Regional and cultural standardization is common in the entertainment industry to make their characters more realistic. But it is also true that it creates a culture of prejudging people belonging to different nationalities. While it is okay with most when Russell Peters takes jabs at the South Asian’s stereotyping; the director of The Simpsons has been facing a lot of criticism over the portrayal of its Indian character Apu.
We are sure that you must all be aware of the commotion surrounding The Simpsons these days, especially since a documentary The Problem with Apu was released in Brooklyn by Hari Kondabalu. People all over the world have started debating and many famous South Asian celebrities have also come forward to put forth their viewpoint. Actors and comedians, like Aziz Ansari, Hasan Minhaj, Kal Penn, Priyanka Chopra, etc. have discussed how Apu’s character has affected their high-school experience and then career advancements in the US. In fact, recently, Priyanka was also seen saying on the chatshow The View, “Apu was the bane of my life growing up.”
While we do understand that it must have been hard for most South Asian children who grew up in America, is it correct to fault Apu as the main contributor to it? Do we actually want to believe that if The Simpsons hadn’t introduced this stereotypical character, racism wouldn’t have been still predominant in American schools and colleges?
Though it is true that racism and discrimination weren’t instigated due to a simple TV show, maybe the popularity of the show lead to the widespread classification of how Indians are perceived. So teenagers and kids may have taken it to heart, and the fun and jokes about Apu may have turned into vile racist comments. But, it is also the job of the parents and the teachers to ensure that they know the difference between racism and just having fun. The Simpsons was not the first or the last production to stereotype cultures and religions. There are numerous other movies and TV shows which follow the same norm to get a few laughs out of the audience.
Racism is not right. There is no denying that. But maybe taking TV shows sportingly, without getting too offended, while we ourselves go on stereotyping each and every person from our own communities, would be a better approach.
What do you think?