Simpsons creator Matt Groening continues to stoke to controversy surrounding one of television’s most questionable characters: Apu.
Back in April, Groening responded to growing criticism by saying, “I’m proud of what we do on the show. And I think it’s a time in our culture where people love to pretend they’re offended."
Apu, the Indian Kwik-E-Mart owner who speaks with a heavy accent, was the focus of comedian Hari Kondabolu’s documentary on the issue, The Problem with Apu. After a while, that character’s voice actor, white man Hank Azaria, said he would be “happy” to step down.
In a new interview with the New York Times, Groening talked about the criticism, and his plans for Apu moving forward. “I love the character, and it makes me feel bad that it makes other people feel bad. But on the other hand, it’s tainted now—the conversation, there’s no nuance to the conversation now,” he said.
When asked about his comments from April, and the documentary, Groening explained why he feels so strongly about keeping Apu. “I agree, politically, with 99 percent of the things that Hari Kondabolu believes. We just disagree on Apu,” he said. “I love the character and I would hate for him to go away. I am sorry that The Simpsons would be criticized for having an Indian character that, because of our extraordinary popularity—I expected other people to do it. I go, maybe he’s a problem, but who’s better? Who’s a better Indian animated character in the last 30 years?”
As for the future of Apu, he’s not sure how they plan on treating the character moving forward. “If we come up with a good story we’ll do it, but some of the stuff the show got taken to task for, we covered in an episode a couple of years ago,” Groening said. “Oh well.”