No matter how “beloved” Apu may be, it’s time for him to go.While I appreciate The Simpsons’ place as iconic in the canons of American pop culture, I have never been a fan. My long list of complaints about The Simpsons includes its sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, extreme violence, child abuse and more. But one of my biggest reasons is and always will be Kwik-E-Mart clerk Apu. Over the years when I mention the racist stereotyping inherent in the character, most people have dismissed my concerns, telling me I’m being overly sensitive and asking why can’t I take a joke. Yet, every so often I’d watch a person’s eyes widen with the realization that they had never stopped to think about how an actual South Asian person would perceive Apu’s doofery, which has created widespread distortion of the Desi community that transcended its screen time into real life. Comedian Hari Kondabolu’s calling out of this racist caricature first in his stand-up routines and now in-depth in his TruTV documentary The Problem With Apu is what made me an instant fan of Kondabolu’s work. And also vindication for what I’ve been saying for decades. It wasn’t just that I was so grateful to see a South Asian comedian representing, but it was also hearing many of my own thoughts about the damage Apu has done to the Desi community echoed through Kondabolu’s own experiences as well as his interviewees. The Problem With Apu gives Kondabolu the opportunity to deepen his analysis as well as bring in some rather shocking back story of the character’s creation to light. Like, did you know that the ubiquitous line “Thank you, come again” was only said 8 times in the show? And did you know that Apu was never meant to be Indian at all? He was listed in the original script as “Clerk” and it was only during the first table reading that Hank Azaria decided to cobble together one of the most offensive Indian accents to have ever graced a TV screen. Since Azaria made his joke to a room of white dudes, of course everyone laughed and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon was born from a gaggle of assholes to haunt South Asian Americans for the rest of our lives.
Carving out space for Kashmiris to exist authentically has been difficult. Even in the safest and most welcoming of spaces, I have found myself cornered by a community I supposedly share so much common ground with. By Shabana Shaheen Whenever I’m in
In spite of this being a terrifying monster story and a cautionary tale about messing with the very fabric of our time and space, Stranger Things 2 was far more life-affirming and by the end worlds less bleak than its predecessor.When Stranger Things was the breakout Netflix hit of 2016 it was with a great deal of criticism over its treatment of women as well as lack of diversity. A pointed Saturday Night Live sketch poked fun at the fact that somehow the showrunners “forgot” to include scenes from the one young black character’s family. And many viewers pointed out the troubling male gaze that drove the show as well as its sexist treatment of its few female characters. This was not a production that even remotely passed the Bechdel test. #JusticeForBarb Color me surprised when Stranger Things 2 came straight out the gate, immediately addressing all the critiques that had been leveled against it and doing the work to improve on their past flubs. From superpowered Kali/Eight (Linnea Berthelsen), skateboarding gamer and new girl Max (Sadie Sink), to Lucas’s little sister Erika (Priah Ferguson) and his awesome mom (Karen Seesay), the new women of Stranger Things are each exercises in badassery and self-efficacy. All of a sudden, whole episodes begin passing the Bechdel test, and the town of Hawkins feels more real than ever with so many new faces of color who play significant roles in the story throughout its telling. The effect is marvelous and a perfect example of how more diversity and inclusion only makes a narrative better. This is only the second time I’ve seen an 80s-inspired narrative with a South Asian woman, and my heart was so full watching Kali be amazing on-screen. I can’t wait to see all the Halloween costumes and cosplays inspired by this new queen, and I’ve never looked forward to news of a third season so much. [caption id="attachment_48390" align="alignnone" width="920"] Linnea Berthelsen as Kali.[/caption] But the Duffer Brothers didn’t stop there. Where Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) was the only black character in season 1 and was often marginalized by his nastiness towards Eleven (Milllie Bobby Brown) and grating personality which had no context since we never met his family, Stranger Things 2 not only fleshes Lucas out better through his parents and amazing little sister, but the story shifts in an organic way to him being the romantic interest. In a narrative that is still dominated by white people and their stories, Lucas’s role this time around felt like a creative coup. I think the Duffers might have also taken cues from Issa Rae’s Insecure cinematographer on lighting darker skin tones because Lucas wasn’t blending into the nightscapes like he was in season one. Thank you. Proper representation and inclusion matters. So much.
If South Asians only respond to racism when it is directed at them, rather than when it is wielded against people more vulnerable than them, they will forever be held hostage by the need to assimilate into white supremacy.By Sangeetha Thanapal Recently, Priyanka Chopra, the lead actress of ABC’s Quantico, was told she was “too ethnic” for a movie role in Hollywood. This understandably upset Chopra. She took it “very personally” and stated that she hopes to change the way the industry functions in time to come. Chopra has lived in the United States, speaks fluent English, was 'Miss World 2000', is able-bodied, thin, light-skinned and has 11 million Twitter followers. All of these should mean she is a shoe-in for major movie roles in Hollywood. Unfortunately, racism within the industry has limited her opportunities, and in her reaction, she pointed out the inherent stereotypes of people of color that plague Hollywood. Interestingly, this was not Chopra's position just a year ago. When the controversy of #OscarsSoWhite erupted in 2016, Chopra, who was asked about it at the Oscars, gave something akin to a white, liberal answer. She said that “casting by race is a very primitive idea to (her),” and that she believes she got her role in Quantico simply because she was the best person for the job, despite the fact that the producers have made it clear that they wanted to cash in on her existing fame and reach. Furthermore, her answer is fundamentally anti-black. #OscarSoWhite was started by black activist April Reign, and much of the writing and commentary on the racism of the Oscars was by black intellectuals. Many of the actors and actresses that refused to attend the show that year were also black. To glibly deny that they even had a reason to point out the racism of the Oscars and to boycott it is essentially anti-black.