South Asian American comedian Hari Kondabolu explores the legacy of Apu – the Indian convenience store owner in The Simpsons, voiced by a white actor – in the upcoming documentary, The Problem With Apu.
“I was obsessed with The Simpsons growing up and it has greatly influenced my comedy,” Kondabolu said in a statement. “However, as my mother proves, you can criticize something you love because you expect more from it. For the longest time, Apu was the most prominent representation of South Asian Americans, and despite how much our society has changed in the last three decades, the character persists today. I made this film to not only talk about the origin of Apu and highlight the impact of such images in media, but also to celebrate the diversity and complexity of my community.”
The Problem With Apu includes interviews with a range of minority actors and comics, including Aziz Ansari, Kal Penn, Whoopi Goldberg, W. Kamau Bell, Aasif Mandvi, Hasan Minhaj, Utkarsh Ambudkar and Aparna Nancherla. “Does Apu count as a minstrel since it’s brown paint [and] a white guy’s voice?” Kondabolu asks Goldberg. “It has all the qualifications,” she says
A trailer for the film also includes a snippet of an interview with Dana Gould, a writer and co-executive producer of The Simpsons. “There are accents that by their nature to white Americans sound funny,” he says. “It’s funny because it’s racist,” Kondabolu retorts.