Theres a documentary out wherein many Indian Americans feel the Simpsons character ” Apu” is a hurtful racist stereotype.
They are entitled to their opinion, and only they can say how they feel.
I think Apu was the first Indian character ever seen on American TV. (Wasn’t he? was there an earlier character?) He works in a convenience store, “Indians work in convenience stores” is a common generality. But how is he negative?
He seems to be a very hard working man. In fact he seems to work at his store 24 hours a day. No matter when a Springfield citizen goes to the Quickie Mart, Apu is there, he doesn’t seem to have any outside employees who cover the night shift.
He is also seen to be a good father, husband and citizen. In fact he is shown to be a much better person than Homer or almost anyone else in Springfield.
Is the main problem his voice? His accent? Is it the fact that it is a white actor doing the voice of an Indian man? Would the the same complaint be there is it were an Indian actor playing the part?
White actors playing African Americans in “mush mouf” / “stepin fetchit” minstrel show black face was a huge problem for African Americans for decades.
Its not done anymore, no one would dare. Singer Harry Connick Jr was a judge on an Australian TV talent show and some Australians did a Jackson 5 spoof done up in minstrel show black face. Connick, who we can assume has been working with the finest African American musicians in the world, was appalled that this kind of act was still being done.
Fair enough, good on Harry. Until someone pointed out that Connick himself once appeared in blackface in a MAD TV sketch….
Does this make Harry Connick Jr a two faced hyprocrite? Or is it a matter of degrees. Harry Connick Jr did NOT appear in Minstrel Show BlackFace, but rather in relatively realistic light brown make up and relatively realistic curley black wig.
In the movie “Tropic Thunder” Robert Downey Junior plays an ACTOR playing the part of an African American character in some kind of parody of “PLATOON”. The producers and Downey HAD to know they would be scrutinized for this. Downeys makeup is very realistic, you could forgive someone for not knowing it is a white actor. Its so well done that I think many folks might assume its just a Black man in the part.
I never heard any complaints from the Black Community about “Tropic Thunder”. Some white media personalities tried to stir the pot and ask Black celebrities if they were offended by “Tropic Thunder”. Most said they didn’t care, they thought it was funny. they thought Downey was a great actor.
Maybe its that by the time “Tropic Thunder” came out there were plenty of other Black faces in positive roles all across TV and movie screens. You could get away with “Tropic Thunder” in 2008, whereas you couldn’t get away with it in the 50’s or 60s.
Tropic Thunder ‘s IMDB page
Tropic Thunder ‘s Wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropic_Thunder
So perhaps the problem some have with Apu is that he was the first and at the time ONLY Indian character on TV. And decades after the Simpsons premiere, he is, amazingly, STILL one of the ONLY Indian characters on TV.
No one complains when white actors do parody’s of other European ethnic stereotypes… How many times have we seen white actors do exageratted French accents, German accents, Scottish accents and no one says anything. But they have a right to that because…. They are white?
( Although a small but vocal group of Italian Americans who complain that Italians rarely appear as anything but mobsters).
Also notice there is a mild scandal if a white actor does a SPANISH accent or dresses up as a SPANISH person……. look at a map folks…. SPAIN is in EUROPE! Its right next to Italy.
Everyone loved Spanish actor Antonio Banderas playing a Mexican in ZORRO. Sure they share a common language, but Spain and Mexico are separate countries, thousands of miles apart, and, for the most part, separate ethnicities. On a separate but related note, many Mexican Americans, Mexican nationals and other South American will say that English is a language forced on them and they should be addressed in their native tongue… Spanish.
IMDB page for the movie ZORRO: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120746/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Now please enjoy Spanish actor Antonio Banderas and British actor Anthony Hopkins playing Mexicans in ZORRO:
Spanish is just as much a foreign language forced upon Mexico and South America as English is.
Spain was a foreign European superpower who “colonized” (invaded) South America and forced their language on the locals just as much as England was.
I see many more Indian actors and comedians in movies and TV now than then. And none of them talk like Apu. But I still can’t think of any major Indian characters on TV. There is Apu on the Simpsons, the side character Raj on BIG BANG THEORY and…. thats it isn’t it?
IMDB page for Kunal Navyar : https://www.imdb.com/name/nm2471798/?ref_=tt_cl_t5