25 April 2018 | What About Bumblebee Man?
Indian-American comic Hari Kondabolu has a serious problem with the character Apu on â€œThe Simpsons.â€ 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 couldnâ€™t happen. In fact, this all reminded me of a brief scene in â€œHarold and Kumar Go to White Castleâ€ wherein the character Kumar, after confronting some bigots, yells out in an exaggerated accent, â€œThank you, come again!â€, flipping them off as he and Harold make their escape. I have no doubt that thereâ€™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 â€œApuâ€ on a long-running comedy show.
And here comes the â€œbutâ€, yet I shall frame it this way: why stop with Apu? Almost all the characters on â€œThe Simpsonsâ€ 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 donâ€™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, thereâ€™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, Iâ€™m being serious about this. Mr. Kondabolu isnâ€™t going to single-handedly ruin the show or get it canceled, but if youâ€™re going to realign (or retire) a major character, why stop there? You need to look at all of them otherwise itâ€™s not serious.