Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Simpsons Is Over

Sunday night, The Simpsons apparently aired an episode responding to a now-months-old documentary about the character Apu and how the stereotypes portrayal hurt Southeast Asian people. Comedian Hari Kondabolu interviews several Southeast Asian/Indian celebrities and other individuals, who reveal the bullying and general pain they endured as a direct result of this caricature.

A room full of comics says that Apu was referenced as part of their school bullying. Aziz Ansari says he was taunted about Apu while driving with his father. Actor Maulik Pancholy feared encountering an Indian person in a convenience store for fear his friends would launch into their Apu impressions. Even the former surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, talks about his experiences with stereotypes.

Apparently, the largely white writers of the Simpsons (I have to assume because lol please), including the white voice actor who plays Apu, took this to mean they think these individuals who shared childhoods full of pain believe all the character should be ripped out of the show and replaced with something bland and inoffensive.

I didn't see the episode. To be honest, I thought the Simpsons had finally ended, as it probably should have 20 fucking years ago. And I say that as someone who loves the first eight seasons to the point that I can practically recite along with entire episodes. It's absurd the number of times I've seen the episodes from these seasons. I still drop random obscure Simpsons references in everyday life which almost no one gets except for my best friend and college roommate with whom I watched these seasons over and over, and still drop random quotes with while we laugh our asses off.

I love the Simpsons like I believe those angered by my article on South Park love South Park.

The writers and producers of the Simpsons are in the wrong here. The Simpsons is in the wrong. And it sounds like the extent to which they were wrong was painful and awkward.

After Marge asks what she's supposed to do, Lisa — Lisa! — looks directly at the camera. "It's hard to say," she says. "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?" And she looks at a framed photo next to her bed of Apu, which is signed, "Don't have a cow. Apu." Marge puts a hand on her shoulder. "Some things will be dealt with at a later date." "If at all," Lisa responds. Both look blankly at the audience.

Maybe it's easier for me because the Simpsons has gotten so bad. While episodes going into teen seasons had some good episodes, at some point the show became a somehow worse version of Family Guy, losing the nuanced approach to social issues and sharp wit that made it special. I think the latest episode I've seen was that one Halloween episode where Smithers the snake eats Mr. Burns/Voldemort while weeping - a rare hilarious moment for a show that has gone far past its expiration date already. At this point, the show is an unrecognizable pile of mold and rot.

Maybe, and this is a big maybe, at one point Apu and the other characters who were made to be stereotypes were meant to mock the average American's perception of each ethnicity. But not only did that clearly cause far more harm than good, that alleged original intent has been obliterated.

Looking back on my own childhood and adolescence, I remember making "thank you, come again" jokes about Indian people as a white kid. And yeah, it pains me a bit to think that a TV show that was so important to me and in some ways may have helped push me left also contributed to making me into a racist white kid. Who knows if a South Asian classmate heard me doing this at some point. I even had an Indian best friend in Kindergarten. Did I do that to her?

After criticizing South Park as I did, speaking on how media influences you whether you like it or not and how careless """satire""" can be incredibly harmful, I need to confront my own love of The Simpsons.

It's harmful. It's always been harmful. And though I would have been racist as all white people are racist without it, it is still part of the culture that made me racist.

The truth is that, in the same way that shock jocks paved the way to South Park, the Simpsons added its own cement to that path. The caricatures of the Simpsons paved the way for the caricatures of South Park. And in that sense, led to today's """alt-right""" and the rise of open white supremacy.

I'm not going to stop privately enjoying episodes from seasons 1-8 every now and again, because they do still make me laugh. But I am going to place the Simpsons - all of it - directly into the trash pile with the rest of our racist media. Because it's not actually better than South Park at this point. And the show's painful response to legitimate criticism and real pain proves it. Their pathetic "what can you do" throwing up their hands because apparently it's illegal for them to change anything in their mold pile of a TV show is shittier than the excuses Matt and Trey have thrown out there. And their use of a fictional character they control and who is voiced by a white dude to say "don't have a cow" is just embarrassing.

Can the Simpsons please just end.

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