Adi Shankar has an idea to help The Simpsons deal with the criticism surrounding Apu. The Castlevania producer just launched a screenwriting competition that asks competitors to write a new Simpsons episode centered around Apu in a way that “subverts him, pivots him, intelligently writes him out, or evolves him in a way that takes a mean spirited mockery and transforms him into a kernel of truth wrapped in funny insight aka actual satire.”
The contest, called “Crowdsourcing the cure for The Simpsons,” is free and open to anyone, but Shankar asks some writers to consider whether they’re the best people to address the controversy. “If you don’t have any experience with Indian culture in America then you may not have the perspective and experience to write well on this topic,” the contest description reads.
Shankar’s contest is part of an ongoing discussion about the writing and voicing of Apu, an Indian convenience store owner with a heavy accent. Last year, comedian Hari Kondabolu released The Problem with Apu, a documentary that argued Apu was a problematic caricature — a South Asian character designed by white men and voiced by a white man, in a TV landscape with very little South Asian representation. The Simpsons finally responded to the criticism earlier this month with a dismissive episode that blew off the issue as fundamentally unresolvable and out of the hands of the show’s producers and writers.
Unfortunately, Simpsons creator Matt Groening doesn’t seem to think anything needs to change either. In a USA Today interview last week, when asked if he thought Apu was offensive, Groening said, “Not really. I’m proud of what we do on the show. And I think it’s a time in our culture where people love to pretend they’re offended.”
Hank Azaria, who voices Apu, has seemed the most responsive to criticism, saying last week that he was “willing to step aside” and let someone else take over the character.
Shankar’s contest will be judged by a panel of “South Asians and other minorities who work in entertainment.” The deadline to enter is June 30th, 2018. A winner will be announced on August 17th, after which Shankar says he will take the winning script to the Simpsons writers’ room and Fox, and ask them to make it an official episode and hire the winning writer full time. If Fox rejects the episode, Shankar says he will finance and produce it himself as part of his Bootleg Universe video series.