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The Simpsons Producer Responds To Claim That Series Is Getting Rid Of Apu

The Simpsons might not be axing Apu after all. 

Series producer and showrunner Al Jean has responded to the recent claim that the show is planning to eliminate its highly controversial character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, which many have argued perpetuates negative stereotypes about South Asian people.

On Friday, October 26, Castlevania and Dredd executive producer Adi Shankar told IndieWire that he had heard from numerous people who work on The Simpsons that the show is "going to drop the Apu character altogether." He stated, "They aren't going to make a big deal out of it, or anything like that, but they'll drop him altogether just to avoid the controversy."

Soon after, Jean addressed the report, explaining that Shankar isn't involved with the production of The Simpsons and therefore has no authority in stating which direction the storylines will go or which characters will get the boot. He simply can't know what will happen if he isn't privy to insider information. 

"Adi Shankar is not a producer on the Simpsons. I wish him the very best but he does not speak for our show," Jean said in a tweet on Sunday, October 28. 

Shankar then wrote back to Jean, writing that he hopes the minds behind The Simpsons won't take the easy way out of the controversy surrounding Apu and instead work toward a real solution that allows the character to stick around and be presented in a positive light. 

"I wish you well too. Let's work towards common ground. Ignoring only fans the flames," said Shankar. "The world is polarized & getting more so, and the onus is on us to bring people together. Engage in a constructive way and this matter will go to bed. I see you, now I'm asking you to see me."

Shankar's discovery came after he held a competition to crowdsource a script that would some way evolve, pivot, or even write out Apu "in a way that takes a creation that was the byproduct of a predominately Harvard-educated white male writers' room and transforms it into a fresh, funny, and realistic portrayal of Indians in America." Shankar relayed to IndieWire that he found the "perfect script" and selected the winner, hoping that 20th Century Fox would agree to produce it, but then two individuals who work for the series and a "third source who works directly with creator Matt Groening" told him that The Simpsons was doing away with Apu entirely. 

Shankar wasn't shy about arguing such a move would be a "massive step sideways" for The Simpsons.

"If you are a show about cultural commentary and you are too afraid to comment on the culture, especially when it's a component of the culture you had a hand in creating, then you are a show about cowardice," he said. "It's not a step forward, or step backwards, it's just a massive step sideways. After having read all these wonderful scripts, I feel like sidestepping this issue doesn't solve it when the whole purpose of art, I would argue, is to bring us together."

Controversy has surrounded Apu for a while now, but things really heated up when comedian Hari Kondabolu released his 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu, which explored how the character — depicted as the operator of the Springfield Kwik-E-Mart convenience store and voiced by a white actor, Hank Azaria — can be seen as racist. The Simpsons addressed the controversy earlier this year, in a divisive episode that featured Lisa Simpson stating, "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?"

While it would be easy to take away from this news the idea that Shankar simply got the wrong information or that his sources were bogus, that may not be the case. Jean simply noted that Shankar "does not speak" for The Simpsons, not that what he said was false. It sure sounds like that's what Jean was getting at in his tweet, but he didn't make any explicit statements. The series could end up getting rid of Apu, or it could address concerns head-on. But, like Shankar, we don't work for The Simpsons, so we can't say for certain what the show intends to do with the character.