by Graham Pierrepoint
We’ve recently covered ongoing controversy regarding The Simpsons and one of their most enduring characters – Apu Nahasapeemapetilon – who has been the subject of a documentary chaired by comedian Hari Kondabolu with regard to his perpetuating of certain South Asian stereotypes. It’s an issue that certainly merits discussion – Apu, an Indian character voiced by a white man (reportedly working from an impression of an accent given by actor Peter Sellers), has been part of the show since its early days – for almost thirty years – and, as such, some commentators have raised the point that tastes have moved on since the character would have been seen as palatable.
The Simpsons’ response in a recent episode, where characters directly referenced the issue and suggested that certain queries would be addressed ‘if at all’ – along with a cut to a framed image of Apu with ‘don’t have a cow’ written underneath – hasn’t gone down brilliantly with those opposing the continuation of the character. The move was seen as counter-productive to debate by many – particularly ironic, some have pointed out, as the one-time voice of political correctness, Lisa Simpson, was used to be the mouthpiece to retaliate against the concerns.
Now, however, things have started to get a little more interesting. Apu’s voice actor, Hank Azaria, has been open about his thoughts on the character and, having played him for almost three decades, has advised that he is more than willing to let an authentic Indian voice actor take up the reins – along with pressing for more diversity behind the scenes at The Simpsons. “I’m perfectly willing to step aside,” Azaria discussed with Stephen Colbert. “It just feels like the right thing to do, to me.”
“I think the most important thing is to listen to Indian people and their experience with it – listening to voices means inclusion in the writers’ room. I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the writers’ room, genuinely informing whichever direction this character takes.”
Watch: ▶ Hank Azaria Willing To 'Step Aside' From Playing Apu On 'The Simpsons'
The recent debate surrounding Apu and his relevance may only be set to continue – amid further concerns that The Simpsons is continuing to witness critical decline with viewers. With Disney set to finalize the takeover of Fox in the months to come, what changes may come into play for Homer and co? And what of Apu? Let’s see what unfolds.