I once dated a guy who religiously watched The Simpsons.
Personally, I couldn’t get into it. The characters were not engaging and I found the episodes repetitive.
Call me crazy – it just wasn’t my thing.
But now, resident Indian character, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, is being cut from the show.
Why you ask? Because the show has been accused of “racial stereotyping” and, well, it’s easier to cut the character than delve deeper into controversy.
But here’s the very problem with that.
Adult cartoons have always made a point of stereotyping and parodying characters. In The Simpsons, there are numerous characters from different countries and backgrounds – most of whom are the stereotypical image of what we might expect from those cultures.
Groundskeeper Willie is the first that springs to mind.
He’s redheaded, loud, aggressive, and, wouldn’t you know it, Scottish. Has anyone ever found offense in the portrayal of his character and demanded the Scots not be stereotyped in this way?
Take a wild guess.
In fact, has anyone ever demanded Barney Gumble not be a stereotype of alcoholics? Or Milhouse not be the stereotype of nerds? Marge, the stereotype of housewives and even Homer, the ongoing stereotype of a middle-aged, white, American man?
If you look hard enough, you can find offense in anything and everything.
But, the reality is, these shows are designed to be humourous – and people find humour in the things they know and recognize.
Critics of Apu’s character demand that he become a more relatable Indian-American representation.
But they forget one core fact about adult cartoons: shows like The Simpsons are not designed for character development. Its characters won’t grow or evolve. They don’t have character arcs and ground-breaking developmental moments. Their appeal is their sameness and consistency and the humour that affords.
Finding offense in the depictions of minorities or perceived “victim” groups in these shows will always end with either their complete removal or significant changes to how often they’re on-screen. It’s just too difficult to appease the perpetually offended.
When I watch cartoons that I find enjoyable or amusing, such as American Dad or South Park, my appreciation for the show comes from the fact that it deals with offensive subject matter – it goes where most fear to tread. It is what makes the cartoon audacious and interesting and, thus, worthy of watching.
In the end, I am curious why individuals who find stereotypical depictions of Indians offensive see nothing wrong with depicting white, American men as lazy, dysfunctional, weak and stupid.
In my opinion, either the perpetually offended are outraged by all stereotypes or upset by none of them.
Selectively choosing what causes outrage might work in the short term to achieve fleeting goals such as the shift or change of a character in a television show, but in the end, writers will simply stop adding potentially controversial characters altogether.
I guess The Simpsons should just remove all non-white characters from their future episodes to avoid complaint. How does that sound?
Finally, I wonder: how long before the perpetually-aggrieved demand the removal of Raj’s character from The Big Bang Theory?