ char­ac­ter, re­flects on the ways in which po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness can leach the life out of beloved books. We are then shown a pic­ture of Apu that Lisa, oddly, keeps be­side her bed em­bla­zoned with the show’s most fa­mous catch­phrase, “Don’t have a cow”. A joke which plays, of course, off Apu’s Hindu sen­si­bil­i­ties. Should

The Simp­sons be con­cerned that Apu is such an out­dated stereo­type of a gen­er­ally ed­u­cated, af­flu­ent com­mu­nity? Kond­abolu’s doc­u­men­tary is re­veal­ing about the chil­dren of im­mi­grants, not im­mi­grants them­selves. It’s nat­u­ral that these Amer­i­cans, un­like their par­ents, should chafe at be­ing de­fined by the min­strelsy of Apu, the broad com­edy of funny ac­cents and alien habits. Kond­abolu is ex­or­cis­ing some boy­hood re­sent­ment but In­dian Amer­i­cans like him have al­ready made Apu ir­rel­e­vant.

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