A new point of Apu


by Rohin
17th July, 2007 at 2:37 am    

The author, complete with trademark girlie eyelashes. Apparently.Over a year and a half ago I wrote my first post for Pickled Politics, entitled ‘Much Apu About Nothing’ and it concerned my love for Springfield’s favourite shopkeeper. I sought to explain why I feel Apu is a positive character, having heard opinions against him. This has proved easily to be my most widely-read post.

Recently a publicity campaign for the upcoming Simpsons movie has developed into a contentious issue in America and Ultrabrown’s Manish has quickly become the go-to man for all things Apu. What Manish probably doesn’t realise that it was his view of Apu that inspired my article; I wanted to highlight how the British perception of Apu is so different from the American. So I figured I should chuck my two cents in, but I’ll try not to duplicate my reasons for being an Apu fan this time.

The recent ‘Apu controversy’, having made national American and Indian news, may have started as a debate about the ad campaign, but it has grown into a new dissection of Apu’s character.

It is thus fundamental to separate the 7-Eleven issue from related discussion. Examining the former first, Manish has, in several posts, argued succinctly why this promotional strategy irks him. Central to my defence of Apu has always been his context. The Simpsons parodies all its inhabitants and Apu is not a racist stereotype but a rounded, human figure.

This advertising campaign removes Apu from that context. Apu, like all the caricatures in Springfield, exists on two levels. Every character has a superficial exterior, which personifies a stereotype; they also have a rich personality which undermines all of those clichés.

I have learnt that unfortunately the fact Apu has a memorable catchphrase has resulted in it being used as a racist taunt in America. Critics of Apu argue this shows that he is the sole troubling character, which is why he draws so much flak. However I feel that sadly racists in the US would still be abusing Indians without a convenient convenience store catchphrase. The fact some Indians in the US dislike hearing “thank you, come again” reveals more about how American society has latched onto tormenting Indians than the racism of Apu.

Upon initially viewing the dozen-or-so Kwik-E-Marts, I loved the idea and I still do. The one point upon which I agree wholeheartedly with Manish is his criticism of the role the real-life shopkeepers have played in this saga. The majority of 7-Eleven employees affected by this campaign seem to be of Asian origin. Almost all seem game for a laugh, but dressing them up as Apu can surely not be in their best interests.

I think the Brits reading this will feel the way I initially felt, that there’s no harm in assuming the role of Apu for the month. But once again context is paramount. My view of the American experience for an Indian, shaped predominantly from the writing of Indian Americans and Harold and Kumar is one where Indian shopkeepers can frequently be the subjects of abuse. If this is indeed the case, the dumb racist’s conflation of a stereotyped Indian and a real one will only be reinforced by an Apu outfit and name badge.

However, if Indian shopkeepers aren’t subject to more abuse than others, then I can’t see any difference between the UK and the US, so I once again see nothing wrong with Apu. The basis for criticising him or his place in this advertising is grounded in the assertion that America is inherently racist, whether this is true, you decide.

I do not buy the argument that Americans are not familiar with Indians, which is cited as making Apu more harmful than other stereotypes. Firstly, I think “Americans don’t know any Indians” doesn’t wash anymore, secondly many of the stereotyped minorities are those Americans might be unfamiliar with like the Scots or the Japanese. Lastly, and most importantly, no special familiarity is needed. The vast majority of Americans will be familiar with the Indian shopkeeper and that is the very reason he is in The Simpsons. He effectively needs those stereotypies so that he can be recognised in his place in the town’s makeup, and to act as a framework to flesh him out.

Another sore point for those who dislike Apu is his accent. It’s a comical accent but they say it is racist. Why? Because he is voiced by a non-Indian. This is nonsense. Are we seriously suggesting that only brown-skinned actors can voice brown cartoon characters? A blacked-up white man playing an Indian on screen would be wrong. But only a bigot would complain if a Pakistani played an Indian, because they “look right”. What of the analogous “sounding right”? The Indian voice is not dramatically different in timbre or pitch.

I think saying there is a racial barrier to voices as well as skin is dangerous ground. If a white man should not do an Indian accent, then can an Indian comedian not impersonate a white celebrity or voice a black cartoon character? The accent itself is criticised as unrealistic, but if based on a genuine thick Indian accent, opposition to Apu would not stop.

Annoyance at Apu’s accent is based on a false double standard, exposed by today’s multicultural society. The white West and the brown East are now intimately intertwined. When Western, but brown actors adopt ridiculous accents, such as Kal Penn in Van Wilder (the actor credited with trying to reclaim Apu’s phrase), there are few complainants.

But there is no reason why someone born and raised outside India is more qualified to attempt an Indian accent simply due to the fact his skin is brown. Those who don’t like Hank Azaria voicing Apu don’t ask for a test of ‘Indianess’ in a replacement candidate, they would be appeased by just Asian heritage. I have British Indian friends who do a more fake Apu-like Indian accent than some white friends. Indian actors make fun of regional accents in Indian films, but it’s OK cos that’s brown-on-brown. This is all phoney. The belief that “only our kind can make fun of us” is unhealthy and reactionary.

Most Indians, in whatever country, like Apu. Comments on British, American and Indian blogs have overwhelmingly favoured him, so Manish is firmly in the minority. It seems somewhat condescending to insist Apu degrades convenience store employees if they themselves have no problem with the character. It would be more condescending still if their views were dismissed as being insecure eager-to-please immigrants.

Levelling the notion that if we are party to the Apu joke, we are condemning future generations of brown-skinned people in white countries to racism is unwarranted. Forced attempts to reclaim a phrase or reject a cartoon character are laying the onus on us to change our ways instead of those guilty of racism.

I feel I haven’t addressed everything, so I will do my best to participate in comments. If you wish for a more detailed examination of Apu, please do read my first piece. Manish and I have both written plenty about Apu. His massively commented-upon Comment is Free article criticised the 7-Eleven campaign. He and I are agreed that the subtle nuances of Apu’s character are lost in the adverts. But we remain in disagreement about just about everything else to do with Dr Nahasapeemapetilon.

Many of the CiF comments are along the lines of “I’m X and my community is mocked as well, but I don’t complain”. Not all of these statements can be explained away by Indians being less familiar to Americans, and while I do not think Indians complain more (as has been alleged), I am not sure I fully understand why Apu is so much more of a talking point than any other character. I cannot help but feel some of it is due to the fact he is a key main player, which is a testament to his importance, not his subjugation.


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  1. MVAtLarge — on 17th July, 2007 at 2:48 am  

    “they say it is racist. Why? Because he is voiced by a non-Indian.”

    I actually haven’t seen anyone take an essentialist position on this. The accent is racist because the accent is so badly done as to be insulting. The singsong has nothing to do with most real Indian English accents.

    E.g. nobody says only Puerto Ricans can dance salsa, only that it should be done well.

    This promotion ends in 15 days, but Apu will live on. It’s worth looking more closely at him.

    The British context with 8 gazillion Asian TV presenters on Channel 4 is very different from the U.S. context.

  2. Sunny — on 17th July, 2007 at 3:27 am  

    A well argued post as ever Mr Rohin. You’re like the UK authority on this character aren’t you?

    I think Manish’s article was ok, but didn’t really anticipate the counter-arguments in the way that most regular CIF writers would, and was thus criticised quite heavily on that article.

    Think you could have staked your position a bit better Manish, though I’m happy they gave you the space to do it.

    It is worth thinking about the fact though, that many Americans seem to understand Apu only through the superficial persona rather than his well-rounded personality. That is the biggest shame… but then what else do we expect from racists I guess.

  3. Zeno — on 17th July, 2007 at 3:36 am  

    The belief that “only our kind can make fun of us” is unhealthy and reactionary.

    This presupposes a society and culture capable of making fun of a minority it doesnt understand, in which the impulse isnt one primarily of racial mockery. Maybe when you’ve been racially abused with a thick ‘Paki’ accent being spat at you, you’d think differently. Being insulated from that kind of thing could conceivably make you an idealist. It’s because racial comedy from clueless chauvinists who dont really understand the people they mock is fundamentally unhealthy and reactionary that it has to be talked about. Considering those who want to do that as ‘reactionary’ and ‘unhealthy’ is a real case of convoluted reasoning. Just because Apu is a sophisticated character it doesnt make the thing he represents to racists, ie a stick to beat with, any less harmful than a bigot like Bernard Manning who liked nothing better than to tell Paki jokes.

  4. Zeno — on 17th July, 2007 at 3:37 am  

    There are some really racist responses to Manish Vij’s article on the Guardian too, most of them seemingly from America. Nice company you keep.

  5. Zeno — on 17th July, 2007 at 4:01 am  

    Indian actors make fun of regional accents in Indian films, but it’s OK cos that’s brown-on-brown. This is all phoney.

    No, this is analogous to a Scouser making fun of a Brummie accent, for example. It’s not the same as a white racist mocking an Indian walking down the street, or going up to a Chinese person and doing a crude ‘chinky’ accent. To think otherwise could at best be described as naive.

  6. Golam Murtaza — on 17th July, 2007 at 6:44 am  

    I remember on the latest season of the Apprentice (The UK version) an Asian character,Tre Azam, was briefly filmed deliberately putting on a strong, stereotypically South Asian accent. His white friend, a guy called Simon who was a bit of a joker, then joined in for a laugh. I remember the day after that reading a couple of online message boards discussing that incident. Tre, despite being a pretty controversial character, was let off lightly by the posters. Simon, by contrast, got hammered.

  7. sonia — on 17th July, 2007 at 10:36 am  

    very good post Rohin.

    “But there is no reason why someone born and raised outside India is more qualified to attempt an Indian accent simply due to the fact his skin is brown. Those who don’t like Hank Azaria voicing Apu don’t ask for a test of ‘Indianess’ in a replacement candidate, they would be appeased by just Asian heritage. I have British Indian friends who do a more fake Apu-like Indian accent than some white friends. Indian actors make fun of regional accents in Indian films, but it’s OK cos that’s brown-on-brown. This is all phoney. The belief that “only our kind can make fun of us” is unhealthy and reactionary.

    yep

  8. sonia — on 17th July, 2007 at 10:37 am  

    and i think the pertinent point is – as you say here:

    this is indeed the case, the dumb racist’s conflation of a stereotyped Indian and a real one will only be reinforced by an Apu outfit and name badge.

  9. dearieme — on 17th July, 2007 at 11:49 am  

    “American society has latched onto tormenting Indians” – as the great sage said, in part, there is no such thing as society, there are only individuals and families….

    ‘Some Americans’, rather than ‘American Society’, surely?

  10. Zeno — on 17th July, 2007 at 11:52 am  

    Why is that a good point sonia, in light of this:

    No, this is analogous to a Scouser making fun of a Brummie accent, for example. It’s not the same as a white racist mocking an Indian walking down the street, or going up to a Chinese person and doing a crude ‘chinky’ accent. To think otherwise could at best be described as naive.

  11. fr0y — on 17th July, 2007 at 12:04 pm  

    Rohin: “Indian actors make fun of regional accents in Indian films, but it’s OK cos that’s brown-on-brown. This is all phoney.”

    Zeno: “No, this is analogous to a Scouser making fun of a Brummie accent, for example. It’s not the same as a white racist mocking an Indian walking down the street, or going up to a Chinese person and doing a crude ‘chinky’ accent. To think otherwise could at best be described as naive.”

    I am afraid Zeno that I think you yourself are guilty of convoluted reasoning here. Sure, if a Scouser has a playful dig at a Brummie accent only the more reactionary may have a problem with that. However if the Scouser approaches a random and unknown Brummie walking down the street and openly mocks him, why is this any less offensive than your own examples? Sure, perhaps you cannot count this specifically as racism as the offensive remarks are not based on skin colour. They are however based on insulting a person from a different demographic with a different accent purely because they are from a different demographic and have a different accent, so from that respect what is the difference?
    Personally I agree with Rohin, the only way the character Apu can be associated with racism is through misconception, if ignorant viewers use aspects of the character as tools for their own racism this reflects badly on them and their perceptions rather than on Apu himself.
    Another argument using another specific character from Springfield is that of groundskeeper Willie. I’m not sure if this has been argued before elsewhere because it seems to me a pertinent point; the character of Willie, a kilt-wearing, angry, ginger-haired Scotsman is far more outrageously stereotypical than that of Apu. However this seems to cause far less offense. Is this because the mockery goes further, is it because the character is clearly ridiculous? I would suggest that if the character of Apu was mocked to the same degree as that of Willie then the outrage we are seeing now would be far greater still. Perhaps as Rohin suggests the Scottish stereotype is regarded as far less offensive simply because it is “white-on-white”.

  12. Zeno — on 17th July, 2007 at 12:14 pm  

    fr0y

    No it’s you being disingenuous and convoluted in your reasoning. The racist abuse Indians face, up to and including racist violence and murder, and the racial mockery that accompanies that, can in no way be described as being the same as a Scouser making fun of a Brummie accent. If you think that they can be then you are either naive, or you are deliberately trying to justify racist abuse by comparing it to something that is relatively trivial.

    The comparison with the Scottish character is also convoluted and egregious. How many Scottish people in America face regular racist abuse and demonisation working in blue collar occupations like 24/7 stores or taxi drivers? In fact the more you try to make these false comparisons of magnitude (whether you like it or not, the Apu caricature has become a basic staple in the repertoire of white racists to use against Indians in America), the more odious your justification for racism seems.

    The Simpsons producers dont intend for Apu to be like that, but the only character that has taken on a fully fledged life in the real world as a ready made icon of racist abuse is Apu. That is a fact.

  13. Jagdeep — on 17th July, 2007 at 12:32 pm  

    One thing I am very impressed by is the persistence of the Gungadin coon show stereotype and the tenacity with which some white people, aggrieved and upset, will justify it in all weathers and all occasions. I’m not nessecarily saying that about Apu is at source comparable with this; he seems to me to be one cog in the Simpsons wheel created without malice (in fact with some love), who happens to have unfortunately become a template for a racist caricature in the real world, especially in America.

    I’m talking more about the assertions of benign intent that accompany these things and how they have changed over time, and the really nasty bullying undertow to the Gungadin coon show stereotype and Indian blackface. All the way from imperialist fantasies of the good loyal native to the racist caricatures in 1970′s sitcoms, the subjects of Bernard Manning jokes — all of these have been taken and created and asserted as rightful japes that exist in a benign vaccuum in which racist mockery and abuse is actually akin in import and effect with a Cornishman joking with a Geordie, to extend one example already used.

    The thing people forget about Goodness Gracious Me is how punk rock it actually was. In between the sugar coated comedy, it was a big two fingered salute to all those Gungadin coon show comedians and their audiences. The white gaze upong Indians faces in the UK has always been laced with racist mockery and contempt at a certain level. When there is an opportunity to do so, some aggrieved white people play the ‘it’s only a joke’ race card and try to portray a two fingered return of gaze as ‘political correctness gone mad’ and all that kind of thing. They’re in a belligerent mood, because the Gungadins answer back and return the gaze with interest.

  14. Kismet Hardy — on 17th July, 2007 at 12:46 pm  

    But Apu gets all the funny lines. And more importantly, he’s not a victim

    And the idea that he should get voiced by an Asian is ludicrous. Simpsons has a stock group of impressionists/impersonators that they use to mock every character in the show, wherever these yellow people come from

    That’s like saying Alistair McGowan, Rory Bremner or John Sessions can’t do Ian Paisley cos they’re not Irish

    Ridiculous

  15. Mala — on 17th July, 2007 at 1:10 pm  

    Thank you, Rohin, for a balanced response to this Apu and 7/11 controversy. I read through Manish’s article and all the comments and, honestly, it was his own brief rebuttals that made my blood pressure spike, because he seemed to be confusing “I” with “Us.” He does not speak for all Indian-Americans and our experience, whether that be a post-Middle East conflict experience or not.

    I grew up in the “heartland of America.” I had to put up with people dancing in circles and ululating every time I said I was Indian or asking me if India was in Africa. Honestly, at that time, the average American didn’t even have a context for what being Indian meant. And it is a fact that in most non-urban areas and nonacademic settings, it was motels and convenience stores that introduced people to actual Indians. I don’t know many people that stumbled into the university halls to go meet my dad, the PhD, but a Gujurati-owned motel or the local AmeriStop? Pretty commonly experienced and just one example of the ambition, entrepreneurship, and work ethic that has made Indians in America and their Indian-American children successful over the last thirty years. (IT, medicine, engineering being other examples but more academically-driven.)

    Has the California Kwik-E-Mart with the employees in “brownface” been authenticated or is it just an urban legend being passed around for those who want to cry corporate racism? I’ve been to one of the 11 converted stores and I found it hilarious. I loved the plastic statues, the themed food, and the three desi men behind the counter looked anything but offended by their work environment. (And, no, they weren’t in brownface. They were “real.” They were wearing Kwik-E-Mart vests but weren’t otherwise “dressing up as Apu.”

    Maybe I’m a bad Indian-American because I didn’t ask if they felt oppressed? Maybe they are bad Indians for letting their 7/11 branch rake in a bundle of cash without protesting the racial exploitation?

    The stereotype existed well before Apu. With the inception of him, millions of people have gotten a satirical, funny look at the man behind the counter that they would otherwise never pay attention to. Apu’s wedding is still my favorite Simpsons episode of all time.

    These days, the IT stereotype, the outcry about outsourcing to India, is a lot more prevalent than the shopowner one, but it’s funny how no one seems to be complaining about the racial backlash against call center employees…

    Sorry for rambling. Now I have to go slide on some moccassins and grind some corn.

  16. Jagdeep — on 17th July, 2007 at 1:25 pm  

    He does not speak for all Indian-Americans and our experience, whether that be a post-Middle East conflict experience or not.

    Reading his article I didnt get the sense that he claimed to be speaking for everyone, just giving one perspective, just like you are giving your perspective.

  17. El Cid — on 17th July, 2007 at 1:38 pm  

    I can’t believe anyone has not mentioned It Ain’t Half Hot Mum

  18. Jagdeep — on 17th July, 2007 at 1:43 pm  

    I can’t believe anyone has not mentioned It Ain’t Half Hot Mum

    I did mention 1970′s sitcoms!

  19. fr0y — on 17th July, 2007 at 2:51 pm  

    Zeno
    Now hold on there Zeno, I fail to see how you are jumping to the conclusion that I am trying to justify racist abuse. I assure you I am not, I am merely questioning the difference between a Scouser making fun of a Brummie accent and a white-American making fun of an Indian accent. You are now shifting the goalposts somewhat by adding racist violence and murder to your initial example of mockery of an accent, is this not itself a false comparison of magnitude? I couldn’t possibly and wouldn’t conceive of trying to justify violence and murder, racist or otherwise! I still do not see the fundamental difference between mocking a Brummie accent and an Indian accent, surely making fun of a person’s accent is (or should be) equally insulting no matter what the accent is? If a violent or murderous act is then perpetrated against either the Brummie or the Indian this then becomes a whole different issue in terms of magnitude! I truly feel your comparison is now in fact a dangerous false comparison of magnitude, please do not equate a slur on the basis of accent with racial violence.
    I apologise if my example of Willie has distracted from the original debate here and I would like to make it clear once more that I am not equating that with racist violence perpetrated against Indians in America – how could I? However I feel my original point is valid, either mockery of an accent (be it Indian, Scottish or Brummie) is acceptable in ALL cases, or it is unacceptable in ALL cases.
    Regarding the Scottish character, firstly, how many Scottish people live in America compared to Indians? However, I will concede that this is largely irrelevant and that were the Scottish population equal in size to the Indian, the Indian population is likely still to receive greater levels of racist mockery, violence or murder than the Scottish. Unfortunately a minority (we hope) will always look to lash out on those different to themselves and by far the easiest basis on which to do this is skin colour. It was never my intention to equate mockery of an accent with violence and in fact I never did.
    We are completely in agreement that as you put it; “the Apu caricature has become a basic staple in the repertoire of white racists to use against Indians in America” and this is of course highly regrettable and any use of Apu’s “catchphrases” as a tool to cause offence should be regarded as unacceptable. However, do you not accept that the people who would use Apu in this way would and will use each and any other similar TV or film character in the same way whether or not Apu had ever existed. If we can accept that, should we not realise that the issue should not be the characters themselves (unless the nature of the character in itself causes racist offence ala Bernard Manning) but people’s reactions to them. More specifically should we not have a problem with the racists who would use Apu for their ignorant ends rather than with Apu himself. Eradicating or dumbing down the characters will not stop racist abuse. Granted it may remove ammunition from their racist armory but unfortunately they will I am sure find alternatives. I take your point that Apu has become the foremost icon of racist abuse against Indians in America but I cannot agree that this abuse would not exist if Apu did not exist. I am starting to think that this debate on Apu is distracting from what the real issue should be; that racism (based on accent, origin or race) is unacceptable. Even if we eradicated every single possible character or media figure that could be used as fodder for racists, racism would still exist, like it or not.
    Perhaps if I knew you better and indeed you knew me I would find your suggestion that I am trying to justify racism extremely offensive (maybe even odious) but I don’t and you don’t so I won’t!

  20. Sid — on 17th July, 2007 at 2:59 pm  

    Its only a cartoon, boys and girls.

  21. fr0y — on 17th July, 2007 at 3:35 pm  

    Sorry for previous waffle!
    I said:
    “either mockery of an accent is acceptable in ALL cases, or it is unacceptable in ALL cases.”

    Sorry this is not quite how I meant to word this and ignores the context of any given situation. I, for example remember gently taking the mick out of a Sri Lankan friend on the basis of his accent as he had previously taken the mick out of my “skinny white-boy glow in the dark legs!”. I also remember having to-and-fro banter with a friend from Leeds on the basis of her northern tongue and my posh plummy accent.
    Is either of these examples more or less offensive than the other?
    Sorry to harp on about this but I truly feel that mockery of a person’s accent should not automatically be considered racist unless it is further backed up by racist sentiment. I would consider mocking the accent of someone I did not know offensive no matter the colour of their skin. If the mockery is followed up with further vehemence and violence then this is equally abhorrent regardless of the colour of the victim’s skin.
    The Simpsons makes jokes about a huge number groups of people based on race, occupation, social status, religious beliefs and many more but they are just jokes. It is my genuine opinion that none of these jokes are in themselves hugely offensive and the reason an Indian will take more offense than a Scotsman is simply because there is more of an underlying racist sentiment against Indians in America than against the Scottish in America. This however reflects only on American society and not on the acceptability of the jokes in the Simpsons.

  22. funkg — on 17th July, 2007 at 3:40 pm  

    In my opinion Asians in Britain are much more entrenched into UK culture, mainly because of colonialism and early immigration. Britain is a far smaller country so demographically, would have a greater impact. I don’t have to go into the whole chicken masala thing. but in my opinion Indian Americans/Asians don’t as yet have the same cultural impact as African/Irish Hispanic Americans. Im sure they will very very soon. One thing I have seen change in the UK is perceptions of Asians. When I grew up no one feared Asians, now especially where I work you can’t mess with the Asian youth gangs on the streets.

  23. justforfun — on 17th July, 2007 at 4:17 pm  

    Ah – yes – “It ain’t half hot mum” – the forgotten battle against those shifty slanty eyed little nips. Now they really are yellow people.

    Now – How do I disenvowel myself? or commit hr kr

    Seriously – is this an issue of the colour of ones skin or is it really just an issue of aggrieved entitlement to a ‘parity of respect’

    Why a Indian – Americans get upset that another bunch of hyphenated – Americans are making fun of them , when they are the first to bleat on about colonialism and the suffering under the Anglo-saxon colonialism – but seem quite happy to catch ride on the tailcoat of the Anglo-Saxon colonialism of the American continent. Give or take a 100 years the timescale for the Anglo-Saxons in India, is the same for the Anglo-Saxons in America. The Anglo-saxons left India , but will they leave America?

    Summary –
    So being on the receiving end of colonialism is BAD. Being on the giving end is GOOD.
    Being on the giving end when others on the giving end are making fun of you is BAD.

    Parity of respect is all that self professed victims demand – I love the that phrase.

    Boo Hooo – One set of thieves upset that others in the gang are laughing at them – I weep for them.

    Get a grip – and be thankful that you’re not still in India and that the Red Indians were so decimated that they can’t kick you into the sea.

    Justforfun

  24. Sid — on 17th July, 2007 at 4:25 pm  

    Get a grip – and be thankful that you’re not still in India and that the Red Indians were so decimated that they can’t kick you into the sea.

    ?

    yeah and you can be thankful you’re still not eating boiled grass your peers shovelled out to you and you’re not wiping your ass on your own furniture. That and bathrooms and bathing in general. harrrrumph!

  25. Katy — on 17th July, 2007 at 4:52 pm  

    Now look here.

    I have let you all play with your vowels because I trusted you to be mature and sensible and nice to each other. But I will not hesitate to take your vowels AWAY if you cannot play nicely with them.

    That is all.

  26. justforfun — on 17th July, 2007 at 4:57 pm  

    yes – and what Sid said as well !

    Justforfun

    Now I feel much better.

  27. Sid — on 17th July, 2007 at 5:04 pm  

    *sigh*

  28. Jai — on 17th July, 2007 at 5:36 pm  

    Not much to add at this point, apart from the fact that I agree 100% with what Jagdeep said in post #13.

  29. Sid — on 17th July, 2007 at 5:38 pm  

    I agree 100% with what Kismet said in post #14.

  30. Sunny — on 17th July, 2007 at 5:44 pm  

    What I want to know is, how did Rohin get a Simpsons caricature of himself made? HAs anyone see the alt-text on that image? The cheek!

    I want one! *stamps foot*

  31. justforfun — on 17th July, 2007 at 5:47 pm  

    I agree cent for cent with Sid in post #21

    Justforfun

  32. Don — on 17th July, 2007 at 5:47 pm  

    I agree with all the even numbered posts.

  33. zucchini — on 17th July, 2007 at 5:56 pm  

    Following my recent, possibly inflamatory posts (I flatter myself) about Bernard Manning – I tried to figure out why I did’nt find Apu offensive as far as being a negative stereotype of Asians, as has been inferred here elsewhere..

    First off, his surname seems like a piss-take of long South Indian names and as a South Indian you’d expect me to be offended – not really, if you break the name down, yes…it SORT of sounds like an unpronounceable name, but it’s gobbledegook…and funny with it.

    In some ways there is little to separate Apu & Manning (WHAT ! you say) – they both, as characters, don’t give a f*ck – Apu drops a weiner on the floor and has no qualms about selling it – but why should this be appealing or funny ?

    I like Apu simply because, unlike most Asians who live abroad, he does’nt seek validation for his actions, right or wrong, from the host community – his sole aim is to make a living, not be an apu-logist (sorry) for being an Indian or cry for special treatment.

    One problem we face as a community, and as artists, is this need for validation from non-asians, which I think is a post imperialist hang over.

    I was in Cannes recently and attended a seminar held by various members of the Indian film community to discuss why there were hardly any films from India in competition, and by the end there was this feeling that although by “Western” film critic standards, most Hindi cinema is unwatchable tosh, you can’t simply sweep it aside as invalid – whatever you may think about its merits or de-merits, it should be seen for what it is, not from the stand point of someone elses critical benchmarks.

    So in short, we should just do our stuff and not worry too much about how it might seem to others – as far as Apu is concerned , the genius of the Simpsons is that he just seems a stereotype in a medium which is concerned with stereotypes in a kind of fantasy version of reality (TV Land), but actually he isn’t one at all…he’s just Apu.

  34. Preet — on 17th July, 2007 at 6:04 pm  

    Get your own avatar here: http://www.simpsonsmovie.com/main.html

    You have to do your own funny voice though…

  35. Kulvinder — on 18th July, 2007 at 12:22 am  

    Katy’s drunk with troll function power.

  36. Rohin — on 18th July, 2007 at 1:47 pm  

    Zeno, you have said a few different things in your debate with fr0y but I think what fr0y meant was that the difference between a white person putting on a silly Indian accent and a brown person doing it is artificial. At least, that’s what I feel. I simply tried to say that there is no inherent reason that just because a person is brown they are ‘allowed’ to do a silly accent.

    Their race indicates nothing of their understanding of Indian culture. It is an assumption to think all Asian people will understand Asian culture.

    dearieme, not at all. I SPECIFICALLY mean American society and NOT ‘some Americans’. If you are saying that there are just ‘some Americans’ that make fun of Indians then so what, we have that in the UK too. The very linchpin of why I empathise with Indian Americans who dislike Apu is based on the fact American Society is, as a whole, racist. That’s what I hear.

    It’s not excused by Indians being less visible in America than here – the message I take out of that is that America is racist. If it isn’t (which I’m equally willing to believe) then I can’t acknowledge many of the criticisms of Apu.

    Kismet, I actually deleted a para from the piece about Rory Bremner doing Trevor McDonald (stop it) and no one finding that racist. He’s poking fun at the man, but because his accent is ‘done well’ people are appeased. If Bremner was a bad impersonator, that would suddenly make him racist in the eyes of those who don’t like a white man voicing Apu.

    Mala, thanks for your comments. One line resonated “Maybe I’m a bad Indian-American because I didn’t ask if they felt oppressed?” This is something I have felt uncomfortable about with this whole issue. I got the impression that those that weren’t offended by Apu were somehow sell-outs. It smacked of a condescending attitude that we’re not ‘real Indians’ or something.

    zucchini, you touch on an important point. People moan that Apu is an unethical Indian, but he’s just an unethical shopkeeper. People create false links. Sure, it’s his overall character that counts – but by that token no one can argue Apu is a bad guy.

  37. sonia — on 18th July, 2007 at 2:07 pm  

    “Their race indicates nothing of their understanding of Indian culture. It is an assumption to think all Asian people will understand Asian culture.”

    good one rohin. and i would say its a racist assumption to boot. kind of like someone saying oh you’re not white so you wouldn’t understand. boy that would really piss so many people off! ( and did in the past of course when it was used widely, ‘white’ civilisation – remember that one?!)

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