To Woke, or not to Woke. Mr. Apu on the Simpsons.

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Dox47
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11 Aug 2022, 8:21 pm

kraftiekortie wrote:
The reason why some children of immigrants have done better than people who have been here for generations----is because they worked their butts off.


I don't think anyone is disputing that, and it's not unique to America either, many parts of the world have a minority group that is known for being willing to outwork and under live the locals until they succeed economically and/or procure professional education for their children, often becoming resented in the process (Jews are the arch example here). I was on the receiving end of it when I had my restaurant open in Seattle, family run Latin and Asian restaurants where the entire family essentially lived at the shop working all day for no fixed wage, who could radically under price me because they essentially had no labor cost; I didn't resent them because I knew that they were sacrificing their quality of life in a way I wasn't willing to do, but I did resent the locals who'd complain that I was charging too much because they could get a Banh Mi for $2.00 without understanding what made that low price possible.

But I digress, the real fly in the ointment to the woke worldview here is that non-white people can be highly successful in America (I think wokeism is primarily an American invention, it maps strangely in other countries) if they're willing to work, out earning white America on a per-capita basis in many cases, which is very inconvenient if your whole worldview is built on identity essentialism. This is how you end up with linguistic atrocities such as "white adjacent" or "white Hispanic", the theory has met reality, and rather than adjust the theory, the woke try to change reality by playing games with the language.

They do the same thing with creating new forms of offense or defining down older ones to include more and more benign actions and opinions, the theory is more important to them than actually making things better, as the theory is what allows them to feel better than other people, to derive meaning in their lives, and of course to amass and wield political power, which is also why they'll never admit that things might be getting better. To tie this back to the subject at hand, complaining about Apu is exactly the kind of invented controversy that the woke foment in order to fulfill their goals of feeling superior, throwing their cultural power around, and portraying themselves as the resistance to a grossly exaggerated white supremacy that hasn't existed in decades, which is why people such as myself have to invest time and effort into such weighty topics as the voice casting of The Simpsons in order to combat them.


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kraftiekortie
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11 Aug 2022, 8:28 pm

I'm not a total adherent to the "Woke" ideology.....but we cannot deny history.

My wish is that we transcend race, and that all people feel like they are on a "level playing field."

Progress has been made in terms of racial justice-----but much work continues to need to be done.

I am one who wishes to emphasize the future in human relations, rather than harp on the past.



Dox47
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11 Aug 2022, 9:47 pm

kraftiekortie wrote:
I'm not a total adherent to the "Woke" ideology.....but we cannot deny history.


I'm not in favor of denying history either, but it needs to be properly contextualized, not viewed as a simple morality play with clearly identified oppressors and oppressed. To give but one obvious example, if you're going to teach about slavery, teach about it globally, including the wars the US and the UK fought to stamp it out, rather than treating it as a peculiarly American institution, stain on our history though it is.

kraftiekortie wrote:
My wish is that we transcend race, and that all people feel like they are on a "level playing field."


That's a noble goal, and one I probably go a bit further than you in supporting as I'm a full on racial abolitionist, but one that is incompatible with woke views and practices, as they require the conflict in order to fuel their belief system (kind of like how Christians need a Lucifer, not a coincidence). Transcending race really means going all in on color blindness in the MLK era sense, which means an end to affirmative action and DEI practices in favor of broad anti poverty and criminal justice reform measures that would benefit everyone, and trusting people to grow beyond whatever prejudices they may carry without the government stick forcing them to, which tends to backfire.

kraftiekortie wrote:
Progress has been made in terms of racial justice-----but much work continues to need to be done.


Specifics? To be clear, I have no problem with narrow remedies to specific injustices, such as compensating Japanese families who were interned, or black families who suffered demonstrable economic harms from redlining or other government practices when de jure racism was a thing, but oppose broader race based programs as unworkable and counterproductive.

kraftiekortie wrote:
I am one who wishes to emphasize the future in human relations, rather than harp on the past.


Then stop harping on the past. We're a great country trying to live up to our founding ideals, but that will never happen if we're constantly re-litigating the past with finer and finer toothed ideas of what an injustice was, it just stirs the post and keeps people upset, which as I've mentioned several times now, is the revealed preference of wokeness.


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cyberdad
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11 Aug 2022, 9:57 pm

VegetableMan wrote:
Wake me up when the woke s**t is over.


I would posit that robust rebuttal based on evidence is more powerful than trying to undermine those who are labelled woke. I don't dispute there are college students who buy into social justice on face value. If there's a meme, hashtag or an event they will be involved because they have good intentions without understanding what it is they campaigning against.

Sticking to the topic....the Indian community has virtually no interest in acting/animation let alone Simpsons. Hari Kondabalu is a Canadian born child of Indian immigrants and might feel threatened by people like Hank Azaria getting a job that he might be able to do as a comedian/actor.



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11 Aug 2022, 10:01 pm

I don’t believe in “race-specific” measures, either.

I certainly don’t harp on the past. I believe we should move forward.

While they are a distinct minority, there are still abject and subtle racists around. Enough for the continued proliferation of places which some “people of color” cannot live. People still find ways to skirt the anti-discrimination laws.

No. I don’t believe white folks are inherently racist, nor do I believe that “oppressed” people cannot be racist.



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11 Aug 2022, 11:25 pm

kraftiekortie wrote:
I don’t believe in “race-specific” measures, either.


There is a growing movement that a) a story should not be changed to fit in with modern representation and b) the best actor should get the role and this should not be subject to representation. As a consumer of fiction (whether TV or cinema) this makes sense to me as it improves my entertainment quality and my appreciation for the art behind creating these productions.

In the case of Apu there's two issues i) does he need to be there? and ii) if he's a continuing character do you tone down the stereotyping and iii) should an Indian person play him or do you get a really good voice actor?

A good example is the character of Ashoka Tano in star wars who is animated character who is a PoC (She resembles an east Indian) but her voice was played by a young white woman Ashley Eckstein, The voice actor did a really good job and I can't imagine anyone else doing Ashoka's voice.

When Rosario Dawson was picked to play an older Ashoka in the TV series I was initially skeptical because Dawson is Afro-Latina whereas Ashoka looks east Indian to me (plus Ashoka is an Indian name). But Dawson has played the role really well and now I am all for her continuing to play the role in the new Ashoka series in 2023.



kraftiekortie
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12 Aug 2022, 5:49 am

Apu is an Indian storekeeper.

Indian storekeepers are ubiquitous.

I see nothing wrong with the stereotype of “hard worker.”



cyberdad
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13 Aug 2022, 12:09 am

kraftiekortie wrote:
Apu is an Indian storekeeper.

Indian storekeepers are ubiquitous.

I see nothing wrong with the stereotype of “hard worker.”


He's portrayed as hard working but his character also cheats Kwikimart customers playing on a trope that I remember from watching Peter Sellars movies that Indians are cheap, dishonest and untrustworthy.



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13 Aug 2022, 2:32 am

cyberdad wrote:
He's portrayed as hard working but his character also cheats Kwikimart customers playing on a trope that I remember from watching Peter Sellars movies that Indians are cheap, dishonest and untrustworthy.


Does he cheat them? It's been a long time since I've been a regular viewer of the show, but I was there for the original half dozen seasons or so and I don't remember that at all. I'm also unfamiliar with this particular trope about Indians, when I encounter prejudice against them it's usually regarding odor, haughty high caste behavior, and a certain sexual aggression/clumsiness from the men; that last one is kind of infamous as it activates an overheated woke schism and bringing it up is liable to start a forum clearing fight in their spaces.


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13 Aug 2022, 4:04 am

Dox47 wrote:
I'm also unfamiliar with this particular trope about Indians, when I encounter prejudice against them it's usually regarding odor, haughty high caste behavior, and a certain sexual aggression/clumsiness from the men; that last one is kind of infamous as it activates an overheated woke schism and bringing it up is liable to start a forum clearing fight in their spaces.


I've had a lot to do with various Indian communities and caste doesn't come up in the conversation. At least in Australia the biggest stereotypes
1. hygiene - relates to body odour/food etc. The odour is associated with curry smell. What's dumb is everyone makes fun of eating curry and upset stomachs yet curry restaurants are everywhere. Indian people cook their own food so the people making fun of Indians are the ones buying the food :roll:
2. Cheap - Indian people are stingey and don't spend a cent.
3. mysogyny - this is a big one.
4. creepy - Indian men are pervy/sex starved

Almost all the stereotypes are around Indian men.



Dox47
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13 Aug 2022, 4:40 am

cyberdad wrote:
I've had a lot to do with various Indian communities and caste doesn't come up in the conversation. At least in Australia the biggest stereotypes
1. hygiene - relates to body odour/food etc. The odour is associated with curry smell. What's dumb is everyone makes fun of eating curry and upset stomachs yet curry restaurants are everywhere. Indian people cook their own food so the people making fun of Indians are the ones buying the food :roll:
2. Cheap - Indian people are stingey and don't spend a cent.
3. mysogyny - this is a big one.
4. creepy - Indian men are pervy/sex starved

Almost all the stereotypes are around Indian men.


Huh, that's actually pretty close to what I think of the major stereotypes in the US; the caste thing you hear from service people in cities with a lot of tech, people making big money on H1B visas treating them poorly or like they're aren't there. The creepy men one really does make a lot of people uncomfortable because so many women seem to have stories, but you also don't want to sound like a racist indulging in stereotypes, it's a bit of a conundrum. Actually, this is a good example of where I think the stifling of honest conversation is counterproductive, as I do hear stories frequently enough (and have seen the messages and the behavior in person) to wonder about the culture that produces those interactions, but it's very difficult to have that conversation without being accused of bigotry, even if you're very careful to always make it about culture.


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13 Aug 2022, 5:28 am

Dox47 wrote:
but it's very difficult to have that conversation without being accused of bigotry, even if you're very careful to always make it about culture.


A lot if these stereotypes cross over cultures. When I worked in Malaysia the Chinese landlords refused to rent to Indians because they claimed the curry smell is impossible to remove from the kitchen after the tenants vacate. There is also the body odour issue. I think the latter along with some silly ones about cleanliness. My wife is 100x cleaner than I am.



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13 Aug 2022, 1:54 pm

Dox47 wrote:
The_Walrus wrote:
The more likely explanation is that the religious right found the Simpsons to be too crude and largely tuned out in the early 90s at the peak of “Bartmania”.

They also, bluntly, have far less reason to care. I doubt any Christian kids have people come up to them in the playground and call them Reverend Lovejoy. He just isn’t seen as symbolic of Christianity the way that Apu came to serve as a representative of Indians.


Given that every character on The Simpsons is to one extent or another a broadly drawn stereotype, why is Apu uniquely problematic? It always seems to come down to "some kids used him as a way to tease Indian kids" (a white guy voicing him feels like something just thrown in for woke points), which is a weird argument to me as he's portrayed positively. There's a bit of a paradox regarding the accent, as if the character is supposed to be an immigrant he's going to need to have an accent or people are going to be very confused, yet it's impossible to deploy the accent in a way that no one is ever going to find funny and possibly tease people with similar accents about, something of a catch-22.

What's the solution here, Walrus? No accents? No immigrant characters? I'm not sure what the point of any of this is other than performative outrage for virtue points, as there's no satisfying solution for anyone.

I don’t know and I frankly don’t care. I haven’t watched The Problem of Apu.

Solution is probably just people having to be more aware of how their work will be received if they feature the only example of an X on TV. When that X is a very broad group like “Indian Americans”, there is a degree of responsibility.

As for Apu himself - I don’t agree that his character is portrayed entirely positively. That’s not a problem, of course - he shouldn’t have to be a perfect person, that would be unreasonable. But he does have a streak of ignoring food safety - the worst example is this one:


I’m not saying that because “the Simpsons spread the negative stereotype that Indian shopkeepers ignore food safety!” or anything like that, and having not watched the documentary or particularly followed any of the arguments I don’t know if this (or other character flaws like his adultery and hatred of his children) contributed to the issues those people said they experienced. I don’t remember them being brought up at school, where the joke was always about his accent.

Looping back round to what I said about “responsibility”, I figure if your accent is one that is widely derided then maybe you solve that by having it be more authentic. I don’t think there’s a magic bullet by any means. I’m mostly just :roll: at the idea this was all being pushed by “the left” or whatever having ideas about racial essentialism, rather than a bunch of Indian Americans saying that they personally have issues with it.



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13 Aug 2022, 6:22 pm

Well I grew up watching the Simpsons and it has never taught me any stereotypes about Indian people. I just saw Apu as the Indian convenient store owner and a very good character.
But I don't judge people by the colour of their skin or what country they're from. I judge them by their personality and whether they're an as*hole or not.

But I suppose now that it is illegal to make any jokes or stereotypes about non-white people, there's still white people to make jokes and stereotypes about. Maybe they should put a snobby British person with no sense of humour and crooked teeth and an exaggerated cockney accent and never stops drinking tea in charge of the Kwik-E-Mart. That's not offensive or stereotypical, it'd be hilarious to every Simpsons fan of every race.


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13 Aug 2022, 6:45 pm

The_Walrus wrote:
Solution is probably just people having to be more aware of how their work will be received if they feature the only example of an X on TV. When that X is a very broad group like “Indian Americans”, there is a degree of responsibility.


Okay, but in 1989 when the show premiered that would have likely meant simply not having an Indian character at all, or having one so blandly portrayed that it dragged the show down with it.

The_Walrus wrote:
I don’t remember them being brought up at school, where the joke was always about his accent.


That seems to be the real crux of the issue here, the accent, and I really don't see a solution to that as people find accents funny, it's just human nature, as is kids teasing people who stick out.

The_Walrus wrote:
Looping back round to what I said about “responsibility”, I figure if your accent is one that is widely derided then maybe you solve that by having it be more authentic. I don’t think there’s a magic bullet by any means. I’m mostly just :roll: at the idea this was all being pushed by “the left” or whatever having ideas about racial essentialism, rather than a bunch of Indian Americans saying that they personally have issues with it.


I guess I just don't believe that a more "authentic" accent would have solved the issue here, people have been doing accents forever as comedy bits whether or not they have an accurate example to work from; to use a personal example, I'm known to hold forth about US political history from time to time, and when I "quote" presidents I always do their accents (with admittedly variable success, my Nixon is better than my Reagan), which always gets a laugh. Bill Clinton always has to be done with the sort of hangdog Elvis voice, Bush I with that Mr Rogers meets John Wayne thing, Obama as Dave Chappelle using his "white" voice, etc, it's not about trying to do a perfect impression but rather to convey a bit of their particular style, and I don't see why a generic Indian accent should be treated any differently.

As to why I'm pivoting to the broad left from a handful of aggrieved Indian Americans, that's because it's the left who has created this very fertile environment for that sort of complaint to be taken seriously, where as previously it could be safely ignored as a handful of grievance seekers and the overly sensitive. To further pivot to a different type of Indian, there was a similar dynamic regarding the perennial complaints about the Washington Redskins prior to their name change, where polling overwhelmingly indicated that most American Indians had no problem with the name if not outright positive feelings about it, but a handful of activists were consistently amplified by our media system to gin up a controversy and pressure the team, until they finally gave in. Yes, the complaint originally came from actual Indians, but the real power behind it came from the media selectively amplifying them.


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13 Aug 2022, 7:27 pm

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Okay, but in 1989 when the show premiered that would have likely meant simply not having an Indian character at all, or having one so blandly portrayed that it dragged the show down with it.


I agree. If the character was made to be extremely bland and unfunny then people would still be offended or complaining, because it would be a stereotype that all Indians are boring or worthless or something. You can't win. Everything's racist. What wouldn't be racist?


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