OPINION: “The Problem With Apu” is Crybullying

There’s a certain sort of “fan” that loves to label their pet peeves as horrible injustices or hate speech. This sort of sentiment completely hijacked the left before the election, derailing talk of equal pay or humane treatment of undocumented immigrants, and turned the conversation toward “cultural appropriation” and “manspreading.”

While many of those who initiated these PC crusades seem to understand the damage they’ve done (The Mary Sue, previously the worst offender, became rational), there are still those who remain so in love with their victim mentality and ignorance of real problems that they spend all their time engaging in social media crusades against innocuous jokes or characters.

A comedian named Hari Kondabolu recently created a documentary titled “The Problem with Apu” in which he and other comedians of Indian descent accused the character of inspiring childhood bullies and promoting stereotypes. Other entertainment news sites and blogs (Including The Mary Sue, they’re not perfect) began running articles and op-ed pieces accusing The Simpsons of racism over the character.

I, like many, chose to ignore this for a long time, but the “controversy” keeps showing up in the news. And just recently, Hank Azaria said he’d be willing to stop doing the voice of Apu and hinted the character might be removed from the show.

Azaria voiced Apu for almost 30 years.

As this “controversy” continues to gain publicity, the New York Times published an opinion piece comparing the character to blackface. These writers, and Kondabolu’s supporters, refuse to acknowledge the depiction of blackface found in one of Kondabolu’s own podcasts.

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I’ve previously written about the episode of his podcast titled “Das Racist & Blackface in Rome.” In this episode, Kondabolu’s brother tells a story of seeing a comedian in blackface while touring in Italy. He opens by saying Europeans are “Fucking stupid” At the end Kondabolu claimed someone got a picture of the Italian comedian in blackface and presented an image of Nintendo’s Mario with his face blacked out.

But on April 30, Kondabolu presented another ironic hint as to the trouble he’s made for himself by exploiting the “I’m offended!” culture.

My father died of a drug overdose while driving two or three years ago, as I told Kondabolu in a reply to this tweet. Some of his supporters tried to argue me down, maintaining their position that this obvious joke was not a joke but rather a PSA about distracted driving. Their justifications of that joke, as well as the blackface joke, show the cognitive dissonance that the offended crowd employs when defending the hypocrisy of an artist they like.

But maybe more importantly than all that, these jokes demonstrate a problem that Kondabolu seems currently unaware of: there’s no such thing as a non-offensive joke. Any joke told to an audience of more than 100 is likely to strike a nerve with someone in some way. And that’s supposed to be OK.

Whenever someone turns on a TV or, especially, attends a comedy event, there’s always a risk of hearing something personally offensive. Obviously some go too far, such as Michael Richards with his infamous psychotic meltdown, but today we have a culture of people who bend over backwards searching for reasons to be offended and they seem to believe that their being offended entitles them to creative control over other people’s work.

So far, channels and studios have proven reluctant to fight against this behavior. PC trolls have noted this and often claim to be offended to get their way, or simply because they can. Matt Groening recently said that “People love to pretend to be offended.” Defenders of Apu, and other creative works under siege by PC trolls, call this tactic “Crybullying.”

Kondabolu’s first Netflix special opens in a few weeks. If his career is a success (I doubt it, I’ve seen his podcasts), he will eventually find himself on the wrong side of one of these “I’m Offended!” censorship campaigns.

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