LOS ANGELES (CNN) – If you’ve ever dreamed of writing a “Simpsons” episode, now may be your chance. Adi Shankar, the executive producer and showrunner for Netflix’s “Castlevania,” announced the “Apu Screenwriting Contest: Crowdsourcing the Cure for The Simpsons.”
According to a site promoting the contest, “‘The Simpsons’ is sick and this contest is crowdsourcing the cure.”
“We are looking for a screenplay centering on the character ‘Apu’ set in the world and cannon of ‘The Simpsons’ that takes the character of Apu and in a clever way subverts him, pivots him, intelligently writes him out, or evolves him in a way that takes a mean spirited mockery and transforms him into a kernel of truth wrapped in funny insight aka actual satire,” the site says. “This contest is open to people of all ethnicities and cultures, however, if you don’t have any experience with Indian culture in America then you may not have the perspective and experience to write well on this topic.”
The character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon has been problematic for “The Simpsons.” Comedian Hari Kondabolu made a documentary called “The Problem with Apu,” which explored the character as a negative, stereotypical representation of South Asians. It debuted last November.
Apu, an Indian-American character with a thick accent, operates the Kwik-E-Mart convenience store in the fictional town of Springfield. The show recently aired a response to complaints about him, but the gag was not received positively.
The man who voices the character, Hank Azaria, is not of Asian heritage, and recently said that he is willing to stop portraying Apu. The actor, who voices multiple characters on “The Simpsons,” also made a pitch for more diversity on the long-running animated show.
“I really want to see Indian, South Asian writer, writers in the room, not in a token way, but genuinely informing whatever new direction this character may take, including how it is voiced or not voiced,” Azaria said. “I’m perfectly willing and happy to step aside or help transition it into something new. I really hope that’s what ‘The Simpsons’ does, and it not only makes sense, but it just feels like the right thing to do to me.”
That would be in line with what Shankar seems to be trying to do. According to the site, he “will take the winning script to ‘The Simpsons’ writers’ room and FOX Broadcasting Company, to make it an official episode of ‘The Simpsons’ upcoming season, and recommend that they hire the winning writer into their room for the next season.”
“If ‘The Simpsons’ writers’ room rejects the episode, then Adi Shankar will finance the winning script and produce it as an unofficial fan film that looks identical to an official ‘Simpsons’ episode,” according to the site.
The idea has created buzz on social media. Even rapper Kanye West tweeted a link to the contest and a video of Shankar talking about Apu.
CNN has reached out to the show and FOX for comment. “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening recently told USA Today that he didn’t have many thoughts on the criticism of Apu being a stereotype. “I’m proud of what we do on the show,” he said. “And I think it’s a time in our culture where people love to pretend they’re offended.”
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