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Hari Kondabolu’s New Documentary Tackles the Harmful Representation of The Simpsons’ Apu

When there’s little representation of people like you in the media, the few characters that do appear become all the more essential for recognizing where you fit into the world. When people have very little contact with a certain group of people, most of their conceptions become based on the media they consume. For many Indian-Americans or Indians in the United States, that character was Apu Nahasapeemapetilon of the Simpsons.

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In a documentary for TruTV called The Problem With Apu, comedian Hari Kondabolu talks about the impact the Simpsons character had on him and other actors and comedians in the industry. For Kal Penn, it made the Simpsons completely unwatchable. Also making appearances are Aparna Nancherla, Hasan Minaj, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Aasif Mandvi, Maulik Pancholy, and Sakina Jaffrey, all of whom talk frankly about being compared to Apu or the impact the Apu-accent has had on their opportunities. The comedian himself has spoken before about receiving auditions for stereotypes, and you can draw a clear line from the role of a bodega-owning “East-Indian” with an accent and a “soul-ful, philosophical air” to Apu.

The film also examines the fact the Apu is voiced by white actor Harry Shearer Hank Azaria, an act that Kondabolu once referred to as “a white guy doing and impression of a white guy making fun of my father.” Does that make him a minstrel? Kondabolu consults Whoopi Goldberg. We also get a glimpse of an interview with producer Dana Gould, who asserts that “there are accents, by their nature to white Americans that sound funny. Period.”

“Now I realize a some of you think I’m some annoying, PC, social justice warrior that’s very sensitive,” the comedian says, anticipating the comment section, “and you’re probably thinking ‘C’mon snowflake let it go!’ Well, I have let it go … for 28 years.”

Are you looking forward to The Problem With Apu?

(via BoingBoing, image: screencap)

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