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The Simpsons addresses Apu racial stereotype controversy

A woman poses for a photograph alongside cartoon statue of character of Apu Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The character is voiced by Hank Azaria, who also plays Moe the bartender and Chief Wiggum

The latest episode of the Simpsons has addressed controversy surrounding Indian character Apu for the first time.

Indian-American comic Hari Kondabolu made a documentary last year, saying the character was founded on racial stereotypes.

Sunday's episode made a nod to the accusations, but some viewers found it insufficient.

Others defended the show and said all its characters were stereotypes.

Shopkeeper Apu Nahasapeemapetilon has been part of the long-running animation series since 1990 and is voiced by a white actor, who puts on a heavy Indian accent.

Mr Kondabolu told the BBC last year that the character was problematic because he is defined by his job and how many children he has in his arranged marriage.

In his documentary, The Problem with Apu, he said Apu was one of the only representations of South Asians on US television when he was growing up and other children imitated the character to mock him.

During the new episode of The Simpsons, the characters of Marge and Lisa indirectly discuss the controversy around the characterisation.

In the scene, Marge changes a bedtime story to make it more politically correct, but her daughter objects. A distressed Marge then asks her daughter what she is supposed to do.

Lisa turns to the camera and says: "It's hard to say. Something that started a long time ago decades ago, that was applauded and was inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?"

She then signals to a photograph of Apu by her bedside, which is signed: "Don't have a cow - Apu".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hari Kondabolu's documentary was about Apu, and other Hollywood representations, being problematic

Some people on social media said the brief reference brushed off an important debate, while others pointed out that a lot of characters in the fictional town of Springfield are based on stereotypes.

Mr Kondabolu posted a series of tweets after the episode, expressing his disappointment at how the makers addressed the controversy.

Other users joined him in criticising the series.

While some suggested the critics were over-reacting, and pointed out most of show's characters are parodies by nature.

The makers have not commented publicly. However, one writer, Al Jean, tweeted before the episode: "New Simpsons in five minutes. Twitter explosion in act three."

Hank Azaria, who has played the character and others on the series for almost 30 years, said earlier this year that he found it "very upsetting to me personally and professionally" that anyone was marginalised because of Apu.

"The Simpsons' over the years has been pretty humorously offensive to all manner of people Republicans, Brazilians, presidents, high school principals, school principals, Italians, you name it," he said.

"And they take a lot of pride over there in not apologizing for any of that. I think, over the years, they've done a really good job of being, shall we say, uniformly offensive without being outright hurtful."

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