Thanking For Coming Again

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Manish Vij of Ultrabrown has been covering, in detail, the controversy over the upcoming Simpsons movie where one of the Simpsons characters , Apu, is being used in the movie promotion in a manner that is being considered by some to be racist and stereotypical.

For those who are unaware of the Simpsons world, Apu is an illegal Indian immigrant, a graduate from Caltech (Calcutta Institute of Technology) who despite holding a PhD from Caltech (Calcutta Institute of Technology) runs a 24-hours convenience store, Kwik-E-Mart where he speaks in a sing-song “Indian” accent, cheats his customers in various devious ways and is the last word in subservience/boot-licking saying “Thank you come again” even to people who rob his store. He also has eight kids, had an arranged marriage, worships “weird-looking” Gods—you get the picture.

In anticipation of the release of the Simpsons movie, “Seven Eleven”, a chain of American stores, ironically known to hire South Asian immigrants, has launched a promotion by which 11 Seven Elevens have been converted into the mythical Kwik-E-Mart where Apu, played by the South Asian employee does the trademark “Thank you come again” routine. The promotion has been very successful, with sales in comparison to the same time last year having been double in the “converted” Seven Elevens.

Some bloggers (Manish has gone on CNN Paula Zahn and NDTV) have taken issue with this kind of promotion (Racism as Entertainment) and some of the 7-11 franchisees have felt insulted. Needless to say, there are also people who feel that Manish is a clowntown (whatever that means) and argue that people who subscribe to Manish’s point of view have a “fundamental mis-appreciation of satire”. The cornerstone of their argument is that Simpsons is an equal-opportunities offender with racial/ethnic stereotypes of all kinds—Mexican, Jewish. What makes the show a classic is the fact that it uses political incorrectness as a comic weapon to paint a bitingly sarcastic picture of American life and uses the exaggerated racial stereotyping to point out the silliness inherent in the accepted perceptions of minorities. They also feel that by protesting the Seven Elevens merchandising of Apu, people like Manish are promoting a culture of competitive intolerance, like we have in India.

Responding to the second charge first, people who feel offended (not all of them Indian) at Seven Eleven’s use of Indian stereotypes are not calling for a ban, or a vandalizing campaign at Seven Elevens or flag-burnings or Jihads. Being offended at a stereotype, however well-intentioned the stereotype may be, is not intolerance —it is a civilized difference of opinion.

Now with respect to “not getting” the Simpsons humor. While the Simpsons very well may be a sophisticated, smart play on perceptions of race, the reason why many people (note I do not say all) laugh at Apu is not because they “get” this subtlely—- it’s because they do not. They take Apu exactly for how he is depicted—a cheating, unhygienic (he sells sausages dropped on the floor) illegal brown immigrant with the funny Hindoo accent who works in a convenience store. And what tickles them is the cowardice and subservience and the helplessness of the Indian man, who while protecting the till from the robbers, gets shot and even then remembers to say “Come again thank you”. Verily, nothing tickles the racist bone more than to see debasement of the “other”.

Pointing out that the Apu character in Simpsons is sympathetically etched by its creators thus becomes moot because the racists are not bothered by the plot-line of the show, but instead by its very convenient racial stereotype. The impact of the Apu stereotype’ can be gauged from the fact that “thank you come again” has been appropriated as a slogan of hate and irreverence targeted towards the “sand niggers” and the “Pakis”. The convenience store scene in “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle” where a ” a gang of white “toughs” vandalize a “Seven Eleven”-like store, manhandle the South Asian man (who is begging and pleading to the hooligans not to damage his store) and mouth the “Thank you come again” is not regrettably as much a work of imagination as it is a slice of reality.

Incidentally, you do wonder why none of the other racial stereotypes depicted in the Simpsons ever had such a malignant effect in the real world.

I for one am not blaming the Simpsons for perpetrating/promoting racism against South Asians—after all if it was not “Thank you come again” it would have been something else. However my point is that things being as they are , Seven Eleven’s use of a character that has unhappy associations for many South Asian working men and women and the use of a line that has become a racist taunt, is according to me a rather insensitive gesture on the part of the corporation.

[ A sidepoint: What really gets my goat however is the reaction to any kind of "racism in America" discussion. One reaction is the "Indians are the most racist"----as if that, even if it accepted, makes racism kosher when it is aimed at Indians.

The second reaction is "It's not your country. If you have a problem, go back to where you came from".

Counterpoint A: By that token, USA is only for native Americans: all the rest should go back from where they came from.

Counterpoint B: The people who say this, if they actually live by what they say, should not venture beyond their own apartment in their home-city. Because if they go to even another locality, or to another city they should be willing to considered as "outsiders" (the concept of "outsiders" is subjective) ----and hence, by their logic, should expect "taunts" and discrimination. And no, staying inside your country does not mean you cannot be considered an 'outsider'. As an example, the Shiv Sena did not believe, during their anti-"Madrasi" campaign, that South Indians by virtue of being Indians were not "outsiders" in Mumbai . This is because Shiv Sena defined an "outsider" as non-Marathi.]

Coming back to the Apu issue and the “Indian Americans like Manish are oversensitive” angle, I can point out, from my very limited knowledge of American pop culture and media, that studio/media executives are very very careful of using racial stereotypes as humor props mainly because of some embarrassing cock-ups in the past. Cockups like George Lucas’s attempt at racial humor aimed at African Americans through the character of Jar Jar Binks, a pathetic unfunny racial stereotype (you can see here how the character is perceived) . I recall, that unlike the dissenting chorus of “Indians cannot understand sarcasm”, there were very few stringent voices in support of the supposedly “clever racial humor” embodied by Jar Jar Binks.

In general, you would very rarely find offensive racial humor directed towards any group in a mainstream Hollywood production because while Americans are not half as ban-happy as we are, they do know how to vote with their wallets. In this context, the Simpson’s production house (Fox what else !) and Seven Eleven’s publicity stunts seem a rather cynical marketing decision based on assessing the two sides: how many people do we offend versus how many do we please. We know which side of the balance won. I doubt if it would have been the case if the target was any other racial or linguistic group in today’s “politically correct” atmosphere.

Concluding my long post, a few weeks ago I was watching “Transformers” in a packed theater with the raucous crowd that was laughing and cheering at every point. Well nothing got them as going as the bit where one of the heroes saving the world from the Decepticon scorpion makes a call and gets stuck with an Indian call center worker who with his Apu-type accent and indecipherable mumblings keeps delaying the hero. The entire crowd exploded at presumably this “subtle bit of racial humor” and I would have also been laughing (being someone who understands “sarcasm”) when a voice rose above the din with a boisterous “Motherf**** dothead”.

And then it happened.

As the connection with the call center operator was terminated by the impatient hero, someone to my right laughed out:

Thank you, come again.” (Do click this link)

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88 thoughts on “Thanking For Coming Again

  1. Popular culture has pretty much always poked fun at the “other” — whether it’s the overly stereotyped Bong, Madrasi and Punjabis (among others) in Hindi cinema, or hook-nosed Jews (even in Shakespeare), or as Jon Stewart in the Daily Show pointed out when Iran was feeling pouty over “300”, Germans, Italians, Irish… the list goes on.

    The only way to deal with negative portrayals in popular culture is to look for and celebrate the positive ones AND calling out clear cases of racist behavior (e.g. anyone using the word ‘dothead’ is pretty clearly racist and most people know this — thanks to the indignation expressed by an earlier generation of South Asian immigrants).

    However I think you’ll have a harder time getting people equally indignant about “thank you come again” — similar accent jokes exist for pretty much every ethnic group in the world, the only difference is that we got stuck with one popularized by a long-running cartoon series. I think the solution here is to show you’re big enough to laugh along even when the joke’s on you.

  2. great post! the only way to counter racists slur is education. i dont think banning them from pop media would do any good; for the question remains who thought of it and who appreciates it!

    hard to stomach but true: the impostor psyche works a lot in these cases. how many ure(oriya) jokes or mero(marwari) jokes have we guffawed at as bengali schoolboys! even the entire “ghoti-bangal” thing. the amusing insight is that though the commoner perceives the american as uber-sophisticated, he is not!

    the sophisticated subtle thing is crap! they said that in borat too! the humours lies in, as u pointed out, in not getting it!

    Ah! after this post, Imagine would do me a world of good!

  3. There is a thin line between sarcasm and racism. And in all these so called well developed countries also there are a fair amount of uncivilised behaviour. That’s why in Sanfrancisco one of my college mates got caught in a brawl with some whiteys and they asked him how many bombs has he got in his bag.

    This kind of incidents, which are based on race discrimination and color hatred are not rare in many of the developed countries. England has got its share, where ppl of Indian origin who have been staying in this country for 3-4 generations who have no resemblence to India apart from their names still have to hang out in Desi clubs as the so called white places are not so welcoming many times.

    Wake Up westlanders( or should I say wastelanders?)… While you sleep we work while your kids go camping, ours study hard, while you play football we take over charge of all the operations and business that you have got.

    Ha ha is my post a bit dramatic?? well some part of it is a reflection of Tom Freedman’s World Is Flat.

    And personally I like Simpson quite a lot and I do believe that character Apu is just a sarcasm and not in anyway meant to demean Indians. The name was taken from Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali and it was done as a tribute to him only. But the use of the character and its idiosyncracies can be done in many ways and not all of those are innocent.

  4. @Prasenjeet: I think the solution here is to show you’re big enough to laugh along even when the joke’s on you.
    True. However when the joke is prefaced with “ugly, stereotypical, demeaning” then it sometimes gets a little difficult to laugh especially after you have been at the receiving end of the “Thank you come again” in not so “jocular” circumstances.
    @Saptaswa: Thank you
    @Ankan: Again the point is not what the intentions of the creators were. The point is how it has affected the real world in terms of sharping perceptions towards South Asians. And with the misappropriation of “Apu” and his lines as objects of ridicule and hate, Seven Eleven should have showed a bit of sensitivity in this regard—a sensitivity I think it would show towards other minorities like African-Americans, Hispanics etc.

  5. Racial stereotyping is intended to be taken at face value. If you remember the movie Eurotrip it confirmed everything Americans think of Europe. I agree stereotyping affects public opinion, but isn’t it an universal phenomena? Even within Marathi Brahmins Kobras (Konkanastha Brahmin) and Debra (Desastha Brahmins) have stereotypes about each other that each group naturally assumes about the other.
    I am not saying what is done is right but it is inevitable and racial stereotypes are so deep rooted that most of the time we are not even aware of it. Indians freely use the N word, when the actress Rimi Sen said ‘My director is so good that he can even make a black African look pretty’ nothing happened she didn’t even understand what she said was offensive.

  6. Oh come on. Simpsons is simpsons because it is so politically incorrect. The scottish have a bigger bone of contention in that case with the always abusing groundkeeper, the koreans are shown as sweatshop workers, etc. Your neighbours laughed hard at the call center scene because they go through it every day and not because it is racist and demeaning. Obviously, there will be a few racists everywhere and you can’t help that.
    Do you think that by not making the Seven Eleven Apu say ‘thank you come back …’ will do anything to cure the real racists? Stereotypes are fun and they should be taken as such.

  7. By same logic average American is a fat, dumb and lazy guy as Homer is shown in *every* episode of Simpsons.

    Sometimes Apu is shown in positive light also.

    Given the option would you like to eliminate the character of Apu from Simpsons or keep it as it is ?

    Has any firm pulled back call center jobs ( outsourcing) out of India after watching Transformer ? Inspite of widespread local protests they haven’t !

    Better representation in politics and popular culture will help changing the stereotype till than let us all try to celebrate 7-11 by below ;

    Yes we have monoply over retail business !

    Service industry( retail) is the biggest provider of jobs and siginficant part of GDP in US.

    We are creating more jobs in US directly and indirectly as well !!!

  8. @Kunal: “Your neighbours laughed hard at the call center scene because they go through it every day and not because it is racist and demeaning”
    Absolutely. All of them call Dell and all of them find incompetent Indians. Right you are.
    “Stereotypes are fun.”
    Well..mm…no.
    @Sam: Would I eliminate the character of Apu from Simpsons? Kindly read my post. I think I have made it pretty clear where my objection is: its not with the original intent but the selective promotion of the Apu stereotype, once the “Thank you come again” has become a racist taunt. Why isn’t the promotion based on the “sloppy white fat American” or the “sweatshop workers” ? Ask yourself why Jar Jar Binks was not considered to be funny.

  9. GB,

    I thought that telephone call was handled by a call center employee of Middle Eastern origin. Especially true because of the setting of the action scene – wasn’t he in Qatar ?

    Also the obvious symbol of a Muslim – the guy sported a beard.

    Overall, I think we do a horrible job of reaching out and leading in the community. How many Indian/Indian-American folks do you think

    1. Lead a nationally recognized sports team
    2. Are Leaders in the military
    3. Lead any kind of large well recognized outfit – like a large company or a large non-profit
    4. Lead a political org

    Other than good education and a large paycheck, what exactly are Indian-Americans known for ?

    BG

  10. @Bengali Guy: I am surprised you thought it was middle eastern origin because the audience was plainly Apu-ian. Secondly, middle eastern men are not associated with call centers—Indians are. Thirdly, the call from Qatar was being routed somehow through India—please do not ask for sense in Transformers. Fourth, the reviews of Transformer which had an issue with the call center episode referred to it as the Indian call center worker.(“An apathetic Indian telephone operator almost gets the military dudes killed” from here) Fifthly, at least a few audience associated it with the “dothead/thank you” stereotype—not that many Americans understand the distinction between an Arab and an Indian.
    As to the next part many of the most powerful medical doctors are Indians. Indian Americans hold leadership positions in many universities. When you say Indian-Americans, do you refer to naturalized Americans or to people born in US?
    @Aditi: My point was not that racism or stereotyping is inevitable or not. As to Rimi Sen’s comment: of course it is deplorable. However the fact that Rimi Sen is a racist is quite orthogonal to the discussion here.

  11. The response is sereotyping, education, education and more education.
    Sikhs have started to do a pretty good in this after the horror they had to go through, post 9/11, with even educated Amereicans confused them of being Taliban clones, just because of their turbans.

    Unfortuantely. people of India, are not very articulate in educating others about prevailing misconceptions and it is those misconceptions that take the form of nasty stereotypes.

    Ironically, Carlos Mencia (of Comedy Central), did a very interesting sketch on how inarticulate people of Indian origin are, in refuting negative stereotypes (often maliciously unrelated) about themselves. Its funny that even a stereotypist comedian like Mencia had to step in, to refute Indian stereotypes.

    Btw, the sketch involved Osama and Gandhi.

  12. @GB I brought in Rimi Sen, simply because she is not a racist, but her condition is exactly like Chutiya ‘Kya izzat lootna buri baat hai’…this actress is not aware that what she said was wrong. That’s why I mentioned her.

  13. I thought it would be interesting to note that Simpsons creator Matt Groening named Apu after the character from Ray’s Apu Trilogy.
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apu_Nahasapeemapetilon)

    That aside, whats annoying about the whole “Thank you come again” deal is that it packages the Apu stereotype to be applied to all Indians and because of its cartoon origins the term is seen as benign, even entertaining.
    But when it comes to other groups, latinos, blacks etc. People are careful about what they say.

    You’re not going to see an Aunt Jemima model at the mall anytime, why should you see someone pretending to be Apu in your 7/11.

  14. GB,

    Doctors, Techies, Academics simply wont cut it. No matter how high their achievements might be, no matter how desirable they might be as prospective grooms, or how lucrative they may be as hedge fund LPs.

    They will never be national celebrities. Period. There just isn’t any glamor in any of those professions. They will never be “cool” in the national psyche.

    Respected and envied – yes. Loved and admired – no. And the respect factor isn’t simply enough to deter the scriptwriters,directors and their producers when they bring out these movies. Since we are not official minorities and never will be, the only way to get national sympathy is through sacrifice for “OTHERS” – leading in the military, performing for your team and fans, leading large non-profits come to mind.

    US is a society that is not ashamed to take merciless potshots even at their president. In such a free society, one of the ways to make sure that you are not made such cruel fun off is by showing our leadership – to show that we are stakeholders in this society. Another advantage is – no one wants to take a chance and offend the boss.

    A few posters keep on claiming that we need to “educate” others and increase “awareness” etc etc. You know what, Americans just don’t care.

    Off my soapbox. Have a good weekend.

    BG.

    ps. For purposes of this subject, Indians & Indian Americans fall in the same bucket. No difference. Perhaps some folks are trying to make a mark – like Kal Penn and Bobby Jindal – but the general image is otherwise. And I saw transformers on its opening night. My friends and myself thought that guy to be middle-eastern and not Indian. Agree to Disagree on this one.

  15. @GB

    I agree. I wrote that last para to show that intentions of creation and intention with which created is used are not always one and the same.

    And I think the best possible thing we can do is protest in a civilised manner.

    With these kind of differences come the dangers of generalisation. When people start to think, Indians are big time sissies and they can’t take jokes made on them.

    As you know one Indian doctor was caught in Glasgow Car Attack, and since then all Indians are looked at as some kind of suspicious beings. ( Obviously this is an overgeneralised statement, not all british are that eccentric). But things like thiss do happen. And like them we also fall in the pit of same generalisation that all whites are racist bastards. There is a similar flaw in both the side’s character then don’t u think so? That’s why our protest should be civilised, we must take the big picture and think its the subset against which we are protesting and not the whole western population. So that the jingoist mentality the islamic fundamentalists suffers from, doesn’t affect us also.

  16. Anyone recall the potrayal of Indians in Indiana Jones and the temple of doom ? Personally Iam all for laughing at our own idiocracies and follies. But sometimes it seems as if people use laughing at some culture or nation as a mean of underplaying their own short comings; after all laughter is a kind of aggression and however we cloak it with names like satire or clever humour, what is being actually done is school yard bullying albeit in a ‘civilised , politically correct’ way.

  17. Sorry for posting the same post Twice.

    GB,

    Can you please delete one of them? My Dell tried to commit suicide while trying to post it, And an Indian call center techie helped me a lot while fixing it!!

    Indians are great!! LOL
    :-)

    Ankan

  18. Hello GB. Its really great responsiveness on your part to be actually addressing the issue of ‘sale-able Racism’ in your own inimitable style laced with wry humor and incisive sarcasm. Though a welcome deviation from your oft-scathing and always entertaining reviews………I think this issue has got deeper roots. And that it can never be tackled completely. We Indians have our Sardar-ji jokes……and laugh at Madrasi pronunciations…Don’t we ? So it can’t be helped. …And yes, just wanted to let you know that I have put up the link to your blog on my own blog for easy access. I hope you have no reservations ? Till next time. Keep smiling! [:)]

  19. @Rishi: Education absolutely. It also needs voices of protest—civilized non Jihadi protest to show that at least not all of us take campaigns that profit on the back of a racist barb with silence or with the “Hey the Westerner has made a joke as us. Laugh, laugh, it’s so funny—at least they have not ignored us”
    @Aditi: Splendid analogy.
    @Footballnath: “But when it comes to other groups, latinos, blacks etc. People are careful about what they say.”
    I think we know why that is.
    @BG: The only thing people respect in US is your wallet. With Indians being a prosperous and by recent account populous community in America, they do have the Dead Presidents to amplify their voice. In a way, the very fact that Paula Zahn discusses the issue shows that there is some awareness—-a few years ago, this would have passed below all media radars.
    @Ankan: True. In common perception, Indians and Indian Muslims have been tagged. Expect more racial profiling while traveling abroad.
    @Tys: In a previous post I did mention exactly this thing about Temple of Doom….I agree with your comment totally.
    @Ankan: Done. So did you have the urge to yell Mf*** dothead because you couldnt understand the accent. Oh right you wouldnt. You are Indian too.
    @WTF: Coined “clowntown”. My how ingenious.
    @Whatsinaname: We do. Bollywood has used, in sickening ways, regionalism/racism as humor props—fortunately I think this trend is on a downswing. And thanks for linking to me…no reservations of course

  20. Hi GB, from GB.

    I am the author of the Apu piece you linked to on Pickled Politics, with regard to sympathetically etching his character.

    I have been meaning to post something on Ultrabrown following up on recent events, but I’ll quickly mention something here.

    I think you and I are agreed that the blame lies not at the door of the Simpsons creators, but the racists that utilise Apu as fodder for abuse. When you say: “Incidentally, you do wonder why none of the other racial stereotypes depicted in the Simpsons ever had such a malignant effect in the real world.” it is indeed worrying that Americans seem to have been more keen to abuse Indians than others.

    I think it’s also important to point out there is a difference between the depiction of Apu in the Simpsons and the villagers of Pankot in the Temple of Doom. However I fully accept that the subtle nature of Apu is lost on many.

    Hence the reason that despite me being a fan of Apu and the Simpsons, I have been uncomfortable with an aspect of the 7/11 campaign – the desire to and willingness of shopkeepers to dress as and be referred to as Apu. Jeez what a woeful sentence, sorry. I am sure many thick bigots will conflate these shopkeepers with a risible stereotype, if they didn’t already.

    A few places have cited my article in light of the Apu controversy, which I wrote almost 2 years ago about my experience IN THE UK. Just wanted to say that I’m not blindly in disagreement with Manish and co, you and he especially have made very good arguments which have changed my perspective.

    Sorry about the long post.

  21. I have seen maybe 2 episodes of The Simpsons till date and I wasn’t aware of the Indian character in it. But I too watched ‘Transformers’ in a theater recently with about 7 other Indians. While its impossible to say for sure, I thought the depiction of the Indian call center was meant to be derogatory (notice how the operator was shown picking his nose). When I say “meant to be derogatory”, I mean that the movie’s script writers fully intended to cash in on the sentiment of dislike for “these Indians taking away American jobs” prevalent among a section of the American public (and not on their ability to “get the subtle bit of racial humor”) – I think you thought the same Arnab. The scene did get a lot of laughs from the audience (no abuse though), and the other Indians with me did not appear to consider it all that derogatory either.

    Of course, it is likely that the reason for this sentiment of dislike among a section of the American public is not entirely racism, but partly driven by dislike from the fact that a few Americans have lost jobs to those call enters (which has been covered widely by the media as well). Perhaps there would be a similar reaction had American jobs been outsourced to call centers in a white country like, say, Russia instead of India.

  22. I must say, I didn’t know anything about this call centre thing in Transformers. That’s really disappointed me, I have been looking forward to this film for 2 years as a crazed fan of the cartoon. Sounds like a lame parochial dig at call centres and, as you say Debashish, trying to appeal to those pissed at jobs going to India.

  23. here’s a remedy- Kill the joke…

    GB, once again I agree with your point of view..like always you bring forth a very relevant issue in your now trademark absorbing and politically correct way.

    But for a change, lets not just be wise fence sitters, we could do more…
    A slur is only as spiteful as the Victim makes it out to be. Show your pain/repraoch, and it would only please/encourage the perpetrator…laugh at it, and it would lose its sting.
    I would say, we go a step further, lets use the racist taunt on ourselves and kill the joke..

    back in school, the kids starting teasing me with some name. on my mom’s suggestion, I started addressing myself with the same name, even to the teachers.. soon it wasn’t funny anymore and became a boring cliche’

    There is nothing wrong with the “thank you, come again” stereotype. I don’t work in a grocery store, but I guess I would still use this – more often now

    15 yrs ago someone could trouble me by calling me names, now they can only make me smile, or even laugh- at them

    Manu

    Jai Tendulkar, Jai Jai Tendulkar

  24. @ GB.. thanks.. i think.. maybe not coined but still reinterpreted.. is that really that important?

    @debasish: Outsourcing is an emotive issue and will be raised by the Democrats. and we know on whose side Hollywood is..

    @Manu: Jai tendulkar. JAI JAI TENDULKAR. Class proven again.

  25. @Manu: agree with you 100% – take the sting out of the joke.
    Also, I personally consider people who use racial and other stereotypes to bully / poke fun at other people as totally classless, boorish fools. You will find that in most cases these people have their own insecurities and they use such readily available boorish humor – which looks good only on the TV screen – to mask their own misery. Anyway, such remarks when stretched beyond reasonable limit lose their humor anyways – except to the simple minded – who I pity

  26. Rishi could not pose his comment for some reason: he wrote in

    Educators Society for Heritage of India, which works (or tries to), with the American school system to educate them about India and the people of Indian origin.
    Schools… thats where it all begin.
    http://www.eshiusa.org/

  27. Sid, Manu,

    I agree that insults never really hurt anyone and it’s best to leave the imbeciles in their own deluded world.

    I personally consider people who use racial and other stereotypes to bully / poke fun at other people as totally classless, boorish fools. You will find that in most cases these people have their own insecurities…

    Agreed again. Ignoring such stereotyping and boorish humour is the way to go at an individual level, but when you think about how such stereotypes have been taken to extremes and used to justify atrocities against certain sections of society, it is not exactly just a laughing matter. Political correctness can be suffocating and dogmatic, but there is a reason why certain types of behaviour force sensible people to take notice.

    To Bengali Guy, it’s not clear to why Indian-Americans (or any other ‘community’ for that matter) should try to prove their worth to the country. In any case, celebrity culture and sport are all fine and seductive, but the most of the stuff that makes America what it is, is pretty unglamorous stuff (that’s my perception, I’m not an American btw). Half-witted people may think certain things are cool or uncool, doesn’t really matter. Personally, I wouldn’t care if anyone thinks I’m ‘uncool’ because of what I look like etc. That’s their problem.

  28. in two weeks time i’l be heading west wards into the US of A to study, experiencing USA for the first time. sitting here i have no clue how the racial environment is there. i donno how i’l be received. a little anxious. considering how removed i’m from the condition there i have no smart ass comments. but i do like the Simpsons and am gonna download all the 41 gb of it, n watch the film.

  29. Sriram:
    Welcome to the US of A.
    Having travelled in different parts of US, both in the urban coastal areas, as well as the rustic Midwest, I can tell you from my experience, that people of all racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds are very receptive, friendly and politically correct, for the most part.

    Being one of the world’s most diverse societies, there are ethno-racial stereotypes, but American society has for the most part, done a very good job in handling them. Obviously, the threat of Islamic terror has created a lot of doubt in the common Americans mind, and they like many people in other parts of the world, tend to look at it as a “ethno-racial” issue, rather than a “religious” issue.
    Political correctness and half truths add to the problem.

    That is why a Turkish or Chechniyan or Indonesian Muslim can get away (because they look European and Asian, respectively) without any suspicious looks, whereas a Indian Hindu or Sri Lankan Buddhist, will have his/her bag checked a dozen times.

    Universities here, are very cosmopolitan in nature, and you should not have anything to worry about, except for the rare Baptist or Jehovah’s witness christian nutcase, trying to convert you to a Christian.

    Just a suggestion…at the risk of sounding pedantic.
    Try to get to know the Americans and other diverse nationalities in your campus and dont just hang around with Indian graduate students.

  30. I found the call center scene in Transformers very funny. After reading your experience, suddenly I dont :(

    Now, the same can be said about Bollywood movies – hardly do I ever see a bollywood movie talking anything good about western world – usually in all bollywood movies, western world is treated with a bit of scorn; the western born hero usually is not family oriented and a womanizer, western values (if they exist!) are scorned upon in the movies, and overall the cultural superiority of Indians is brought about in our movies too. Which movie have you seen where the west has been depicted rather generously in our movies?

    I guess, this 7-11 promotion is an extension of that in this country… that’s how they are projecting their characters… it is a weird marketing tactic, but something about Manish Vij’s point doesnt connect with me!!

  31. Too much melodrama in your theater experience, even though it may be true. We regularly had shouted “gora chutiya” in Indian theaters. So what? This is just trying to create a mountain out of a molehill. You may have a big issue with a Congress-nominated president nominee (preseumably supporting a police constable who apparently sold information about freedom fighters to the British during quit India moviement? And whose wife has acquired – quite magically – significant wealth doing nothing!) – but please do not start BJP-fying everything by fomenting intolerance at slightest ridicule society makes of things. I actually enjoy reading most of your posts. But the last few weer noticeably vacuous. No offense.

  32. Pingback: Apu and Simpsons: Much Ado Over Nothing « Life is a street car named Desire

  33. There is a line between humor and intended mockery. And by the way in one of those links you gave, someone said that the makers of Simpson are very knowledgeable as they took the name Apu from Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy. Now Ray himself once said to his biographer, Andrew Robinson that many Bengali people loved Pather Panchali as it afforded them a good cry…and they said that thats his best. So Ray joked that how could he improver later as he had already reached his best. Ritwik Ghatak also echoed the same in “Rows and Rows of fences” : “You guys applauded Pather Panchali as a pure work of art but you could not appreciate Aparajito. The loss is yours.” Because Apu Trilogy is anything but a generalization of poor Indian boy growing up, as the language is quite universal. So the fact that the makers saw only the “Poor Apu” part in Apu Trilogy ignoring the cinematography and the elliptical script, then it speaks a lot about their sagacity. Maybe they are not quite so different from the weeping Bengali housewives that Ray mentioned. When Ray was insisting Peter Sellers to play the lead role in ‘The Alien’, he saw in one party Sellers mimicking Apu as a monkey in full view of Ray. Now people can say that this was just petty humor and well Sellers was a small guy while Ray was 6 feet 5…. but Ray himself found that debasing, correctly, as do the people who found this 7/11 thing disgusting, and wrote to Marie Seton about it. It reflects an acute lack of sensitivity on this great actor’s part.

    The character of Apu is a PHD who maintains a shop- in short a deliberate fusion in order to portray, “You are a brilliant but pathetic person who deserves to be ridiculed”.

    “Verily, nothing tickles the racist bone more than to see debasement of the “other”.
    Absolutely GB, absolutely.

    People who shout “Freedom of speech / freedom to ridicule should also shut the fuk up. Why? This—->Rape only hurts if you fight it.

    Now this guy incurred a lot of opprobrium but there may be a section of the population who got the ‘dark humour’. So I’m sorry, but if Apu is okay then so is he. Just like if Hussein can draw Saraswati nude, then many people can also make posters of Prophet Muhmmad copulating with a pig. Or as Gb asked that comedian on BBC, “Would you have done a caricature on ML King?” Ahem, no. So either everything is fine or dont offend anybody, especially deliberately. So how do people get away? Master blogger GB puts it so so very eloquently:

    “In this context, the Simpson’s production house (Fox what else !) and Seven Eleven’s publicity stunts seem a rather cynical marketing decision based on assessing the two sides: how many people do we offend versus how many do we please. We know which side of the balance won. I doubt if it would have been the case if the target was any other racial or linguistic group in today’s “politically correct” atmosphere.”

    Spellbindingly beautifully put!

  34. @Rohin: Thanks for the clarification. I saw the point in your 2005 post of course.
    @Debashish: Well there was immense anti-Italian feeling in the beginning of the 19th century. So of course what you say is true.
    @Rohin: True.
    @Manu: Sure killing the joke is awesome. Ultimately its the only thing that works. But it also has to be associated with a corresponding sensitivity among the majority. As an example, African Americans regularly refer to each other using the n-word as a way of “taking back” the n-word. However it is still the case that a White uses the word, it is regarded as racism.
    And yes SRT was marvelous.
    @Dipanjan: Corrected.
    @Nanda Kishore: Hmm
    @Sriram: Excellent advice from Rishi.
    @Anomit: Had no idea what this meant. Thanks for enlightening me.
    @Supremus: Well in Hindi movies it used to be the sadgi of the village vs the corruption of the city. Now replace the city with “phoren”.
    @Anonymous: I understand the vacuosness comes from the fact that you think I am supporting the BJP man. Which if I may say, with no offense, is quite narrowminded being a supposition as inane as saying that I oppose PP because she is a woman. Now as to you shouting “gora chutiya” —do you still shout that in a crowded theatre, translated into English, in say Mountain View, California? Would you? Just for melodrama’s sake?
    Incidentally,when you say it is me who is promoting intolerance, its you who are being melodramatic or should I even use the word “biased” when you consider the mfucking dothead to be tolerant and protesting it, in a civilized fashion, intolerance. Do answer where I am promoting intolerance—I would if I wanted you to shout “gora chutiya” everytime someone shouted something anti-desi.
    And no I did not take offense. You are free to disagree with me. Even under your own name. But do go easy on the beans…they do fillup the vacuum with gas.
    @Yourfan2: Hmm.
    @All: Repeating my point, I enjoy and myself engage in all kind of humor—some very politically incorrect. I love Simpsons for their humor. I wish to be be clear on that. But once the humor has been misappropriated with many people applauding the stereotype because of their literal interpretation of it, incorporating a concept that was once biting satire into racist hate speech, a line has been crossed. And once that has happened, the milking of that stereotype for profit by a corporation is what I object to.

  35. Pingback: Ultrabrown - Satjayit Ray, Peter Sellers and aliens

  36. “But once the humor has been misappropriated with many people applauding the stereotype because of their literal interpretation of it, incorporating a concept that was once biting satire into racist hate speech, a line has been crossed.”

    As others have said, why not just ignore the fact that humor has been misappropriated by a few racists? Continue to enjoy Simpsons and applaud 7-11 for having a fine sense of humor. Rather than protesting against the promotion, ask the desis in the area to throng those stores do all their shopping there for next few days.

    But ofcourse, easy for me to say because I have never personally experienced anything remotely racist behavior in US. In other places, yes. UK, Germany (mostly in Frankfurt airport and on Lufthansa flights in the ’90s – they have changed now seeing that there is a lot of business to be had from Indians), etc. But nothing in US.

  37. Thanks a lot Rishi.
    GB what i liked about the post which I only noted after I’d made the earlier comment was the bastardized use of Apu in the promotion, where the meaning changed from what the creators meant and how the marketers promoted it. Its funny, and i appreciate it for how capitalist society works where a Simpsons is run on Fox.

  38. Gb can we expect a post on the priceless Sonu Nigam-Subhash K Jha topic? I’m unwell and searching all places for a good laugh.

  39. though this is a bit unrelated to the discussion, the South Park people have gone and pissed off almost everyone. In fact they apologise if they have missed you out! I have never watched Simpsons but regularly follow South Park.

    Is there any difference between how South Park pokes fun at Jews, Christians, over weight people, celebrities (JLo, Alec Baldwin, GWB, Hillary Clinton …), Scientologists and anyone else you can think of ?

    Of course, the point still remains is what the creator wanted the character to represent and how it was percieved by the unwashed masses.

  40. I still don’t get it it – entirely

    I guess it depends on your experiences. For those who have little or no experience of racism directed towards them, it is still quite funny.

    There is a theory that Indians in US are facing discrimination (serious and minor) for the first time in their lives often – and are therefore too sensitive about it.

    I have been laughed at and mocked for my name, my religion, my accent, my language, my region, my looks. Not all at the same time though.

    Every Hindi movie makes a caricature out of Christians. So what? let them, I am ok with it. Even one of those so called new age movies like Cheeni Kum poked fun at the white cook and the South Indian waiter. So what? If I remember North Indian contempt for South Indians, it is a big issue – but if I look at everything that way, I have no time in my life other than to stay feeling offended.

    And I have better things to do.

  41. Have never had the oppurtunity to watch the Simpsons, so cannot comment on the creators’ viewpoint and his motive for creating the “Apu” character.

    As an Indian staying in India one can say that he gives two hoots to what the average American interprets from the depiction of Apu and whether he extend his mannerisms to all of us. They are as inconsequential to me as any Martian will be. But then one should give two hoots when your identity is beng laughed at.

    It irritates me further when the name Apu is being used in a way not dissimilar to “nigger”. When one talks of Apu, he thinks of the protagonist of the Apu trilogy, the brilliant work of art by Ray. In short, happy thoughts come. Now they have been defiled.

    I have issues when NRIs (the seven eleven employees) are made to act like the character – this is sheer nonsense, demeaning and humiliating to say the least.

    The Simpsons creators may not have intended it but they have created a monster.
    Least one can expect from them is to clarify their views and motives and appeal to the seven eleven people to stop this nonsense!!

    As for the Seven Eleven guys, the least I can appeal to Arnab and others of the Indian Diaspora (sic), please stop buying from them.

    P.S.: The fact that the character has been named Apu implies that the creators have seen or at least know of the Ray classics. If that is the case, surely the motive behind the Apu character may not be bad.

  42. Personally, I don’t find Apu demeaning, though maybe the way it has been used by popular culture subsequent to the animated series has strayed from the original vision of the creators.

    Granted the Kwik-e-Mart concept (all 11 stores) might be considered offensive, especially if employees are encouraged to ordered to be in brownface all spouting “Thank you come again”. That would be totally racist.

    But if the promotion restricted to an Apu doll and renamed desserts and hot dogs, I fail to see what’s offensive about that.

    How is it different from a Chettinad cuisine evening in a restaurant where all the usually dapper waiters dress up in lungis and smear sandalwood on their foreheads? Or a Hawaii party where waitresses have to wear coconut shell tops? Aren’t these stereotypes as well?

    Is the intention behind Quick-E-Mart racist? Everyone seems to agree that it probably is not. Are we allowed to get offended anyway? Yup. Everyone is free to get offended at anything at all.

    Evidently Greatbong is offended. May are not. Cool.

    @Dhananjay Mhatre:

    “As for the Seven Eleven guys, the least I can appeal to Arnab and others of the Indian Diaspora (sic), please stop buying from them.”

    Most of them are run by franchise owning Indians. Boycotting them will hurt Indians more.

  43. arre yaar…how many times have we Indians ourselves cast dark looking giants as “Mambo” or “Sambo” who go around breaking the good hero’s bones (who usually …unless its Rajnikant, looks very brahminical)

    Or how many times will we portray the chowkidaar as a “bahadur” who says “Zee shaab”

    We Indians are pretty rascist ourselves- caste system is nothing but rascism, we have all the santa banta jokes, south vs north caricatures but we cant stand a generalised portrait in a satire of american life??????
    Its not even India, that APU character are the guys who go to live the american dream. They gotta get pricked by their own thorns if they want their dollar dreams. That ways there should be protests on how The Simpsons portray the white trash character Moe, or Homer himself, or the semetic looking Mr wilson or something. But then we woyuldnt be laffing and saying “ha ha, so politically incorrect but so true!!”

    either that or we have doordarshan serials talking aout ekta in anekta followed by state sponsored pogroms…

  44. @Dhananjay Mahatre: By saying “It irritates me further when the name Apu is being used in a way not dissimilar to “nigger”. ”

    you show you are a rascist yourself…so pls, stop acting so offended

  45. @ Ankit
    aside from the apu discussion. You mention the “good hero” in Bollywood has a “Brahminical look”.
    What is a “brahminical look”?

  46. Tell me where do stereotypes come from ? Usually from statistics. If they are showing the Kwik-E mart guys as indians, it’s mostly because that’s who you find in a typical 7-11 store. Now don’t tell me that the desi guys in there are saintly. I have seen them try to cheat people in every way possible. Why do we indians feel the need to be taken very seriously? We are simply one step away from the jihadists who try burn down everybody who doesn’t agree to their views? If someone who has been following simpsons ( I have for nearly 8 years), you will notice that the biggest butt of all the jokes is the average middle class american, who is shown as the dumb and lazy guy. How many times have bollywood shown tom altars and bob christos as the bad guys who are out to destroy/take over india? What would a (hypothetical) white guy living in mumbai make out of such movies? And we are not even that liberal. Just look at comedy central to see how many black/hispanic people make fun of themselves? Excepting russell peters, i don’t see any other indian origin guy doing that.

  47. @ Matt
    “brahminical look = round, white & handsome”..

    Man…that speaks a lot of how far someone can take malicious stereotypes to….
    and how important it is to educate ourselves.

  48. GB while you are writing this blog against the Kwik-7-11 shop marketing, as I understand Ultra brown isn’t.

    I went through this article on Gaurdian and it seems to me that he against the Apu character of Simpsons itself calling it racist.

  49. Fifty years ago, when my mom-in-law was a bahu, the saases were the EVIL characters in the Bengali movies.

    Nowadays, it is the ‘ingreji’-sprouting, jeans clad bahu who wants to take away the handsome ‘brahmanical’ hero, the mamma’s boy, to an apartment in the big bad city.

    Poor me!

    Whenever my mom-in-law watches a Swapan Saha movie, she keeps casting dark glances at me.

    SO—————
    I quickly change the channel and try to get an old bengali film — the kind where Molina Devi was the victimised bahu.

    But old lady very smart.
    Starts talking about HER bahu-hood and trots out ancient tales of domestic ‘kuchute-pana’.

    Ah well, sometimes one can never win.

  50. GB, I have been reading ur blog for sometime, and I guess this is the first time that I find myself totally disagreeing with you. However, I am surprised that so many people do find this offensive.

    I would tend to agree with what Shan has said in his comment. Only the self-confident can laugh at themselves, for even though they laugh they have a sense of their self-worth. I see nothing wrong in Apu having a thick Indian accent, or of worshipping elephant headed Gods, or just wanting money(at the expense, sometimes of his own dignity). He is funny, its a funny character and we as indians(and many immigrants) are somewhat like that and there is nothing wrong with that at all. I think my thick Indian accent is as cool, as thick and as foriegn as a West Indian, an american or a Yorkshire accent.

    I mean, why should I be bothered if someone makes fun of my accent or beliefs? Do I want to say that no, all Indians are not like that, look I can speak english in the right way, the perfect way, without an Accent, just like an American so don’t stereotype me? Or that hey, I never say ‘Ttank u, Kome again’ because saying that shows I am stupid? No way, I say Ttank you a lot and I am proud of my Indian accent and will not change it. Yes, Apu is open to many shady business practices, but aren’t many Indian immigrants here like that? Don’t stereotype us, because most Indians are highly educated, totally honest guys, most of whom are working in very well-qualified jobs? No way, we are a vibrant, large community of taxi drivers, engineers, 711 workers, petrol pump attendants etc. and yes, a lot of us are hustlers but along with that there is also a lot of hard work and ambition and sacrifice which is also shown in Apu’s character. Not only are there many wonderful qualities in this community that I am proud of and which make me less sensitive to crticism or caricature (as I am sre of just how good we are) but many of these qualities are represented in the show.

    I don’t think the character of Apu will change how americans think of me, for they know me as a person. Yes, the line ‘Thank You, Come Again’ has become such a catch phrase that racists use as ammunition to attack us. But come on, do you think they would not have done so if Apu had not been there? Look at how many Americans have strong feelings about Outsourcing and make videos talking about bad service, funny accents etc. from call centres in India. Now that is pure racism, hate which is not even based on any just cause. I mean, most Indian call centre workers definitely provide better service and are way more intelligent(is that racist?) than the US call centre wrokers and they also are taught the American accent. Do you think this would have been any less if Apu were not there? The guy who yelled dotheads etc. would still have been there without Apu, but the guy who said ‘Thank u, come again’, and got the audience laughing and I can bet rooting for the Indians and Apu would not.

    Apu has just given a weapon to those who are racists in the first place. But to say that his character in some way incites racism or negativity is wrong. I mean, I loved Mehmood as the dance master in ‘Padosan’ but I did not automatically think ‘Oh fucking South Indians, they only eat Idli-Dosa etc.’ everytime he came on screen. I had a good laugh, and it was a funny character.

    However, at the end of the day, this is about The Simpsons and they make fun of a lot of things, it’s in the spirit of the show. I think we should be less uptight about this. Let’s just watch it as a genuinely funny show, rather than read too much into it. Anyway, I was quite surprised to see a lot of people holding the opposite view, so perhaps there is somethingi am missing, but this is my reading of it.

  51. @Ankit –
    My surname is Mhatre and not Mahatre. Seems like you do not respect us Mhatres and our ilk so as to spell our surname so carelessly and inarticulate. By writing this, you are showing that you are the bigger racist.

    Sounds prepostorous? Then compare this to your comment.

    Saying the words “in a way not dissimilar to “nigger”” means that Apu can be used as derogatively as the term “nigger”. It does not in any way mean that I use that word. It only means that “nigger is a derogative term which should not be used. And then you imply I use the term!!

    Do not use my comment to prove that “Indians are the biggest racists”.

    Stop making conclusions to serve your ends.

  52. GB
    We might soon be going to US. And this post the comments have given me a fair idea of what to expect there. “Thank you come again” would have sounded so harmless to me otherwise…..
    Have been living in a different world i guess. :-)
    Thanks a ton.

  53. This may not be entirely relevant to the discussion here, but it is a comparable study of a similar situation faced by a culture that must have felt as alien in America as many people of Indian origin in the United States do today.
    A brilliant documentary called ‘The Slanted Screen: Asian Men in Film & Television’ by Jeff Adachi (http://www.slantedscreen.com/) premiered on public television in the US a few months ago. It is a powerful commentary on the stereotyping of Asian men in Hollywood for decades (nerdy, bad teeth, thick glasses, bad english, wimpy), and the racial biases that were both a cause and result of this practice.

    As with Apu, many of these stereotyped characters were meant to be ‘funny’, and for decades, millions of Chinese and Korean and Japanese in the US laughed along good naturedly. There were no protest marches, magazine articles or picketing of theatres. But know what, it turns out that they weren’t enjoying it after all! Now isn’t that a surprise! It led to self esteem and identity crisis issues even in second generation Asian children growing up in America.
    Of course, it does not mean that people of Indian origin do or should react in the same manner. The world has changed since the 60s and 70s. Presumably we do not need a Bruce Lee to come onto the scene and change the representation of Indians in American popular culture for ever. However it is a point to ponder, and this documentary is certainly worth a watch.

  54. Dhananjay Mhatre in America we live in Fear of even typing the word that you typed. For us it is the word that must not be spoken or typed and if it is to be mentioned at all you can only mention its first letter.

    Now they are trying to do that with the word Fag. While I may except that the “N” word be wiped from existence, where do we end? Do destroying words lead to more acceptance or just create resentment?

    I can see why Apu might be considered in a negative light, especially when there are no other Desis on American television (though that is beginning to change), but what would be useful to understand is that all of the Simpsons are made out of stereotypes from the angry Scottish Elementary schoolkeeper, to the mayor who acts like JFK, to Homer Simpson himself. It is a world where the cops (white police chief and two other cops, one white and one black) are always corrupt. The Simpsons portray Christianity in a negative light with the portrayals of Homer’s ultra Christian neighbor Ned Flanders (Hi di Ho neighbor) and Reverend Lovejoy.

    Oh, while

    That doesn’t justify Apu, but it does explain them. There isn’t a good character in the bunch, but by the Simpsons standards Apu is probably one of the best of them. He is one of the most likable characters on the show.

    That said, I have stopped watching the show because of its overly negative portrayal of American life. Sure I realize that comedy is based on hyperbole and satire often demands a negative portrayal of the subjects being portrayed, but still it gets tiresome.

    One of the things that have offended me not only with “the Simpsons” but “South Park” as well is how easily they attack Christianity. Both shows don’t deserve the audience they get and I choose to watch neither of them.

    Oh, if you want to talk about subservience just think of all the suffering that Ned Flanders has faced at the hand of Homer. Even up to the point of Homer killing his beloved wife (by accident). Of all the characters in the Simpsons, he has the greatest reason to hate Homer, but all he says to Homer is “Hi di ho Neigboroony”.

  55. @Mhatre
    apologies to you and your “ilk”. Seriously that was a typo …not a rascist statement! If I have problems with your argument why sould I bring in ur entire social group??????

    Thats not my style…maafi

    Acha, to the rest of the clan…another eg of similar racial typecasting…check out all yer old twinkle comics and see how the chinese/japanese characters under the stories from other countries bit are shown…eyes that slant at 78degrees, skin yellower than the aging paper and buck teeth????!!!

    Ok, so apu…apu apu….
    sorry bong, for prolonging the argument…just cant hold my tongue….;))

  56. Anyone that finds Apu or the Simpsons offensive simply does not get it. The worst thing any minorty can do is to bring more attention to anything they find as negative or racist. Be above it and laugh all the way to the bank. I joke about it all the time, I think it’s hilarious.
    Also, it can’t hurt to curb the amount of spices we ingest as it does seep from the pores and can be offensive to many. I love Indian food but I balance it out with all kinds of different cuisine. Finding a balance between keeping your identity and integrating is the only way to go.

  57. @Teabaggins:
    “Anyone that finds Apu or the Simpsons offensive simply does not get it. ”

    I have to disagree with that.

    Humour is subjective. It is defined by age, gender, ethnicity, race, region, religion, language, upbringing, even level of education and exposure to different cultures. When I meet old friends from my home-town, I don’t even find their humour funny any more. Have I lost my sense of humour? I don’t think so. For I seem to find plenty of other things pretty funny.

    Sorry, I don’t find the Simpsons, South Park and Family Guy funny. And it has nothing to do with the character of Apu. Humour is not universal, irrespective of whatever you’ve heard to the contrary.

    I don’t frequent comedy clubs in the US. It’s because I just don’t find a long litany of curses funny. I’m not offended. But it just doesn’t make me laugh. If comedians cannot make people laugh other than by poking fun at stereotypes and just being boorish, it is a sad commentary on comedy.

    I think comments like the one above by Teabaggins are sweeping statements that pass judgements on others based on somebody else’s definition of humour. And that’s unfair.

  58. Pingback: Not So Kwik: The Apu Dilemma (Postscript) « The Great Ganesha

  59. *Steve: Again, I have neither ever lived in the US nor intend to in the future. Hence I do not understand the stigma behind the “N” word.

    As for the Simpson issue, as you have said they are harsh on everyone. Credit to them for being so impartial. However if one character of theirs is being taken on face value by a corporate who are then making their own employees act out their superfluos interpretation which in fact is derogatory to the employees themselves, then it is a problem. Not with the Simpsons, but with the organization.

    @Ankit: My rant against the misspelling of my surname was sarcastic. Do not take everything on face value.
    And again, where is Tinkle comics coming in all this racism discussion? The drawing of the Chinese/Japanese is done that way in order for people (kids namely) to understand clearly that here stands a Chinese/Japanese. In the same way, any Indian depected in a foriegn comics will be depicted as brown with a big turban even though many Indians are fair and of the wheatish complexion and most have never wore a turban in their whole lives.

  60. @Subhadeep Paul:

    “Sorry, I don’t find the Simpsons, South Park and Family Guy funny.”

    Man you really need a sense of humor!!! :)

  61. C’mon man .. I have till now loved every one of your posts and have enjoyed them like anything, but this is really oversensitizing the issue. Apu is a harmless, fun character and I agree a clear case of propagating a stereotype, but you have to see the context it is in. This “ugly, oily Indian” is along with a fat, overeating retarded (sorry challenged) man, a police officer who represents everything wrong with the force .. every character in The Simpsons is a parody of something or someone and Apu just seems to be the one who was marketeable!! I mean who else will seven eleven use, can they hire a really fat cop to stand guard .. no but as an advertising campaign Apu makes clear sense. As for taking offense .. well as an Indian I never took offense at this stereotype because I know it for what it is and who really cares for what others think.

    The Italian Americans can complain about Fat Tony, the Scots can complain about groundskeeper Willy and so many more if you want to crib about things constantly. Just lay back and enjoy the fun and at least you show maturity in knowing things for as they are instead of taking offense at every small thing and classifying it as racism. Laugh and the world laughs with you, whine and the world will laugh at you.

    And I think most Indians don’t really give a shit (none here in India do at least) about this stereotype because we also have our stereotypes about others which we enjoy, hell we have so many stereotypes amongst ourselves we will get tired takin offense at everything. I think this was a the only one of your posts till now that I haven’t agreed with.

  62. And sorry for this but hey if you want to really rail about something go watch South Park and I am sure you and many others will find many denigrating and debasing material … where all I find is humour. Not clean, politically correct humour but amazing rib tickling comedy which allows me to relax and The Simpsons is the God of this genre. Seven elevens will just try to get in on a marketing gimmick and it doesn’t matter because that is what they do.

    This is the first time (well technically second) I have responded to your posts despite having read them all so at the end I love your posts .. but I love The Simpsons much more (and Apu is just adorable)

  63. @Shan: After reading this post, I got myself Season 18 of Simpsons (have only watched one episode yet, and didn’t think it was that great). Since you seem to be a Simpsons fan, which season/episode do you recommend I watch?

  64. @Shan:
    “Man you really need a sense of humor!!! ”

    Really? So I didn’t pass your humour test? Man, I am devastated!!

  65. Wish people yelled “thank you come again” at ME when I walk down Indian streets. Instead, as a white woman, I get ‘I want to f** you’ and “HELLO HOW ARE YOU I LOVE YOU” and “hey baby.” If that isn’t racist, why aren’t they yelling it at Indian women walking down the same street?

    I decided to go and live in a place where I knew fitting in would not be easy. No one made me do this, and if I don’t like it I can leave. The same is true for immigrants everywhere.

  66. Pingback: Thanking For Coming Again

  67. Well somebody posted this on the imdb boards in reply to your blog

    “First of all, the blog completely ignores Apu’s family members, who do not do these things and are portrayed in a very positive light. Also it ignores the fact that Moe and Homer do FAR worse things than Apu does. Also, it ignores the episodes that portray Apu as a good father and person in general. You can’t take snippets from the show and say they are degrading to Indians based on that alone. It seems that this blogger is seeing only the things he wants to see and nothing else. And if this is why people laugh at Apu, that is not the fault of the Simpsons’ writers, it is the fault of the viewer. It’s not the creators fault that people are idiots.”

    “It also ignores that great episode where Homer volunteers to help Apu with his citizenship test, but Homer ends up knowing far less about US history and government than Apu. ”

    “I’m offended that the wealthy are portrayed as heartless, willing to risk the lives and limbs of their employees to make a buck.

    I’m offended that the police officer, an authority figure, is portrayed as dim-witted and fat.

    I’m offended that the mayor, an authority figure, is portrayed as a corrupt womanizer.

    I’m offended that Homer, the head of the family, is portrayed as lazy and stupid. ”

    No offence GB but they have a point.

  68. @Pritish: I wondered whether to reply to your “point”. Considering the fact that I have repeated this time and time again. For many people, the fun in Simpsons is in not considering the subtle nuances of Homer’s family or the background of episodes, but simply in the crude stereotype. I am sure the man in the Transformers hall also had a “point”. Not that the original creators can be blamed for people misappropriating their characters—-if you and the IMDB commenter had bothered to read my post where I say:

    “I for one am not blaming the Simpsons for perpetrating/promoting racism against South Asians—after all if it was not “Thank you come again” it would have been something else. However my point is that things being as they are , Seven Eleven’s use of a character that has unhappy associations for many South Asian working men and women and the use of a line that has become a racist taunt, is according to me a rather insensitive gesture on the part of the corporation.”

    you and the commenters wouldnt be saying exactly the same thing in opposition:

    ” And if this is why people laugh at Apu, that is not the fault of the Simpsons’ writers, it is the fault of the viewer. It’s not the creators fault that people are idiots.”

    I do understand the urge to criticize but it would help if you(and IMDB commenters) read my post before you start doing so.

  69. hmmm i adore the african americans for their ability to take something racist like the N word and turn into something really cool. Now every suburban white boys wants to be a nigger. Points to be noted, perhaps in future we could see whiteboys playing with indian idols(not the TV show) action figures. Ah i truly wish for those days. It’s all about the cool factor. BTW there was a ‘Favorite Simpsons Character Poll’ in a blog, and Apu came 4th right after homer,bart and ralph. Now thats a sure sign!

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  71. First of all, people in America do enjoy racism (not only to Indians but to other Asians, African Americans, Mexicans, Eastern European immigrants) because it is fun for them being on “the other side of the wall” and gives them race privilege. They use this to feel superior as well as financial gains. They also cover it up by telling things like “Wow, I like Indian food” or “I really think Indian girls are pretty” or “You Indians are so smart”. Saying ‘Indians are the most racist’ is an indirect way of saying ‘Shut your mouth and bear with whatever we give you because people in your country also deride others as we are doing to you’. This attitude surprisingly does not challenge the very concept of racial slurs, in-fact it provide a logical justification to the actions. Very well indeed. Even we do this at home, but it is now up-to us how we want to deal with it when we face it abroad. But my observation is that there is no point in playing up regional differences abroad because we are anyways at a disadvantage, further division puts us at a greater collective disadvantage. Its the ‘settled’ (been in US for a very longtime/citizens) vs ‘new arrivals’ theory. If ‘new arrivals’ are divided and always fight among themselves and are racially abused by the ‘settled’ who are very much united then guess who is at disadvantage???

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