The Simpsons Voice Actor Hank Azaria Is Finally Apologising For Apu | Men's Health Magazine Australia

The Simpsons Voice Actor Hank Azaria Is Finally Apologising For Apu

For many of us, childhood evenings were spent in front of the TV, watching the usual string of ABC Kids shows, holding out in anticipation for the main event: The Simpsons. For decades now, the TV series has delighted audiences around the world who know its characters by heart. But while the show often delivered on laughs, it was far from being politically correct and while some had voiced frustration and concerns with the show, it wasn’t until 2017’s documentary The Problem with Apu that saw Hari Kondabolu explain just how the character on the series perpetuates South Asian stereotypes that wider discussions about whitewashing and racist voice casting began to take shape. 

In an interview with Esquire, Kondabolu said about the depiction of Apu on the series, “I can’t get over that ridiculous voice that’s unrealistic and goofy and the setting he’s in and the fact that there are about ten jokes that repeat themselves, like gods with multiple heads and arms, curry, the Kwik-E-Mart, go to the Himalayas.” 

The discussions that originated following the screening of the documentary were passionate, deeming Apu one of the most racist TV characters of all time. The response from The Simpsons creators was far from admirable, with a 2018 episode depicting an interaction between Marge and Lisa that was basically an attempt to brush off the criticism. 

The character of Apu was voiced by white actor Hank Azaria and appeared as a regular fixture on the series. After the backlash, Azaria appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and said he was willing to step aside from the character. He told the host, “I’ve given this a lot of thought, and as I say my eyes have been opened. I think the most important thing is to listen to Indian people and their experience with it. I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the writers room…including how [Apu] is voiced or not voiced. I’m perfectly willing to step aside. It just feels like the right thing to do to me.”

After stepping away from the role in early 2020, Azaria is now finally apologising for the harm this character caused the South Asian community. In an interview with Dax Shepard and Monica Padman of Armchair Expert, Azaria said: “I really do apologise. It’s important. I apologise for my part in creating that and participating in that. Part of me feels like I need to go to every single Indian person in this country and personally apologise. And sometimes I do.”

He then went on to describe a number of interactions that revealed just how harmful his deception of the character was. “I was speaking at my son’s school, I was talking to the Indian kids there because I wanted to get their input,” Azaria said. “A 17-yea-old…he’s never even seen The Simpsons but knows what Apu means. It’s practically a slur at this point. All he knows is that is how his people are thought of and represented to many people in this country.”

It’s hard to believe that despite Kondabolu highlighting the damage of Apu in 2017, it took almost four years for someone to apologise for the character. The Simpsons is still yet to recast Apu and it was only last year that the show’s producers announced that white actors would no longer be voicing non-white characters. 

By Mens Health Staff

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