By Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog
There I was, back on the NYC-SF red eye, and man do I hate flying.
While you’re waiting to board there is absolutely nothing to do in the first-class lounge, besides sample the honeycomb hive tray and cigar bar. I feel like I’m about to go out of my mind before the Porsche finally arrives to chauffeur me to my gate!
The we get on, first of course, but we have to watch all the Joe Schmoes trudge by while they hold up our Champagne service. As the CEO of a major company, isn’t it bad enough that I have to support these freeloaders of my genius – must I always be waiting for them to catch up with me?
Well, it gave me time to catch up with The New York Times and I read about the controversy surrounding the Indian character of Apu on the TV show The Simpsons: he’s blackface in brown-voice, per an Indian-American comedian who did a documentary complaining about it called, “The Problem With Apu”. Frankly, I’m shocked and appalled by it.
Because the truly insulting character on the show is Mr. Burns! The Simpsons repeatedly makes no effort to sympathetically put themselves in the shoes of the town’s richest man. As the owner of the nuclear power plant where Homer Simpson works, he is insensitively lampooned for being cheap, ruthless, despised, feared and extremely old. That is total stereotyping – not all of us CEO’s are old!
Considering how very much Burns brings to Springfield, I think the other characters could evince a little more gratitude. What would the fictional town of Springfield be without Burns? Just a bunch of White Trash like The Simpsons character Cletus Spuckler, that’s what. Now Cletus is just plain hilarious, with all his incest and stupidity! Cletus is so spot-on that nobody who isn’t overly-sensitive could be offended by him – nobody with any clout in the media, at least.
Why does Burns get no credit for choosing a homosexual, Smithers, for a toady? This is clearly evidence of Burns’ magnanimous heart and the fact that he doesn’t see people at all – just bad and less-bad employees. Burns is obviously an equal opportunity employer, and he has even singled out for elevation a minority only The New York Times seems to pay attention to many times on a daily basis.
The portrayal of Burns just burns my britches. I was talking with Harvey Weinstein about it a couple years ago at a Hillary fundraiser. Hillary said she be thrilled to go get me another glass of Champagne, so I had time to ask Harvey if he could throw his weight around in Hollywood. Maybe do a “very special Simpsons”…something ending in a parade for Burns, perhaps. Harvey said he was a misunderstood gentle giant and that he would never force anyone to do anything against their will. I believe him, because producers are the most truly creative part of any movie or TV effort – they’re like the CEOs of it, after all.
The portrayal of Burns is clearly part of the creeping socialism this country has been beating back since we first heard that Satanic word. The portrayal of Burns is fomenting class racism!
I brought this up to a guy in my office, Fazlollah. He’s been in the States for a while now – from some place around India, I think – so I asked him what he thought of Apu’s hilarious Indian voice.
“I don’t get what’s so controversial? That’s what some Indians sound like when they speak English,” he said.
I told Fazollah he’s not allowed to say things like that.
Fazlollah scoffed at that, and said I was too stupid to be his father and too ugly to be his mother, therefore he would say whatever he wants. He really hasn’t been here that very long….
“Maybe it’s just an English-Language people thing? Like when I lived in France for a bit – all my friends back home told me to go to Germany because their language is much more beautiful. And then I moved to the US, and the big joke here is that German is so ugly, while French is considered to be the most beautiful language. Maybe there’s some sort of “cultural ear-tuning”, but it’s obviously all rather arbitrary and no reason to get upset.”
Of course, such a belief that German sounds better than French is totally wrong, and shows the utter lack of sophistication of Fazlollah’s people.
Fazlollah said, “I’d say that they are just making fun of his accent, which is the laziest joke possible.”
I replied, “I make fun of your accent all the time!”
“Right…. The only place I got made fun of my accent more was in France – they think such jokes make them great wits. It’s like they’re just waiting for you to make a fault in French so they can point out yet again what is obvious to all – that French isn’t your first or second language.”
Being a proud Anglo-Saxon American, I cannot admit that France has ever won in anything, so I immediately made fun of Fazlollah’s accent again. Why should I care what he thinks – I can’t even pronounce his name! That’s why we all call him “Lefty”.
“Maybe we should start calling you ‘Moe Szyslak’ instead of ‘Lefty’? You both have that weird ‘z’ in your last name, and you’re always frowning, too!”
Lefty frowned and said, “You actually remind me of that mob character, Fat Tony.”
I didn’t get it – he’s Italian? How can I be like an Italian – I’m White?
I asked some other people at the office about it, and I got some surprising answers.
Our chief of security took a break from shining his WWII Nazi paraphernalia and said the real insult was Chief Wiggum. He said that Chief Wiggum is all a conspiracy to undermine respect for the police via making a Wiggum a caricature based on the short, fat, nasal-talking New York actor Edward G. Robinson. He added that American police should never be judged by the things they do or say.
Michael in accounting, a Mormon, said the stereotyping of Ned Flanders was clearly intended as a slur against the Mormon community. “Gosh darn it, cheese and rice,” he almost nearly came close to considering perhaps shouting, “what’s wrong with being a friendly neighbor? It’s pure anti-Mormon hate behind it, once again.” When Michael starts with the “cheese and rice” (instead of saying “Jesus Christ”) that’s when you know he’s near the end of his rope – but at the end of that rope is just a smile while doing simple math, as usual.
Sally in accounting said she often talks to her psychiatrist about her ongoing issues with Lisa. Sally is like 40, but her issues with this cartoon character are still “ongoing”, I guess? Lisa apparently reminds her of that girl who kept beating her at things in gradeschool. She said that Lisa is an offensive character because it ignores the pain of young girls who simply aren’t the smartest, most moral, most progressive person in the room even when adults are in that room. She said, “I’m sure one day doctors will finally recognise “Lisa Simpson-Induced Insecurity Complex” and “Lisa Simpson-induced Perfectionist Syndrome”. Apparently her psychiatrist told her that Lisa Simpson is the reason she can’t keep a man, and she must know because she went to Harvard.
I don’t see what those people are all upset about – those characters are all hilarious!
Because I haven’t seen the movies (hello…I don’t speak Indian) that doesn’t come off as being culturally aware to me – he’s clearly just trying to show off. The next thing you know this comedian will start making smart-aleck jokes!
I checked out this Apu Trilogy on Wikipedia and it’s apparently inspired by Italian neorealism – is that anything like neoliberalism? If so, maybe I underestimated the Indians – they are hugely capitalist…except those troublemakers in the south! They’re constantly screwing up my production schedules with their strikes, and daring to agitate against the caste system we need to implement in other places besides airports and airplanes. Where’s Gandhi when we 1%ers need him?
Wikipedia has an interesting excerpt on the Apu Trilogy from the famed South African writer J.M. Coetzee:
“At the Everyman Cinema there is a season of Satyajit Ray. He watches the Apu trilogy on successive nights in a state of rapt absorption. In Apu’s bitter, trapped mother, his engaging, feckless father he recognizes, with a pang of guilt, his own parents. But it is the music above all that grips him, dizzyingly complex interplays between drums and stringed instruments, long arias on the flute whose scale or mode – he does not know enough about music theory to be sure which – catches at his heart, sending him into a mood of sensual melancholy that lasts long after the film has ended.”
Isn’t it interesting that an Indian can go see an Indian movie which is supposed to be the best cinematic representation of his reality, and what he really care about is the music? They’re just like the Blacks in the US – they both really just want to a bang on a drum all day and freeload off my genius. Gandhi was obviously wrong to have “pioneered racial segregation at the Durban Post Office by demanding a third door to spare upper-caste Indians [the] “indignity” of sharing a door with blacks.”
I can also see why this Coetzee won so many awards – clearly, the melancholy of an Indian immigrant living under Apartheid was mainly caused by their love of over-sensual music. White guys see these things clearly, and probably even Fat Tony, too. Must be nice to indulge in such sensuality day after day, but I have a stock price to increase, senses be damned.
That reminds me – I have tickets to the opera tomorrow. I won’t understand what the heck they are singing about, because it’ll be in German. I sure don’t know anything about scales or modes, but I have finally learned to look like I am actually enjoying the opera, a pose which took a very long time to master.
Well, we’re finally taking off. So nice that I recline my seat completely to lay down and really get steamed about Burns. Why, The Simpsons is so huge in the US it’s practically divine revelation! Who should dare laugh about things I take so seriously – I’m the boss!
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.