In the fallout of comedian Hari Kondabolu's documentary The Problem With Apu, and the weirdly defensive response from The Simpsons, producer Adi Shankar wants to make a woke Simpsons episode about Apu. To get the script, he's running a screenwriting contest.
Screenshot: Gracie Films
If you agree with Shankar and Kondabolu that Apu is a gross stereotype, then check out the contest rules:
We are looking for a screenplay centering on the character "Apu" set in the world and canon of The Simpsons that takes the character of Apu and in a clever way 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.
This contest is open to people of all ethnicities and cultures, however, 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 will be judged by a panel of South Asians and other minorities who work in entertainment. The submission deadline is June 30, and there's no fee.
Shankar, while an experienced producer for film and Netflix, doesn't actually work for The Simpsons or for Fox, but he doesn't need to. While he plans to take the winning script to the show's writers and producers, if and when they reject it, he says he'll make the episode himself.
He's done this before - his 2015 "bootleg" Power Rangers episode got 21 million views on YouTube. Add with all the press attention around the contest, and Shankar's unofficial episode will make a bigger splash than a typical season 29 episode of the real show.
In tragically familiar news, a powerful man in entertainment was recently revealed to be a scumbag. Harvey Weinstein, who spent millions paying off women who accused him of sexual assault, was involved in hundreds of great works including Project Runway, Pulp Fiction, The English Patient and Air Bud. Weinstein, of course, is terrible, and none of his work redeems this. The question, for some, is how to deal with a beloved work once it bears the taint of Weinstein's involvement.
Stunt projects such as this are a great way for aspiring creators to get noticed; writer Billy Domineau got his first agent thanks to his shockingly clever 9/11 Seinfeld script, and two months later he was on the writing staff at Family Guy. So any writer with a deep understanding of comedy and Indian-American culture should seriously consider submitting a script.
Shankar tells IndieWire, "Apu is not even a stereotype. The stereotype of Indians is we're doctors, we're smart people, leaders in tech, the CEO of Microsoft, CEO of Google... [Apu] is an inaccurate, fabricated archetype that was created by The Simpsons and carved into the American conscientiousness through blunt force over 30 years." He's looking for the best way to discuss this in the form of a Simpsons episode, whether the actual show wants to or not.
It doesn't sound as though the real show will beat Shankar to the punch here. While Apu voice actor Hank Azaria agrees with some criticisms of the character, showrunner Al Jean has been kind of a dick about it, and Matt Groening said this week that Apu's critics "love to pretend to be offended" - as if Hari Kondabolu exposed himself to America's racists just for fun. So if you want to put Groening in his place, and you have the chops to do it in writing, now's your chance.