Simpsons fans who still love Apu can rest easy — the character isn’t going away anytime soon.
Despite a growing outcry from a number of Indian-Americans for what they see as an offensive stereotype, the long-running animated sitcom has not shown any indication it will remove convenience store owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon from the show. The Simpsons creator Matt Groening confirmed that this week at a discussion for another upcoming project, The Wrap noted.
When asked at the Television Critics Association press tour if there were any plans on retiring the character, Groening said that hasn’t even come up in discussion.
“Haven’t talked about it. I’m proud of everything we do on The Simpsons,” he said.
Apu’s fate has been in the balance since the filmmaker Hari Kondabolu made The Problem With Apu, which claims that the character has perpetuated negative stereotypes of Indian-Americans. Matt Groening has continually stood by the show’s portrayal of Apu, saying that the character has been approached with compassion and shown in a positive light, even mentoring Lisa Simpson.
“Well, I love Apu. I love the character, and it makes me feel bad that it makes other people feel bad,” Groening told the New York Times earlier this year. “But on the other hand, 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.”
Hank Azaria, the actor who voices Apu, had said that he would be open to going in a different direction, and The Simpsons has addressed critics in an episode earlier this year. The episode mentioned how social norms have changed in the nearly 30 years since the show first debuted, and what was once considered acceptable is now seen by many as offensive.
“Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” the character Lisa posed at the episode’s conclusion as she looked at a photo of Apu.
There are some who have defended The Simpsons for their portrayal of Apu, including Indian comedian Rajiv Satyal who said that the show does a good job showing him as a multi-dimensional character. Others note that The Simpsons has often portrayed characters in a comedic stereotype, including the Scottish groundskeeper and Mexican actor Bumblebee Man. All of those characters will still be in the lineup when The Simpsons returns for what will be its 30th season.