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The Big Story: How do you defend a 30-year-old stereotype? Matt Groening's trying

THE SIMPSONS, l-r: Homer Simpson, Marge Simpson, Manjula, Apu Nahasapeemapetlion in 'Much Apu About Something' (Season 27, Episode 12, aired January 17, 2016). TM and Copyright ©20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved./courtesy Everett Collection

Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is a familiar cartoon face to at least two generations of The Simpsons’ viewers. But some believe the South Asian Kwik-E-Mart owner is reinforcing cultural stereotypes that are more hurtful than they are funny.

Simpsons creator Matt Groening says that wasn’t the show’s intention, but how much does that matter? It can seem difficult to find the line separating comedy from offensive stereotypes, but is it lazy to think that way? Will Simpsons fans ignore the issues? Or is it time to find a new punch line?

Sadiya Ansari covers issues of race, representation and stereotyping in popular culture for a number of publications. In today’s “Big Story” podcast, she offers a fresh perspective on an aging character.

Growing up, she was a Simpsons fan.

“I watched it as a kid because it was one of the ‘bad shows’ we could watch with our parents, not really noticing — they just thought it was a cartoon,” she says.

“I’m South Asian,” she notes. “I remember thinking as a kid, it was distasteful. I think as I grew older, it became more and more distasteful. I think that’s probably one of the reasons I stopped watching it. I think I found it to be grating. I mean, a lot of things about The Simpsons are grating, and they can be fun for awhile — and then they’re not. So, I feel like it was part of the reason I stopped watching.”

You can hear the full episode and subscribe to The Big Story podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

You can also hear it online at thebigstorypodcast.ca.