Apu, Indian character from The Simpsons
Apu exhibits multiple Indian stereotypes Flickr Commons/istolethetv

Growing up, The Simpsons was a defining part of popular culture. At its best we essentially wept for Ralph on Valentine's Day or watched Lisa navigate issues of identity and alienation. The show cemented adult themes in a comedic style and undoubtedly taught me more about life and emotions than anything else I watched at the time.

Whilst the show ambitiously tackled big issues such as love, death and sadness through its central characters, it also triggered some real fears growing up. As a young South Asian girl, watching the Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu onscreen was an incredibly fraught experience. In many ways, his Indian accent and mannerisms were mortifying - they channelled back to me the worst things people could, and had, mocked me for.

Evidently, the effect of Apu's characterisation on South Asian diaspora has been felt on a wider scale as the documentary The Problem with Apu premiers on TruTV on November 19 at 10pm (US time).

One of the biggest issues behind Apu's character in the documentary and in general is that he is voiced by a white man. Hank Azaria has won three Emmy awards for the role - which has meant putting on a fake Indian accent that plays up to misguided stereotypes for comedic purposes. In a segment about the representation of Indian-Americans on TV for Totally Biased, Kondabolu once said that Azaria's voice acting of Apu is like "a white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father".

In the documentary, US comedian Hari Kondabolu talks to numerous South Asian people both within and outside the entertainment industry about their feelings towards the well-known character.

Compared to his own negative feelings towards the character, Kondabolu's interviewees share a spectrum of feelings with him. From people arguing that Apu was the first Indian to enter popular consciousness to the fact he represents a mirror of American stereotypes of Indian immigrants, the documentary seems far from a one-sided exploration as a result.

Kondabolu told the BBC: "The Simpsons is an important work of art that has influenced so many, including myself.

"Apu was the only Indian we had on TV at all so I was happy for any representation as a kid. And of course he's funny, but that doesn't mean this representation is accurate or right or righteous. It gets to the insidiousness of racism, though, because you don't even notice it when it's right in front of you. It becomes so normal that you don't even think about it. It seeps into our language to the point we don't even question it because it seems like it's just been that way forever."

In an interview with Vulture, Anzaria said he had not actually known any Indians when polishing the accent.

Whilst there has long been a great deal to unpick about this seemingly fun and innocent character, the fact that South Asians are having a platform to do so represents some progress. Never again will our own representation be made for us.