LSU Libraries hosted a special screening on Wednesday of TruTV’s “The Problem with Apu,” a documentary by comedian Hari Kondabolu tackling the racial stereotypes in “The Simpsons” and its portrayal of the Indian store owner, Apu.
The University was one of 10 schools selected by TruTV to receive a free screening of the film. They also provided free snacks for students attending.
After the 49-minute film concluded, a panel answered questions and shared their opinions on the documentary. The diverse panel included history assistant professor Asiya Alam, communication senior instructor Joni Butcher and mass communication doctoral candidate Quincy Hodges.
“The immigrant culture [represented] is not the norm,” Alam said.
But Butcher emphasized the show is a comedy and is exaggerated.
“I see [Apu] as an exaggeration, and I think most people who watch the show take this character as seriously as was portrayed in the documentary,” Butcher said. “It is stereotypical, but at the same time, you have to look at the form and structure. It’s not a drama or a real-life portrayal, it’s a comedic exaggeration.
Hodges said “The Simpsons” tackles racial stereotypes similar to Eddie Murphy’s “Coming to America."
“I think the problem was that the Simpsons was such a popular show that the image of Apu went around the country to millions,” Hodges said.
The panelists were asked why nearly 29 years after the premiere of the first episode, it was only now that the conversation on Apu was brought up.
“The problem is being addressed now because there is more opportunity for people to say they find the representation is offensive,” Butcher said.
Butcher said other popular shows like “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Blackish” suffer from the same feedback.
“The demographic map of the U.S. has changed so radially, that there is a demand for representation in the media,” Alam said.