The Simpsons Creator Matt Groening Says He ‘Didn’t Have Problem’ With White Actor Voicing Apu
Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, has said he ‘didn’t have a problem’ with a white actor voicing the character of Apu.
Conversations about the character of Apu were sparked following comedian Hari Kondabolu’s 2017 documentary The Problem With Apu. The doc addressed various issues with the way the character is written, including the fact that – up until 2020 – he was voiced by white actor Hank Azaria.
Last year, Azaria – who also voices Moe Szyslak, Chief Wiggum and Comic Book Guy, among others – revealed he would be stepping back from voicing Apu going forward, explaining that, ‘It just didn’t feel right.’
Azaria confirmed he would no longer be voicing Apu during an interview with The New York Times last February, stating:
Once I realized that that was the way this character was thought of, I just didn’t want to participate in it anymore.
The voice actor, who voiced Apu for 30 years, apparently came to this decision after realising the hurt caused by the character, who for years had been the only depiction of an Indian person on US TV.
However, not everyone had an issue with the way the characterisation of Apu was handled, with Groening telling BBC News:
Times change, but I actually didn’t have a problem with the way we were doing it. All of our actors play dozens of characters each, it was never designed to exclude anyone.
The long-running cartoon initially responded to the backlash in a similar way, using ‘voice of reason’ character Lisa to look directly into the camera and say:
Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?
However, The Simpsons has since backtracked and announced changes would be made. The show has reportedly spent the past year recasting non-white roles.
When asked whether he had any regrets, Groening told BBC News:
At a certain point it doesn’t matter what you say. You’re going to be attacked by by whoever, you know?
We’re not going out of our way to comfort bigots. On the other hand, if you do any kind of gesture and people perceive a weakness, you’ll be criticised.
However, he did accept that changes needed to be made, adding:
I absolutely agree with that. And we’re trying to make it better. Bigotry and racism are still an incredible problem and it’s good to finally go for more equality and representation.
This interview comes after it was reported that Harry Shearer will be replaced as the voice of Dr Hibbert by Kevin Michael Richardson, best known for his work on American Dad! and Family Guy.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk
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