As a straight white male, I obviously have no idea what it is like to not be represented. Straight white guys have been represented in every way imaginable. We get nerdy characters, jock characters, heroic characters. cowardly characters, smart, dumb, outgoing, shy. Basically, any character type you can think of has been portrayed by a white dude. And when you go your whole life being represented, you forget how important representation is.
So going into this documentary about how the character Apu from The Simpsons creates issues with representation, I was at a disadvantage, one of the few times a straight white guy is not in a position of privilege. I was going to be challenged by the concepts and insights this documentary presents because it is all new information for me. Meanwhile, people of Southeast Asian descent probably already knew everything from this documentary, because they are the ones who have had to deal with the hacky accents, racist jokes, and then the arrogant defense that these are just jokes and they should get over it.
And it is precisely because this movie was so challenging to my worldview, and my knowledge, that I loved it. I learned a ton watching it. For instance, I didn’t even know Apu was played by a white guy. This was new, and shocking information to me, that completely changes the way I view the character. I will admit it, I was one of those people who said, “Oh the Simpsons make fun of everyone, all the characters are stereotypes.” But what I never realized was that Apu was the only representation Indian, and even other people of South East Asian descent had. I didn’t realize that Apu was one of the reasons why Indians actors are expected to do hacky accents and portray awful stereotypes
The movie shows exactly what the problem with Apu is in the best, and most obvious way possible, having Indian and South East Asian figures talking about it. This may be shocking to some, but often times, the targets of racism and ignorance, often are the most informed about said racism. No one is better equipped to talk about the problem with Apu, than someone who is Indian. So when they get actors like Aziz Ansari, Noureen DeWulf, Aasif Mandvi, Kal Penn, among others, we should believe them when they say Apu has caused them problems.
But it is not just insightful, it is also very funny. The film is made by comedian Hari Kondabolu. And just by being himself, he makes the movie funny. Hari is a hilarious comedian, and his sense of humor so easily translates into the documentary format.
I went to read some reviews of this movie after watching it, and what a surprise, there a bunch of idiots reviewing it, who clearly never saw it, and are just complaining because they think it is being PC. Like this moron, whose IMDB screen name Dewminator2001.
Yes, yes he does know that The Simpsons stereotypes all people. In fact, he mentions it in the movie you utter moron. Maybe if you watched it, instead of just assuming it was a movie about people being offended for no reason, you would know that, idiot. They state multiple times that the problem is Apu was the only representation for Indian and other South East Asians at the time and set a standard. The problem is also that it is a white guy doing the voice. People would not be okay with a white guy in black-face anymore, why should we be okay with white guys doing Indian accents, especially Indian accents with no basis in reality. No one sounds like Apu.
Here is another bad review, by a very dumb person who probably did not watch the movie.
…what? What the hell are you saying here dude? This is the type of hack who likes to throw around nonsense sentences, that sound intellectual, but in reality, means nothing. This person is in reality, very stupid, so stupid, that they do not realize they are stupid. They think they are a genius, and find complicated ways to say simple things to make themselves sound smart, but no one falls for it. See, saying things in complicated ways gives you the chance to just claim people are not smart enough to understand your argument. If you confuse someone, you can make them feel dumb, and then make them think you are smart. This person did not watch A Problem with Apu, because they didn’t actually have anything to say about the movie. Oh, and yes, we let the people who are the targets of the jokes tell us whether or not it is offensive because that is how it works. A white guy like me would be the last person to know if something is offensive to a black guy, or an Indian guy, etc. Something being offensive to some people does not mean it is inherently wrong, but it means it is worth discussing.
Not to say you have to like this movie, just pointing out many of the people who did give it negative reviews, clearly never saw it.
One problem I had with it, is that it didn’t really have an ending. The is the risk one runs with a documentary. You are not writing a full story, so there is no guarantee there will be an ending. So while it is to no fault of the filmmakers, it does end with a bit of dissatisfaction.
The filmmaking aspect is fairly standard. They do not put too much flair into how the present the interviews, it is all straightforward. Which is by no means wrong, but it means there was room to be more creative. Were it an actual movie I’d expect better filmmaking, but straightforward can work for a documentary as long as the subject is interesting.
This movie challenged me. It made me think. it made me laugh. It taught me things I didn’t know and made me realize that I was wrong about other things that I thought I knew. As far as documentaries go, it was very impressive.