New doc examines how The Simpsons' Apu character affects Indian-Americans


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/07/28/new-doc-examines-how-the-simps.html


#2

Correction: Voiced by Hank Azaria, not Harry Shearer.


#3

I’ll have to watch later. Personally, I find nothing inherently wrong with accents, though accents with bad portrayals can be bad. Russel Peters is a good example in comedy, I think.

I have to say, if you haven’t seen “Master of None”, check it out. I clicked on it thinking it was stand up. When it started, I thought, “Oh, there is a little skit before the show.” About 10 minutes later I slowly realized, oh no, this is a show. And then I binged watched it. It was really good. His parents IRL play his parents on the show. The scene where he visits his dad at work left me rolling.

“A lot of things are where they aren’t supposed to be today.”


#4

Stereotypes are paradoxical, because they are often coming from somewhere that is real… but not necessarily always true. Hispanic people tend to get portrayed a certain way in shows and movies where they try to make it obvious: Ok this person is Hispanic. They speak with an accent, might dress a certain way, etc. And it doesn’t insult me but it does often frustrate me because it’s lazy and one dimensional.

I imagine Apu being in The Simpsons could be insulting or offensive, not being of Indian culture i can’t say. But the character does strike me as an easy/lazy stereotype. Oh he’s indian? Let’s make him a shrewd convenience store owner. The show must fill out his character in certain episodes, i don’t know i stopped watching a long time ago but the fact that a quick glance all you see is an obvious stereotype is not good.


#5

the reality here is that people think Indian Accents are funny…except on an airplane. I don’t like them…they only come from a place of belittling the Indian person.

But I really really hate Apu. True story Indians do the fake indian accent all the time for their parents and their parents laugh, but it is because India is diverse and the Parent A (from punjab) will laugh and say…“ha ha ha…you are talking like a South Indian”…and Parent B (from Madras) will laugh and say “hahaha you sound exactly like a Bombay-ite.” Anyways…I think Indians can do that to themselves…but I never ever ever want to hear a white dude come at me w/ an Indian Accent…although they aren’t afraid to do so since Indians aren’t scary like Black or Mexican dudes (except on an airplane).


#6

For Hispanics there’s such a giant range of regional differences, internationally speaking, that conversations about stereotypes is really common for us and typically doesn’t bother us too much. But i often find that they aren’t helpful, even if they are based on some truth. I would hope to be judged by who i am and how i carry myself and not have my background imposed on me by people who don’t know anything about me.

Granted this is a cartoon character we’re talking about. But as discussed above, there’s no excuse for Apu. It’s a cheap joke of a character that got used for way too long.


#7

The problem with the Simpson is that they started as a very dark satire, and in that context, stereotypes were fine - because the satirical approach corroded them: “this is how you dumb people see the world, isn’t it?”… It was also very dark and basically pointing fingers at everyone. But then the series morphed into a family-friendly sitcom where the Simpsons are basically good guys with a few flaws, so all the surrounding stereotypes end up being taken at face value.

So yeah, after a few years I was honestly surprised that Apu kept going, because it had turned into a very racist stereotype, despite all good intentions. Even attempts at making him a bit more rounded ended up in farce, when he’s shown in future episodes having dozens of grandkids - which goes against all known demographic trends for immigrants in the long run, and turns Apu again into a racist caricature.


#8

“The Simpsons” have been on TV long enough for the cultural values it started in to have changed significantly over its lifetime.


#9

I have found that the one way to really piss off the cold call phone scammers is to make fun of their accent by faking a ridiculous version of it.


#10

As a kid of tv watching age during the peak of early Simpsons mania, I think the satire was lost on a lot of people. If you want to look at Apu and laugh because the brown man talks funny, the show will accommodate you. Part of why the show was so big in general was that you could laugh at it, or laugh with it; it didn’t care. The Bart T-shirts got sold either way.


#11

I think the same thing could be said about Family Guy.


#12

Family Guy makes fun of everything. No one is safe. It is an interesting point to bring up however. If Apu is considered racist would then Family Guy’s characterizations of minorities and people of other cultures/ethnicities also racist? Is it less offensive because of the format of the show and style of comedy? Or is it just as bad?

I can only answer for myself but i don’t have as much of a problem with that show because the humor in that is trying to be offensive and push buttons. Akin to a comedian attempting to do offensive material. The one complaint i can levy at the show is that it is often too flippant with its jokes and they have no real meaning or point to them besides just shotgunning jokes at you as fast as possible. I still enjoy Family Guy but i do prefer edgy humor that has something more to say about a given topic.


#13

I’m aware that the show was trying to be edgy and offensive, but the people watching may or may not appreciate or understand the attempts at lampooning. I’ve encountered kids and teens who took the jokes fully at face value.

So I think Family Guy falls into the same category as the Simpsons in that:

I’m inclined to think that isn’t without some consequence to someone somewhere.YMMV


#14

That’s where my mind when toward the tail end of my last post. I don’t think that the lampooning is a problem in Family Guy, the problem is that the jokes have no meaning. They’re jokes for joke’s sake. Were they to have more of a point to it i don’t think it would be as much of an issue. For example South Park is probably more offensive than what Family Guy would ever dare to be, but that show definitely has a very solid point to make over a given topic and they are masters at it.


#15

Yes, South Park does a much better job of making the satire very clear, usually by turning the topic on it’s head by thend of the episode.

Family Guy, not so much.


#16

To be fair, they have dolphins writing the show.


#17

South Park typically does a good job here. Peel back all the layers of trying to be shocking and offensive and there’s some good lessons to be learned. It’s not just a constant barrage of (usually unfunny IMO) non sequitur. Funnily enough SP did a wonderful job lampooning Family Guy a long while back.


#18

Family Guy occasionally does have points to make in some episodes. But the rapid fire constant jokes undermines anything they might have to say. In the long run going for a ton of quick jokes cheapens the show. I don’t watch it anymore fyi


#19

I recall that episode. The SP creators definitely love idiotic pointless dick and fart type of humor as much as the next guy (watch Baseketball or Orgasmo), but they do an excellent job at balancing that out by surprising the viewer with a deeper meaning should someone pick up on it.

Saw Book Of Mormon a couple of years ago and it’s super offensive and overladen with stereotypes but damn if isn’t one of the most insightful things i have ever seen in my life.


#20

Hence the documentary about it.