The Simpsons has been on the air for more than 30 years now, and the setting of Springfield has expanded to include literally hundreds of characters. On occasion, the population contracts. Here are some characters no longer on the show…and why.
The discussion has been going on for years, but the idea that Apu, Springfield’s resident Kwik-E-Mart proprietor, was problematic, reached peak volume in 2017, when Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu released the documentary The Problem With Apu. He argued that the character embodied several hurtful Indian-American stereotypes, particularly his employment at a convenience store and the broad voice characterization used by actor Hank Azaria, who does not have an Indian background. Others may argue that Apu is a fleshed-out, multifaceted character — he’s been a part of The Simpsons for more than 25 years, and viewers became familiar with his extended family (his parents arranged his marriage, which turned out happy and resulted in octuplets) and backstory (he came to the U.S. to get his doctorate in computer science). In early 2018, The Simpsons responded to the controversy — Marge reads Lisa a P.C.-sanitized bedtime story, and both are unimpressed. Next to a photo of Apu, Lisa monologues, “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” Well, here’s what The Simpsons can and did do. Producers have announced plans to completely retire the Apu character. Not everyone is happy with this move — while it eliminates a character some find stereotypical, some critics have pointed out that it also means one less Indian-American person on television (of which there aren’t many).
TROY McCLURE and LIONEL HUTZ
Two of the most popular and hilarious characters in the early seasons of The Simpsons were also among its sleaziest. One was the Simpsons go-to attorney (meaning he was cheap and terrible) Lionel Hutz. (He once asks for a mistrial by calling it a “bad court thingy.”) The other: washed-up 1970s heartthrob actor — turned infomercial pitchman and educational film host — Troy McClure. (“You may remember me from such films as P is for Psycho, and The President’s Neck is Missing.”) Both of those characters disappeared from the show after 1998. The reason: legendary comic actor and Saturday Night Live alum Phil Hartman voiced them both, and after he was tragically murdered, there was no way producers could re-cast those roles.
The Simpsons neighbors’, the Flanders are so kind and pious that it seemed shocking and unfair when, in 2000, the show killed off matriarch Maude Flanders, wife of Ned and mother of two young boys. She dies in a ridiculous way, too — at the Springfield Speedway, Homer eggs on the T-shirt canon guy, and one of those projectiles hits Maude, knocking her off the grandstands to her death below. Why did The Simpsons do this? Because of a contract dispute with voice actor Maggie Roswell. She wanted more money than producers wanted to give her, so they let her walk. Some of her roles were assigned to other actresses (Miss Hoover, Helen Lovejoy), but writers killed off her main part, Maude.