Apu’s time on The Simpsons is apparently finished.
That’s the word from Adi Shankar, at least. The executive producer on Netflix’s Castlevania series doesn’t work on the Fox hit, but he’s been connected with the show since launching a contest to crowdsource a Simpsons script that would handle Apu’s exit or revision in a smart way.
Let’s rewind for a minute.
The Simpsons has spent the past year dealing with blowback from an audience that has finally recognized Apu’s questionable racial representation. The harmful impact of the Kwik-E-Mart proprietor’s thick, heavily exaggerated Indian accent and stereotypical characterization overall were explored in Hari Kondabalu’s 2017 documentary, The Problem with Apu.
The show eventually did make an attempt to address that criticism in an April 2018 episode, but many found that effort to be lacking. Questions have lingered since then around how the show will handle Apu when The Simpsons returned for Season 30 on Sept. 30.
Shankar seems to know the answer, as he revealed in an interview with IndieWire.
“I got some disheartening news back, that I’ve verified from multiple sources now: They’re going to drop the Apu character altogether,” he said. “They aren’t going to make a big deal out of it, or anything like that, but they’ll drop him altogether just to avoid the controversy.”
Shankar frames the news as “disheartening” because his efforts to crowdsource an appropriate and thoughtful handling of Apu led to what he called the “perfect script.” But it isn’t to be; Shankar said his sources include two people who work on the show plus a third who works for series creator Matt Groening directly.
While this secondhand account attributed to anonymous sources is hardly confirmation, Fox didn’t refute Shankar’s claim. Instead, the network simply pointed Indie Wire to Apu’s appearance in the Oct. 14 episode, “My Way or the Highway to Heaven.” He popped up there in a group shot featuring an assortment of characters gathered around the feet of god.
In general, Apu’s presence on the show has been toned down and rendered virtually invisible over the past few seasons. But many see that as an abdication of responsibility.
The Simpsons created Apu and made him the racial stereotype that he is. His creation wasn’t an intentionally malicious act, but hindsight — as demonstrated in Kondabalu’s documentary — has shown how harmful his existence has been. It’s clearly time to move on, but it’s hard to see an apparent decision to write Apu out of the ongoing story as anything other than an attempt to sweep this chapter under the rug.
“If you are a show about cultural commentary and you are too afraid to comment on the culture, especially when it’s a component of the culture you had a hand in creating, then you are a show about cowardice,” Shankar told IndieWire. “It’s not a step forward, or step backwards, it’s just a massive step sideways.”
If you’re curious about the story approach for “fixing” Apu that Shankar’s winning author came up with, do make sure to read through that interview. Even if there wasn’t much chance that The Simpsons would ever produce a spec script, it’s clear enough that this is hardly an unsolvable problem.