Does The Simpsons have a race problem?

WHILE many of us consider The Simpsons to be one of the best cartoons ever created, stand-up comedian and child of Indian migrants Hari Kondabolu shares different sentiments.

The Brooklyn-based comedian said he has been "taunted" by the show's portrayal of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon for the past 30 years.

"Everything with Apu is like this running joke," he told the NY Times. "And the running joke is that he's Indian."


Having watched the show since a child, Mr Kondabolu is now exploring whether the Kwik-E-Mart owner did more harm than good as a representation of Indian-Americans.

Working with the director Michael Melamedoff, the pair have created a documentary called The Problem with Apu, which will debut later this month.

The full-lengh documentary explores how the controversial character was created and continues to exist all these years later.

"I spent a lot of time revisiting Apu episodes," Mr Melamedoff told the Washington Post.

"Of course, the character has moments of real wit and insight, because the writing team at The Simpsons was great. But a lot of those moments are also blanketed by very cheap jokes that come at the expense of South Asian culture and South Asian experiences."

The film explores the broader history of Hollywood's depiction of Indians, including Peter Sellers's brownface character from the 1968 Blake Edwards film The Party and the Indians from Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which feast on chilled monkey brains.

Mr Kondabolu also enlisted the high-powered help of fellow Indians from Hollywood to bring his point home, with actors Aziz Ansari (Master of None), Maulik Pancholy (30 Rock) and Kal Penn (Harold and Kumar) all making appearances.

Even though the film is yet to premiere, it's topical nature is dividing social media.


Topics:  cartoon entertainment television the simpsons

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