Indian-American film producer and YouTube personality Adi Shankar - best known for his Bootleg Universe series - released an official trailer for the contest he organized to find a solution to "the Apu Problem." The new trailer follows an earlier announcement of the contest to develop a storyline that could neatly transform the Indian-immigrant convenience store owner from The Simpsons into a less stereotypical figure.
Shankar's contest spun out of the recent controversy over The Problem With Apu. Written and hosted by comedian Hari Kondabolu, the documentary explored the irony that Apu was the only South-Asian character in a prominent role on American television for many years, while simultaneously provoking racist bullying against Indian-Americans and followers of the Hindu religion. The response to the documentary online became heated, with fans of The Simpsons defending Apu's character as a positive representation of immigrants and one of the most morally upstanding characters on the show, despite having started out as a cardboard cut-out stereotype. Eventually, character actor Hank Azaria, who plays Apu on The Simpsons, made a statement on the controversy and the show itself addressed the documentary in a way that only threw fuel on the fire.
The trailer for Shankar's contest can be viewed above. In it, an animated Adi Shankar enters into the Kwik-E Mart and berates Apu for his exaggerated accent. Apu then breaks character and (in a voice that sounds suspiciously like Azaria) says that he just reads the dialogue that the writers give him and that changing who he is after nearly 30 years would be "hard to do." This leads to Shankar issuing a call to action of the viewer.
"It's time to stop making excuses," proclaims Shankar. "It's time to stop being upset or annoyed or lazy or going on Twitter and calling each other snowflakes. Everybody loves The Simpsons. I love The Simpsons! I want to be on the same side again, but this... this is a problem. So let's fix it."
Shankar then outlines the terms of the contest and his hopes for the eventual outcome. Shankar will take open submissions for a script for a Simpsons episode that "subverts, pivots or evolves" Apu into a realistic portrayal of Indian-Americans. The winning script will then be delivered to Fox Studios, in the hope that they may adapt it into an actual Simpsons episode. In the event that doesn't happen, Shankar will produce the winning script as a new Bootleg Universe one-shot, animated in The Simpsons style.
While it seems highly unlikely that the producers of The Simpsons will risk courting further controversy by devoting another episode toward addressing The Problem With Apu, one must admire Shankar's convictions and the lengths to which he is going to prove a point. It is also heartening to see that Shankar's actions are born of an honest desire to improve a show that means so much to so many, rather than writing it off as unsalvageable. One thing is for certain in all of this - the episode that emerges from this contest, whether it is produced by Fox or Bootleg Universe, will be one to watch.
Source Adi Shankar/YouTube