3 December 1997
From: Satadru Sen <Sutlej@aol.com>

On the issue of Apu, "Asian stereotypes," and The Simpsons, a few thoughts...

I would recommend a more balanced approach than simply looking for evidence on how the Apu character confirms cultural stereotypes. There's no doubt that the Kwik-E-Mart guru, the marriage arranged at infancy, the computer science degree, etc. are aligned with stereotypes of South Asians in America. On the other hand, The Simpsons is social satire, and practically every character on the show "represents" some archetype - or stereotype - of American society. Homer is the inefficient industrial worker, Flanders the uptight, goody-two-shoes religious nut, Barney the barfly, Principal Skinner the slightly disturbed Vietnam vet who lives at home with his mother, Chief Wiggam the incompetent policeman, Mayor Quimby the womanizing politician who sounds like a Kennedy, Ms. Crabapple the jaded, lonely and horny forty-something schoolteacher, and Willie the groundskeeper the belligerent Celt with an accent that is as ludicrous as Apu's. Yet, all of these characters transcend the stereotyping, and we, the audience, are invited not only to recognize them, but also to identify with them. Apu is no exception. He is not simply the "Cultural Other" who lives in the convenience store and exists only to be laughed at, like the Bangladeshi brothers on David Letterman's show . Apu is an integral part of the Springfield community: he is on first- name terms with everybody, watches TV with the other men, dated the local women until his marriage, volunteers as a firefighter, and participates in every fad and insanity that periodically grips the town. Apu certainly embodies stereotypes of South Asians in America, but like every other character on the show, he is NOT REDUCED to the stereotypes: he is the stereotype, but he is also more.

Regards -

Satadru Sen
Dept. of History
University of Washington, Seattle