In Praise of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon

of all the truly nonsensical manifestations of cancel culture, the canceling of “the simpsons” longstanding character of apu stands out as particularly phony, baseless, and deranged. subjecting hank azaria to literal maoist struggle sessions until he admits to being an “agent of structural racism” is not just grotesque, it’s manifestly false.

yet this is the world in which we live and the very falsity of the crimes to which heretics can be made to confess is precisely what gives these clerisies such power to brainwash.

being forced to accede to positions clearly lacking any basis in reality is a longstanding tool of interrogators and cults to ensure and deepen submission. mao knew it. so does the social justice priesthood.

but where is the racism here? looked at by any remotely reasonable standard apu is one of the most laudable characters on the show. he is:

  • honest

  • hard working

  • owns his own business

  • loves his wife and family

  • spiritual

  • and chasing the american dream

we’re seriously going to try to call this “structural racism”? why? because other characters on the show are jerks to him? (hint: most are jerks to everyone. that’s part of the show. almost no one is depicted favorably.)

because he works behind a cash register? he owns the business. he uses it to raise a family. he owns a trans am. he’s living his (and many other’s) american dream.

if you think this picture and the life aspirations it represents is “racist” or “demeaning” but would find it funny if this were a white guy from new jersey, maybe the problem is you and not the “racism of apu’s depiction.”

let’s try a thought experiment: if the character that ran the quickie mart acted just like apu, but looked and spoke like moe, would this still be a “negative racial depiction”?

is this about the voice? ragging on apu (or any immigrant) for having an accent is stupid. accents are a sign that you (gasp) “learned a second language.” it’s common with immigrants. my great grandparents had an accent you could stand a spoon in. it did not make them stupid or laughable. it made them “new here.” if you want to claim that an accent is a reason to deride someone, let me ask you this: “how’s your bengali?” অপু নহসাপেমিপেটিলন .

this feels like the taking of something laudable: moving to a new place, learning a new language and culture, raising your family, owning a business, and buying a big american car with a flaming chicken on the hood and depicting it as somehow shameful or a failure. it is not. it’s a success. those claiming otherwise are the ones that really belong in a struggle sessions to root out their racism and failure to support human striving.

consider homer:

homer is fat, loud, stupid, incompetent, and lazy. he’s dishonest, vain, and lacks even basic common sense. half the episodes are about these failings getting him into trouble. this is the avatar of structural racism? he compares unfavorably to apu on essentially every basic metric. you just don’t notice it because he’s white (admittedly a very yellow cartoon white).

but ask yourself this: if the homer character were exactly the same but had black skin, would people be howling that this was a negative depiction and a damaging stereotype and demanding he be cancelled? (and would it matter to you if the voice actor were black or white?)

if one can depict faults in a character of one race but cannot render the same character with different skin pigmentation without being shouted down, just who is being racist here?

the simpons is a pastiche. all the characters are. the rich guy is an evil, plotting, amoral weirdo and his factotum weirder still. the politicians are corrupt and vain. the doctors are quacks or weird, avuncular cobsy clones. the principal is a bufoonish momma’s boy. bart is a brat and marge a scold. the lawyer is corrupt and incompetent. flanders is, well, flanders. (lisa is OK if a bit of a goodie goodie, but you’d probably get yelled at if you made her asian and changed the saxophone to a violin). the whole show is about ridicule and the foibles of the human condition. that fact that we can see parts of ourselves in it is what makes it such a success.

and from this, these winged monkeys of cancel culture seize upon the one character that’s actually possessed of virtue and cancel him? would they have done so if the voice actor had been bengali? almost certainly not.

so a man can become a woman, a woman a man, and anyone can identify as a non-binary quintuple gendered space dragon and probably get it on their driver’s license, but for a guy who looks like hank to voice a guy that looks like apu is some sort of intolerable miscegenation? really?

standing up for a cartoon character might appear, at first pass, a quixotic pursuit, but i think this is about more. cancelling apu is cancelling and invalidating the process and the goals of the american dream. it’s a statement that hardworking family-man immigrants who come to america and start businesses are somehow a harmful stereotype or that south asians are somehow so fragile and ineffective that they cannot stand with the other races in the simpsons pantheon of flawed but lovable characters. (and the success of south asian immigrants to the US would certainly seem to call the latter claim into serious question.)

so what is this really about? is it this weird intersectional taboo where one gender may identify as another but if one race does so, they get fired as president of their NAACP chapter?

is it this endlessly blustering and ill conceived idea that “cultural appropriation” is bad as though my learning to hula is somehow disrespectful to hawaiians?

is it a refutation and denial of the firmaments of the american dream by a group determined to prove it does not exist and to shame those pursuing it so that their own aggrievement and oppression narratives are not contradicted?

is it maybe a bit of all this?

whatever it is, we need to knock it off. cancel culture and the endless drawing of intersectional lines of racial aggrievement is not the recipe for a post racial society, it’s the path to endless war.

laughing together and sharing one-another’s humanity, foibles and all is the way forward to actual pluralism and real social acceptance.


“thank you and come again.”