The Simpsons has spent a good bit of time as of late dealing with headlines, but probably not ones it enjoys. Yet, they’re also ones that move the show forward in a positive direction — and away from the character of Apu.
Recently, it was confirmed that Hank Azaria would be departing the role, while still staying on to voice other characters. This came after a documentary entitled The Problem with Apu led by comedian Hari Kondabolu that both showcased love for the show while also the offensive nature of the character. The initial response from much of The Simpsons world was to fight back and act at times defensive; yet, that stance has changed over time.
In a new piece in the New York Times, Azaria notes that it was last year when he came to the decision that he wanted to move forward from voicing the character:
“When I expressed how uncomfortable I was doing the voice of the character, they were very sympathetic and supportive … We were all in agreement.”
Hank notes that it took some time for him to understand the upsetting nature of a white actor voicing a South Asian character often depicted in a stereotypical way. He also admits that he originally took inspiration from a 1968 Peter Sellers role in The Party that was offensive for him playing an Indian character:
“That represents a real blind spot I had … There I am, joyfully basing a character on what was already considered quite upsetting.”
Hari praises Azaria in the piece for being “thoughtful” and putting in the work to see and understand other perspectives. As for The Simpsons themselves, they are not announcing plans for Apu’s future as of yet. If the character does stick around in the world, we imagine that he will be a more evolved version with different wants and feelings — and also voiced by an actor with a South Asian background.
Do you think that The Simpsons should keep around the Apu character in some way?
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