COMMENTATORS are debating whether a popular character from The Simpsons, Groundskeeper Willie, is a racist stereotype, after the show addressed recent controversy surrounding Apu Nahasapeemapetilon on-air.
In the now controversial television show Groundskeeper Willie is a feral man who is immensely proud of his Scottish roots.
In a video animation Willie talks about his views on Scottish independence and rips off his shirt to reveal a “birth mark” on his chest that says “aye or die”.
He has called the French “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” in his famous Scottish accent and described himself as the country’s “prodigal son”.
Dan Castellaneta, a white American actor who is credited with many recurring Simpsons characters including Barney Gumble and Krusty the Clown, voices the groundskeeper.
After the stereotype of Apu was addressed in a recent episode, commentators are asking: do the Scots deserve an apology, too?
The feral groundskeeper is voiced by the white American actor Dan Castellaneta, who plays many recurring characters in the show including Barney Gumble and Krusty the Clown[/caption]
In an article in the National Review, critic Kyle Smith said of the groundskeeper: “[He is] a cruelly funny send-up of a hot-tempered, hard-drinking Scot as I’ve ever seen.”
But Gavin McInees, a Canadian right-wing commentator, said programme-makers must be free to lampoon national stereotypes in the name of comedy.
He said: “That’s what cartoons are: exaggerations.”
John Donaldson, a Scottish lecturer at Glasgow University who ran a course using The Simpsons to introduce students to philosophy, also dismissed the idea that Willie is offensive.
He said: I have watched Groundskeeper Willie and have laughed more times than I can count.”
Willie is apparently treated with such affection in his “native” land that Aberdeen and Glasgow both wanted to be named as his true hometown in the show.
The show thwarted their attempts, revealing in an episode that he was born on a pool table in Orkney.
Apu, the Asian owner of Springfield’s Kwik-E-Mart, was discussed in the documentary The Problem with Apu, where comedian Hari Kondabolu talked to a number of celebrities of South Asian descent about the negative impact the character had on them.
The show’s executive producer Al Jean told IndieWire in January: “Some people are offended by the character and I take that very seriously.
“Others really love the character. It’s a difficult choice. I don’t want to offend people but we also want to be funny.
“We don’t want to be totally politically correct. That has never been us. It’s given us a lot of thought.”
In a new episode called ‘No Good Read Goes Unpunished’, Marge takes the family to a bookstore where she tries to get Lisa interested in what was her favourite book as a child – the fictionalised ‘The Princess in the Garden’ by Heloise Hodgeson Burwell.
But when Marge starts to read the novel to Lisa she realises the book is far more offensive and racist than she remembered.
She later tried to edit the novel, but ends up changing so much that the book no longer makes any sense.
She says: “It takes a lot of work to take the spirit and character out of a book. But now it’s as inoffensive as a Sunday in Cincinnati… what am I supposed to do?”
Lisa responds by speaking directly to the audience, saying: “It’s hard to say. Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”
The scene then reveals a photo of Apu near Lisa’s bed and Marge says “some things will be dealt with at a later date… if at all.”
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