Tuesday, July 10, 2007


As a promotion for the Simpsons Movie, 7-11s around the country have been turned into Kwik-E-Marts. My first thought was "how cool," but after reading both Angry Asian Man's and Ultrabrown's blogs about the promotion, I'm not so sure. Both bloggers think the character of Apu is racist, or at least that the promotion focuses on the racist aspects of his character (Too Sense applauded the Simpsons for complicating Apu's character, but noted that the Kwik-E-Mart promotion included none of this complexity). One particular objection was that actual desi owners of stores participating in the promotion are having this racist caricature thrown in their faces -- they have to dress up in a uniform modeled after Apu's.

Well, color-me educated! As a clueless white chick, I didn't realize that many South Asian folks were offended by Apu. For all the other clueless white folks, here's why Apu is/might be racist(please add reasons I may have missed in the comments):

  • He has a poorly done Hindi accent, and is voiced by a white dude. Some have likened this to white dudes who put on blackface for minstral shows. Desidreaming has an interesting post on this -- the discussion in the comments is also intriguing.

  • His catchphrase, "Thank you, come again" has evidently been used to taunt Indian convenience store workers across America.

  • The broken english on the signs in Kwik-E-Mart stores, or for that matter, on the show, is condescending and ignores the fact that many immigrants speak English well. In short, it's a cheap shot.

  • Apu is the stereotype of the hardworking immigrant business owner.
The potential racism of the accent seems self-evident to me, but from reading the various blogs linked above, I'm seeing a subtler line emerge: some Indian folks think Apu is racist, some don't. Everyone agrees that he represents a stereotype, and it seems to me that there are a lot of racist folks out there who use the Apu stereotype to make racist comments to Indian-Americans. So the question becomes, "Is a stereotype that is sometimes used for racist purposes racist in and of itself?"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Apu is not voiced by a "white dude". It is voiced by Hank Azaria, who is Greek and brown, just like desis.