Hank Azaria once again apologized for being the man behind “The Simpsons” character Apu, despite spending decades voicing the character.
Speaking on the “Armchair Expert” podcast with host Dax Shepard, Azaria said he finally stepped away from the role after attending several seminars and learning from other people about how the character hurt them.
“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, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter. “A 17-year-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.”
Azaria told the boy that he apologized and that he promised to convey to Hollywood that how they portray certain people matters in the real world.
“I really do apologize,” Azaria said. “It’s important. I apologize 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 apologize. And sometimes I do.”
As The Daily Wire reported last year, “The Simpsons” announced that it would no longer allow white actors to voice non-white characters. Azaria said he strongly supports this move.
It should be noted that Apu was never presented as a dumb Indian immigrant who runs the Kwik-E-Mart. In fact, multiple episodes spent time developing his complexity as a character throughout the show’s near three-decade run. Contrary to his perception, he holds a Ph.D. in computer science, graduated from the top of his class at “Caltech” (Calcutta Technical Institute), and only runs the Kwik-E-Mart because of the joy it brings him to spend time with friends and customers.
In recent years, social justice warriors have attacked “The Simpsons” character Apu, alleging he perpetuated Indian stereotypes. Spearheading the attack was documentary filmmaker Hari Kondabolu, who created a full-length film about Apu’s problematic nature. Initially, “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening dismissed his critics in an episode where the character Lisa told the critics to take their outrage elsewhere; however, as time went on, the show eventually dropped the beloved character months after Hank Azaria issued his first apology.
“I’ve given this a lot of thought, really a lot of thought. And as I say, my eyes have been opened. And I think the most important thing is we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people in this country when they talk about what they feel and how they think about– about this character, and what their American experience of it has been,” he told Stephen Colbert.
“And as you know, in television terms, listening to voices means inclusion in the writers’ room,” he added. “I really want to see Indian, South Asian writer, writers in the room, not in a token way, but genuinely informing whatever new direction this character may take, including how it is voiced or not voiced. You know, I’m perfectly willing and happy to step aside or help transition it into something new. I really hope that’s what The Simpsons does. And it not only makes sense, but it just feels like the right thing to do to me.”
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