Stereotypes in the media are nothing new. Whitewashing, a term used in film when white actors portray people of color, has been an issue since the early 1900s. However, as we continue to create films and television shows, people are starting to take notice of these stereotypes.
The recent outrage with Apu, an Indian American character in “The Simpsons,” has raised these issues once again (see Harley Fonseca’s story on page 4). Specifically, critics have pointed out that the voice actor, Hank Azaria, is obviously not part of the Indian American culture.
Many, including the creators of “The Simpsons” themselves, have brushed off the fact that this character portrays a stereotype of this particular ethnic group. It’s been argued that the character has been around for such a long time that there would be no point in removing him from the show. Additionally, “The Simpsons” is known to stereotype and direct offensive content towards many groups, but in a comedic way. Despite this, one can also look at this in a negative way and can be worried that consumers of this show will develop negative images of particular social and ethnic groups.
This can be counterargued with other shows like “Modern Family” or “Black-ish,” both comedies that are centered around ethnic groups that also stereotype them (the Hispanic and African American cultures).
Yet in shows such as these, these characters are not only portrayed with the appropriate ethnicities, but they are also the main protagonists in the show. Kind of an iffy situation in my opinion.
Stereotyping characters both in the media and society is a difficult topic to deal with. Personally, I feel that stereotyping people in shows isn’t appropriate, but often at times they are used in a comedic way. In shows like “The Simpsons,” a show that’s been around since 1989, it’s hard to stray away from these types of stereotypes when it’s something people have enjoyed for decades. Is it really fair to remove Apu, a character who has not only been around for thirty years, but has also earned awards?
I guess the question that everyone raises is how far is too far? I personally don’t really watch “The Simpsons,” let alone have watched an episode with Apu. However, after watching a few clips, I can see why critics are upset over this character.
One thing right off the bat I noticed was that his voice was extremely exaggerated, along with other qualities the character has. However, I wouldn’t say the show really insults Apu. “The Simpsons” is known for its messed-up humor, and while I don’t agree with how they portray various characters from various social and ethnic groups, that’s how they became so successful.
Aside from this, everyone has their own sense of humor. Although it’s terrible to say, often times people use stereotypes of different cultures and ethnic groups as a running gag. Some people can take a joke and laugh at themselves, while others cannot. It just depends on the person who’s being the “butt of the joke.” However, nonetheless, it isn’t fair to ethnic groups like Indian Americans to be mocked and ridiculed and they have the right to feel offended.
Aside from stereotypes, people are upset that characters aren’t being portrayed by the appropriate actor. This is again another issue that has been going on for many years. Stereotypes and white washing are issues that society has faced and will continue to face.
As long as these companies continue to gain profit from it and people continue to watch these programs, the issue won’t ever truly stop. It’s a controversial issue that can be discussed for hours and still won’t end up with a solution. Racism and prejudice are social issues we continue to face. It’s unfortunate to say but the saying does ring true: “Money talks and bullshit walks.”