Hank Azaria said that he'd be willing stop voicing Apu on The Simpsons

Apu Nahasapeemapetilon has been a part of The Simpsons since the very first season, which, considering that the series is nearing the end of its twenty-ninth season, is a very long time. In recent years however, the character has received renewed criticism due to Hari Kondabolu's documentary, THE PROBLEM WITH APU, which explains how the character has been used to bully South Asian Americans over the years. "There are a billion reasons to love The Simpsons and Apu was one of them," Kondabolu told The Guardian last year. "But when you sit in high school, which is, I think for most of us, the lowest point in our lives, you realize [Apu] was a tool for kids to go after you. And this was perfect, right? A caricature with this ridiculous accent that nobody has."

Earlier this month, the controversy was addressed in an episode of The Simpsons in which Marge had attempted to edit a children's book she once loved after discovering that it was full of racist stereotypes, but in doing so, had turned the main character into a perfect, inoffensive figure stripped of any emotional journey. When Marge asked what she was supposed to do, Lisa turned to the camera and said, "It’s hard to say. Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?" Marge added, "Some things will be dealt with at a later date," with Lisa deadpanning, "If at all." That response didn't sit well with some, and while appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Apu's voice-actor Hank Azaria addressed the controversy.

It's sparked a lot of conversation about what should be done with the character going forward, which is not so easy to answer, and I've tried to express this before. The idea that anyone, young or old, past or present, was bullied or teased based on the character of Apu, it just really makes me sad. It was certainly not my intention, I wanted to spread laughter and joy with this character and the idea that it's brought pain and suffering in anyway, that it was used to marginalize people, it's upsetting, genuinely.

As for how The Simpsons should address the character of Apu moving forward, Hank Azaria says that the "most important thing is we have to listen to South Asian people in this country when they talk about what they feel and how they think about this character, what their American experience of it has been." Azaria said that listening to voices also means more inclusion in the writers room, adding that he'd really like "to see Indian, South Asian writers in the writers room, not in a token way, but genuinely informing whatever new direction this character may take, including, how it is voiced or not voiced. 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. It not only makes sense, but it just feels like the right thing to do to me."

What do you folks think? Should Apu be written off the show? Should another actor voice the character? Should anything change at all?



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