25 April 2018 | What About Bumblebee Man?

Indian-American comic Hari Kondabolu has a serious problem with the character Apu on “The Simpsons.” So much so that he made a documentary about Apu and its effect on him that has an not-so-unintended effect of making him more marketable and known, and which forced the show to address the controversy about stereotypes in a recent episode.

Personally, I would never confuse the character with actual, real life Indian-Americans, but it would be foolish to say how it couldn’t happen. In fact, this all reminded me of a brief scene in “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” wherein the character Kumar, after confronting some bigots, yells out in an exaggerated accent, “Thank you, come again!”, flipping them off as he and Harold make their escape. I have no doubt that there’s more than a few (white) people who may think all Indian-Americans have a deep accent and run the local convenience store because they saw a character named “Apu” on a long-running comedy show.

And here comes the “but”, yet I shall frame it this way: why stop with Apu? Almost all the characters on “The Simpsons” are stereotypes. First one that comes to my mind is Bumblebee Man, who only speaks exaggerated Spanish, never English. A stereotype of Latinos who refuse to learn the language of where they live? Not only is he a weird character, but he remains unassimiliated. And don’t forget Cletus, the slack-jawed yokel, who has more screen time than Bumblebee Man and cannot be mistaken for anything other than poor, white Southern trash. Last but certainly not least, there’s Barney, who is a lovable alcoholic. Well, alcoholism is neither loveable or a joke, so why have a character who is constantly inebriated? How is this *not* mocking people who struggle with alcohol addiction?

Mind you, I’m being serious about this. Mr. Kondabolu isn’t going to single-handedly ruin the show or get it canceled, but if you’re going to realign (or retire) a major character, why stop there? You need to look at all of them otherwise it’s not serious.