Apu, the Kwik-E Mart convenience store owner inside the “Simpsons”’ fictional town of Springfield, has been one of the most famous Asian American faces in cartoons for almost 30 years. But he has also been a subject of controversy when it comes to depiction.
On Sunday night, comedian Hari Kondabolu hosted “The Problem with Apu,” a one-hour special on TruTV, on which he interviewed South Asian Americans in media to talk about Apu (voiced by Hank Azaria) and their experience of growing up with him as the only representation of their culture on American television.
Kondabolu, whose favorite TV show growing up was “The Simpsons,” said that his love came with a double-edged sword, as he was often bullied with the Indian American character’s signature catch phrase, “Thank you come again.”
“What bothered me about Apu is how he stood in for my parents, replacing their real stories and real struggles and their really complicated lives with an accent,” Kondabolu said in the documentary.
He continued: “Historically, South Asians and other minority groups have never really had a voice and all of a sudden they have a voice and people don’t know what to do with it … White people feel like they’re under attack because for the first time there are people of color who’re trying to be on the same standing with them. You’re not under attack, we’re just looking at you eye to eye. We haven’t had that before.”
“The Problem with Apu” features conversations with comedians and actors such as Aziz Ansari, Kal Penn, Sakina Jaffrey, Whoopi Goldberg, and even a conversation with “The Simpsons” writer/producer Dana Gould.
Watch the trailer for “The Problem with Apu,” which aired Sunday on TruTV, below: