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Stop getting so easily offended

by Hannah Goldstone, Staff Writer

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Earlier in October, I was devastated to learn that Apu Nahasapeemapetilon would be cut from “The Simpsons.” Fortunately, it turned out to be just rumors.

The controversy and criticism of Apu surfaced after the 2017 documentary “The Problem With Apu,” in which filmmaker and comedian Hari Kondabolu expressed his disapproval of racist elements like Apu’s accent and job. A few months after the documentary aired, “The Simpsons” responded with a quick remark at the end of one of their episodes: Marge attempted to change a bedtime story that she was reading to Lisa in order to make it politically correct.

Lisa objects and Marge asks what she would rather her do. Lisa responds with, “It’s hard to say. Something that started a long time ago, decades ago, that was applauded and was inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” And then a framed picture of Apu is seen next to Lisa.

Many, including Kondabolu, were not happy with that scene or the way the show handled the criticism. Kondabolu turns to Twitter and posts “Wow. ‘Politically Incorrect?’ That’s the takeaway from my movie & the discussion it sparked?” in response to Lisa’s comment. So creator Matt Groening replied, “It’s a time in our culture where people love to pretend they’re offended.”

My reaction:

Best. Response. Ever.

Kondabolu and anyone else’s feelings and opinions are valid and shouldn’t be brushed off; however “The Simpsons,” like most cartoons, shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

The only reason it’s okay to have slightly stereotypical characters in “The Simpsons” is because they make fun of everybody equally. If they only took jabs at Indians, the show wouldn’t be what it is now.

But, it’s important to point out they don’t just throw those jokes in their episodes for cheap laughs. They are commenting on exactly what their audience is thinking and making fun of themselves.

Afterall, it is a satirical show. They make fun of almost every race, ethnicity, culture, subculture, sexual orientation, gender, accent, political stance and profession.

“The Simpsons over the years has been pretty humorously offensive to all manner of people. They’ve done a really good job of being, shall we say, uniformly offensive without being outright hurtful,” Hanza Azaria, the voice of Apu, said.

Now, I admit, I may have a greater sense of humor than most, and I consider myself as someone who is typically appreciative of a well-created joke, even if it is slightly offensive. Maybe I just have tough skin or no heart.

But, as a person of fully Chinese decent, I have never once been offended by any of the Chinese or stereotypical Asian characters on the show.

Cookie Kwan, number one on the west side, has never offended me with her stereotypical Chinese accent and pushy demeanor. Several times, Homer has equated getting good grades or being obedient to being Korean or other Asian ethnicities and other “low-hanging fruit” comments.

A Chinese couple, who was clearly Americanized, put on “the act” for Homer when he stepped into their Chinese restaurant and said things like “You not come long time!” with exaggerated Chinese accents and a costume change.

Azaria rightly says, “the most important thing is we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people… about what they feel and how they think about this character and what their American experience of it has been.”

But the most interesting part of this whole issue is it seems like fans of the show in India have no problem with Apu’s character. This is exactly what happened in an opinion piece I wrote in response to the controversy over high school senior Keziah Daum wearing a traditional Chinese dress to prom.

Everybody in America seemed to have an issue with it, but everybody back home in China, including myself, loved it and saw it as a young woman appreciating Chinese fashion wanting to show off its beauty at a very important night in her life.

Several Chinese-Americans retweeted “my culture is not your prom dress,” but residents of China didn’t see it that way. Something about being an American citizen makes people hypersensitive to their other racial identities.

There’s always going to be somebody somewhere offended by something that somebody else says or does.

I’m not at all saying people deserve to be marginalized and made fun of and people should just get over offensive comments because it’s funny.

But what I am saying is people are just too sensitive nowadays, especially seeing it took 30 years for people to get offended by a character that has been the same for decades.

Hannah Goldstone is a junior studying sociology.

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