'The Simpsons' Response to Racism Accusations Over Apu Falls Flat With Most Viewers

The Simpsons attempted to address the racial controversy surrounding longtime character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon on Sunday's episode, but their apparent effort to quell the wave of criticism—stemming from their indignant portrayal of the South Asian character—fell flat with most viewers.

In the Season 29 episode, titled "No Good Read Goes Unpunished," Marge and Lisa Simpson seem to hint at the tension surrounding the stereotypical Apu, who runs Springfield's Kwik-E-Mart and is voiced by Hank Azaria.

During the episode, Marge reads The Princess in the Garden to Lisa—a Simpson's take on Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden—but changes the identity of the book's heroine in effort to modernize the plot, which essentially disrupts the "emotional journey" of the book completely. When Lisa suggests there's "no point" to the book with Marge's changes, her mother frustratingly asks, "Well what am I supposed to do?"

Lisa's responds: "It's hard to say. Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?" Then the camera careens over to a photo of Apu sitting on her nightstand with the inscription, "Don't have a cow."

Viewers took the moment as the show's attempt to respond to Hari Kondabolu's 2017 truTV documentary, The Problem with Apu. The comedian notes how The Simpsons have aided in demoralizing the experience of minority life in the U.S. And their response to the episode was just as critical on Sunday as it was following the documentary's release in November, with many people on social media calling the episode "toothless."

Even Kondabolu was displeased, taking to Twitter to suggest the episode completely missed the point of his documentary. "In 'The Problem with Apu,' I used Apu & The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups & why this is important. The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress," he wrote Sunday.

'The Simpsons' Response to Racism Accusations Over Apu Falls Flat With Most Viewers | Culture