July 17, 2007
I hesitate to comment on The Simpsons, but the Guardian website has a wonderfully absurd piece by Manish Vij on the “crude racist stereotype” that is Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
“The Simpsons has long irritated some Indian-Americans because of the thickly stereotypical character of Apu, the effete cornershop owner with fractured English, excess fertility, bizarre religious practices, illegal immigration status and a penchant for cheating customers. Apu is quite a unique character on The Simpsons. Unlike the show's parodies of policemen and Irish-Americans, he's the only character to mock a small American minority relatively unknown in the mainstream, and he's by far the most visible immigrant.”
Fans of the grotesque Groundskeeper Willie might disagree with this claim, and one might wonder why the size and visibility of a minority has any obvious bearing on the alleged grievousness of the parody. Insofar as any Simpsons character is actually sympathetic and not a stereotype or parody of something, Apu seems to be one of the least dislikeable ones. And I find myself wondering how Vij would rewrite Apu’s character to spare our sensitivities, and just how funny and endearing that corrected version would be.
But the po-faced absurdity of the piece is summed up rather well by Vij’s disdain for the “Peter Sellers simulacrum of an Indian accent” and his assertion that “Apu's voice Hank Azaria, a Greek-American, is a brown man doing a white man doing a brown man.” Readers unfamiliar with Mr Azaria’s pigmentation will be amazed to see just how brown he is.
More at Pickled Politics, where Rohin attempts to navigate the labyrinth of umbrage.