The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean has distanced himself from claims shopkeeper Apu Nahasapeemapetilon will be axed from the cartoon following racism complaints.
Indian-American film producer Adi Shankar told U.S. website IndieWire that “multiple sources” had confirmed to him that Apu would be written out of the show after being branded a “racist caricature” in a TV documentary produced by comedian Hari Kondabolu.
However, on Sunday, Jean responded to the reports on Twitter by stating that speculation over the future of the fictional owner of Springfield’s Kwik-E-Mart is premature.
“Adi Shankar is not a producer on the Simpsons,” he wrote. “I wish him the very best but he does not speak for our show.”
Adi Shankar is not a producer on the Simpsons. I wish him the very best but he does not speak for our show.
— Al Jean (@AlJean) October 28, 2018
Apu has been a fixture on the hit animation since 1990 and the character’s voice actor, Jewish-American comedian Hank Azaria, has won three Emmy Awards for his work with the Simpson family’s local shopkeeper.
However, Azaria has expressed regret over his voicing of Apu since Hari Kondabolu’s 2017 film The Problem with Apu highlighted how the character had hurt him by depicting negative stereotypes of Indian immigrants.
“I think the most important thing is to listen to Indian people and their experience with it,” Azaria told U.S. late night TV host Stephen Colbert earlier this year. “I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the writers room… including how (Apu) is voiced or not voiced. I’m perfectly willing to step aside. It just feels like the right thing to do to me.”
Adi suggested that the character would be dropped “altogether” to put an end to the controversy.