The Simpsons creator Matt Groening caught some flak when he responded to the controversy surrounding the character Apu by saying “people love to pretend they’re offended.” Now, Groening has spoken up to clarify those comments and share more of his thoughts on the Apu situation and what’s going to happen in the future with him.
Speaking to The New York Times, Groening started off by saying his “offended” comment “wasn’t specifically about Apu.” Instead, he said it was about how he feels people today have an “outrage of the week” and then move on to being upset about something else.
“That’s something I’ve noticed for the last 25 years. There is the outrage of the week and it comes and goes,” he said. “For a while, it was, believe it or not, kids were stealing quarters out of their mothers’ purses in order to go to the video arcade, and that was going to bring down civilization. No one even remembers that, because that lasted a week. I think particularly right now, people feel so aggrieved and crazed and powerless that they’re picking the wrong battles.”
Also in the interview, Groening said he loves the character Apu and explained that it upsets him that some people feel bad about the character in light of the recent controversy that he’s a stereotype. Having a proper conversation and dialogue about the character now may not be possible, Groening claimed. “It’s tainted now–the conversation, there’s no nuance to the conversation now. It seems very, very clunky. I love the character. I love the show.”
Apu voice actor Hank Azaria has said he’s willing to step down from voicing him in light of the blowback. Groening said in the interview that it hasn’t been decided yet what will happen with Apu, saying the writers might do another episode with him “if we come up with a good story.”
Groening also clarified that he named Apu after Satyajit Ray’s “Apu Trilogy” of movies, adding that he had a “scholarly intention” when naming him.
“I love Indian culture and Indian film and Indian music,” he said. “I thought that the name was a signal that we had, at least, a scholarly intention. I thought maybe a kid was going to grow up and find out what the name came from and go watch the Apu Trilogy, which are the greatest films, basically, in the history of cinema.”
Also in the interview, Groening said he can’t think of a better Indian animated character in the last 30 years, though he acknowledged that Apu may be “a problem.”
“As many people have pointed out, it’s all stereotypes on our show. That’s the nature of cartooning. And you try not to do reprehensible stereotypes. Anyway. I probably said too much,” Groening said.
The April 8 episode of The Simpsons responded to the Apu controversy and went on to muster up even more drama. In this episode, Marge says, “Some things will be addressed at a later date,” with Lisa chiming in to add, “If at all.”
A lot of the debate around The Simpsons and Apu specifically has come from Hari Kondabolu’s 2017 documentary, The Problem With Apu. The movie explores Apu as a character and focuses on him as a stereotype. In the New York Times article, Groening said he agrees, politically speaking, with 99 percent of the things that Kondabolu believes, except maybe that’s not true.
The Simpsons recently passed 636 episodes, which beats Gunsmoke (635 episodes) to become the longest-running scripted TV series ever. The Simpsons is renewed for Season 30, and Groening said in a previous interview that there is “no end in sight” for the show.