So The Simpsons are killing off the East Indian character Apu. Even now I find this hard to grasp. What crime did that brown character commit that justifies his removal from the show? And perhaps even more importantly which other cartoon characters will be next.
I have been watching The Simpsons since they first appeared on The Tracy Ullman Show many years ago. The show got popular very quickly and exposed an adult population that was hungry for adult cartoons and so a genre was born and shows like King of the Hill, Family Guy, American Dad and others filled the gap for adult cartooning. All of these shows took a page from Married With Children and became shows about severely dysfunctional families. The days of Father Knows Best, The Brady Bunch, and Little House and the Prairie gave way to a new America of rapidly declining morality and family values.
Apu’s story was unique as his was the American story. Like so many other immigrants before him he struggled with finding his place in the U.S. and while we may have laughed at some of his antics, we also felt his struggle. Apu made us think of the lonely convenience store clerk getting shot at 3 am just so your pregnant wife can get ice-cream and pickles at that hour. We thought of the businessman who was barely struggling to keep his tiny business alive. We learned about Hinduism and India and customs alien to us. And though Apu was the butt of so many jokes, we felt a kinsmanship toward one whose struggles were not unlike our own.
It was more than just the troubles Apu faced it was also Apu himself. Ok sure Apu would sell a total stranger a hotdog that had been in the warming oven for 2 weeks and 3 year old pork but that was just business. Given the opportunity Apu displayed noble tendencies and every day no matter how bad things got he just accepted fate and moved on often with a song in his heart.
I wish they portrayed the Irish or the Germans this way.
Apu should not be a subject of shame to any East Indian Hindu who has immigrated to the United States. First off East Indians get national exposure but more importantly The Simpsons Portrayal of an East Indian Hindu in an extremely sarcastic cartoon series is anything but derogatory. Apu’s story and his struggles is the American story and the story of just about every group of people who ever came here from the Irish to he Italians to the Chinese.
My hope is that after the heat dies down the creators and producers of The Simpsons have a change of heart. Personally I think Apu is one of if not the best character on the show. His loss is a great loss for comedy and for Eastern Indians.