Ooooooh, aahhhh. John Swartzwelder(former writer for The Simpsons) came out of hiding and did an interview with The New Yorker. And I’m not taking anything away from the veracity of the piece, but the mere excitement around it’s publishing causes a huge plot hole in an age of the increased PC view on The Simpsons. With the legendary writer saying the show’s third season was it’s best, with The Problem with Apu’s director Hari Kondabolu saying that the show hasn’t been funny since the tenth season, to those who constantly do the nostalgic pieces for “22 Short Films About Springfield” and the accompanying memes that have generated as a result, the question as to be asked, what version of The Simpsons do you want?
If a publication or fan’s take on The Simpsons is that Mimi Pond’s critique of an all-male writer’s room in the early days of the show bother you, then do you really think the first ten years is the show’s “Golden Age”? If you aren’t in favor of white people voicing characters of color, why is Hari saying only the first ten seasons of The Simpsons were funny? I would think if he were truly being harassed with “Apu” comparisons in school, he would think of the show as “NOT” funny, wouldn’t he? I mean, by his standards, right NOW should be the golden age because almost every role formerly cast by white people now being replaced with BIPOC actors. If publications like The New Yorker and The Hollywood Reporter are constantly putting former producers of The Simpsons for classic episodes all-the-while claiming they must be racist as those same people are in those writer’s rooms writing jokes for “Apu” and “Bumblebee Man” and the like, then are you truly doing your job correctly?
Now, I want to be clear on my stances here. I am not racist, I think increased representation of BIPOC writers and actors and anything in between is only good for a growing adult animation industry because it provides for new content and we always want to see what’s next, not necessarily just constantly rehash the past. We also aren’t accusing the producers, cast, and writers of The Simpsons as being racist because, they aren’t. We also don’t think that characters like “Apu” are racist stereotypes nor is it racist for a white actor to voice a BIPOC character. Just like we don’t think it’s racist when a BIPOC performer voices a white character. Animation provides for unlimited possibilities and the job of an actor is to depict characters that they couldn’t be in real life the best they can. Whether or not you think it’s quality or not is a moot point if the show is making revenue and is able to gain additional seasons.
The quandary is, if the first ten seasons of The Simpsons truly “golden”, on one hand The New Yorker calls John Swartzwelder a sage, but on the other hand, calls “Apu” a racist character? , then which is the publication’s take on the animated franchise? In the same way newspapers and magazines are often looked to for endorsement of political figures, The New Yorker is one of many publications that go back and forth as to whether or not they endorse any era of The Simpsons.
Maybe the problem is publications pandering to faux outrage, largely perpetuated by bot accounts on social networks, rather than letting a series be. To be fair, some blame needs to be levied against producers of The Simpsons, or does it? 20th Television’s Dana Walden in a 2018 interview seemed to be perfectly fine with letting the show’s producers come to their own devices on how to handle “Apu”‘s casting during the height of the “outrage”. Since then, someone must have said something after the Disney buy of 20th Television because now every BIPOC character is being recast with BIPOC actors, and largely with mixed to negative reviews (we’ll talk about that in a later piece at the end of the season). The Simpsons should have never bowed to external forces, executive or otherwise. The producers should have stood their ground, fired Hank Azaria for now accusing the producers of being racist, and continued on the series as it should.
And why not? Wasn’t that the golden age?