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Washington Post: The Problem With Apu

This Washington Post clip was produced in 2017 to accompany the release of the new documentary The Problem With Apu. Created by comedian Hari Kondabulo, the documentary looks at South Asian representation in The Simpsons, the longest running animated series in television history. In this clip Kondabulo watches through specific clips of Simpsons character Apu and explains why he finds them offensive. Hari notes that as a child he loved Apu, as he was the only character on TV that looked like him. As he grew older, however, he came to realize how problematic Apu was as the only form of South Asian representation on TV, as his character represents many Western stereotypes of South Asian people, including a strong Indian accent resulting in mispronunciations throughout the show, working in a convenience store as part of “the service class”, being in an arranged marriage, and having eight children. Kondabulo analyzes three scenes from the Simpsons, and explains how these scenes play into offensive stereotypes. In one example Hari analyzes, Apu goes back to India to pray at his temple, which is a convenience store on a mountain. Kondabulo explains how this implies that South Asians are destined to be convenience workers, and thus only ever represented as members of the service class. He also speaks to other South Asian comedians, who lament together that as kids they were bullied and called “Apu” because of this character. Most importantly, Kondabulo talks about how to relate to a show that he loves, but has a character he hates and finds offensive. 


What is Kondabulo’s main argument about how The Simpsons portray Apu? 

What impact did these stereotypes have on Kondabulo and other members of the South Asian community?

What is Kondabulo’s argument about the difference between Scottish and Indian  stereotypes in The Simpsons?

Can you think of other examples of stereotypes? How do they reflect identity power structures? 

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