Indian actress Priyanka Chopra, who also stars on the ABC show Quantico, weighed in on the controversy around The Simpsons character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, who is an Indian-American store clerk with an exaggerated Indian accent. Chopra was the guest star on the show The View on May 4, where she made her comment.
“He was the bane of my life growing up,” Chopra, who was born in Jamshedpur, India, said. “I was always asked when I was in high school — like at 14, 15 — why I didn’t speak like that… I always had questions like that.”
Chopra spent a few years studying in the United States.
The Baywatch star added that she thinks it’s time to try to erase stereotypes. “Yes, it’s a cartoon. Yes, it’s a pop culturally super successful show,” she said. “But that gives it more responsibility.”
The portrayal of the Indian character became a controversy after the release of a documentary, The Problem with Apu, in 2017 written by and starring comedian Hari Kondabolu.
Meanwhile, Matt Groening, the creator of the show The Simpsons said that the outrage is uncalled for and people love to pretend to be offended these days.
“I’m proud of what we do on the show,” Groening told USA Today. “And I think it’s a time in our culture where people love to pretend they’re offended.” He added that the show was always controversial.
“When we first started, we were part of the downfall of civilization,” he said. “Bart said he was ‘an underachiever and proud of it, man’.”
Kondabolu also responded to Groening’s latest interview.
Groening also said that the controversy was addressed in one of the episodes in The Simpsons.
In the episode, Marge (Julie Kavner) wants to share her favorite childhood book with Lisa (Yeardley Smith), but finds it filled with racist commentary and stereotypes. She tried to “fix” the problem by rewriting it and then finds it an ineffectual and boring story.
“Well, what am I supposed to do?” Marge asks.
“It’s hard to say. Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect,” Lisa answers. “What can you do?” The camera then pans to a photo of Apu on Lisa’s bedside table.
“Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” Marge adds.
“If at all,” Lisa finishes, and the pair stare directly at the camera.
Kondabolu had responded to the episode in a tweet.
Actor Frank Azaria, who gives voice to the character of Apu, said last month that he is willing to “step aside” from voicing the character.