Hank Azaria will no longer voice the well-known and well-loved character Apu in The Simpsons, following controversy over the character.
Azaria has said that it was a ‘mutual decision’ with the show’s creators, Al Jean and Matt Groening, as they felt it was the right thing to do following backlash in recent years, according to Slash Film.
In 2017, comic Hari Kondabolu released a documentary called The Problem with Apu examining the character, arguing that the use of humour in The Simpsons surrounding Apu was masking the fact the way the character was represented was, in fact, quite racist.
Rotten Tomatoes gave the documentary 87% with one reviewer dubbing it a ‘must see’ and another saying Kondabolu raises some ‘troubling questions’.
While on a Television Critics Association panel for season two of his IFC series Brockmire, Azaria was asked about the documentary.
Thank you for asking me [about The Problem with Apu]. Yes, of course, I did see it, and let me see if I can tell you how I feel about that.
The idea that anybody, young or old, past or present, was bullied or teased or worse based on the character of Apu on The Simpsons, the voice or any other tropes of the character is distressing. And especially in post-9/11 America, the idea that anybody was marginalized based on it or had a hard time was very upsetting to me personally and professionally.
The 55-year-old actor went on to say how much he’s loved voicing the character Apu, who famously ran the Kwik-E-Mart, and creating negative stereotypes was never his intent.
As far as The Simpsons is concerned, with comedy, as you know, it’s often a fine line between what’s funny and what’s offensive or insulting or upsetting.
The Simpsons over the years has been pretty humorously offensive to all manner of people: Republicans, Brazilians, presidents, school principals, Italians, you name it. They take a lot of pride over there in not apologizing for any of that. I think, over the years, they’ve done a really good job of being, shall we say, uniformly offensive without being outright hurtful, which is certainly never the intent.
Slash Film said Matt Groening implied to a fan that Apu will still feature in the 31-year-old hit show but with a different actor voicing him.
Whether you agree with the representation of Apu in The Simpsons or not, he plays a huge part in show and will be sorely missed if they decide to axe him.
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