Tikkun Winter 2019 (34.1) - Page 37

in so doing, they revealed their regressive attitudes toward both Apu AND Lisa. They re- mained unwilling even to consider that the de- piction of Apu might be offensive to a younger Asian audience even if it had not been 20 years ago. And giving Lisa these lines reflected the limits of their consciousness in understand- ing her character. If there were more women writers, I believe that Lisa Simpson, fully understood, would NEVER have been given the lines “What can you do?” This was one of the struggles we had with the writers. I urged them to push their boundaries and confront the issue of Apu with more understanding of its effect on contemporary audiences, and for Matt to remember his own words, that “the best art always comes from struggle.” And, I wanted them to see that my character would have understood and empathized with the hurt and pain that a negative stereotype caused, and had plenty to say about it. Lisa Simpson would never have fallen back on the dismissive “po- litically incorrect” trope—it was totally out of character! Argh! I’m still fuming about it! (She pauses for a sip of tea and a deep breath.) MS: I see how troubling this has been for you… LS: Yes! And it gets back to The Comedians again, in that the writers had an opportunity to say something, but chose to say nothing, and in this sense, they stifled their characters and “starved their audience.” They abdicated their responsibility to reveal rather than obscure the issue, and that is so sad. Art Spiegelman has said, “…cartoons are most aesthetically pleas- ing when they manage to speak truth to power, not when they afflict the afflicted.” Or, as bell hooks put it, “Humor is an intervention in a dysfunctional situation, which leaves the door open for healing and understanding.” The bot- tom line was that they did not allow their char- acters, and therefore their humor, to EVOLVE! MS: But do you think that the writers were VOL. 34, NO. 1 consciously trying to “starve their audience”? LS: No, no, of course not. I think they suc- cumbed to defensiveness, and as defensive be- havior often does, it obscured their perception of the situation and of what they could do to change it. I truly believe that these male writ- ers have had good intentions regarding all The Simpsons’ characters, including my character and have, in fact, a lot of affection for them. In the case of my character, the writers reflect many of the contradictions of a patriarchal cul- ture. On the one hand, these male writers iden- tify with Lisa’s spirit, and find in her character a safe place to explore their own aspirations for spiritual and emotional growth. On the other hand, though, the dearth of women writers and cartoonists, has limited their understand- ing of the depth of their characters, or how these characters might evolve. They have been unable to get beyond their patriarchal lack of curiosity about the soul of my character and so they remain stuck in a fairly simplistic portray- al of what they think feminism means. They were unable to appreciate or even imagine the visionary aspect of feminism, again quoting bell hooks, “feminism is for everybody!” MS: This is great, because one of the questions we at Tikkun are asking is how humor might look “beyond patriarchy.” Can you comment further on this? LS: With pleasure! It’s something I’ve thought a lot about. The Simpsons characters of Homer and Bart are more fully developed because they are more familiar to the male writers. Homer and Bart represent two aspects of contempo- rary males, the tragically comic character of a slave to his job, and the character of the rebel/ prankster, but both remain mostly out of touch with their inner feelings. The characters of Marge and Lisa are more simplistically stereo- typical. Look, if our writers could get beyond patriarchy they would have allowed Lisa more © 2019 TIKKUN MAGAZINE 37