BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – The problem with Apu continues for “The Simpsons.”
The character has been criticized for portraying racist stereotypes about Indian people, all the while being voiced by a white man, Hank Azaria. The most prominent criticsm came in late 2017 when comedian Hari Kondabolu premiered the documentary “The Problem with Apu,” examining the effect of the character and other racial stereotypes.
“The Simpsons” addressed this controversy in a spring episode which essentially shrugs at the controversy without offering any solutions, which was met with fierce backlash by fans and advocates, including Kondabolu himself.
Speaking to reporters at the summer Television Critics Association press tour Thursday, Fox executives didn’t express much concern about the character or the reaction to the spring episode.
“In a day of social media where fans are able to have a public forum, I can’t say ultimately we were surprised” at the reaction, Fox Television Group chairman and CEO Dana Walden said. “I think it’s good information for the creators to receive. … They focused on the reaction, and I think that’s partially informing how they will move forward.”
In terms of concerns about Apu himself, Walden expressed trust in “The Simpsons” team.
“We have had the conversation with (producer) Jim Brooks and his team and we’ve basically left it up to them,” Walden said. “They’ve treated the characters with so much respect. We trust them to handle it in a way that will be best for the show. Ultimately we decided that would be their decision.”
Walden also addressed concerns that “The Simpsons” time on Fox may be limited after the recent deal for Disney to buy 20th Century Fox assets, meaning the studio that produces “The Simpsons” will be separated from the network that airs it, ostensibly lessening the financial incentive to keep it going. (The series begins its 30th season this fall and is the longest-running scripted series.)
Walden says fans shouldn’t be too worried.
” ‘Simpsons’ has been so much a part of the brand, there are no plans for the show to go anywhere but Fox,” she said. “For the foreseeable future, there’s so much upside and benefit to have such a great, Emmy-winning series. … (There is) no consideration of not ordering more ‘Simpsons.'”
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