Despite the defensive stance the writers on The Simpsons took just weeks ago about their Apu problem, the white man who’s voiced Apu from the start has said he’s finally ready to stop doing so, based on hearing the complaints from the Indian-American community.
Hank Azaria, appearing this week on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote the IFC series he stars in (Brockmire), also was willing to take time to talk about Apu.
Azaria told Colbert:
“It has come to my attention more and more, especially the last couple of years, as you say, that people in the South Asian community in this country have been fairly upset by the voice and characterization of Apu. It’s sparked a lot of conversation about what should be done with the character going forward, which is not so easy to answer. I’ve tried to express this before. You know, the idea that anybody who is 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. The idea that it’s brought pain and suffering in any way, that is used to marginalize people, it is upsetting. Genuinely.”
“That’s certainly not that way I feel about it and that’s definitely not that message I want to send out. I’ve given this a lot of thought, really a lot of thought, and as I say, my eyes have been open. And I think the most important thing is that we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people in this country when they talk about what they feel and what they think about this character. And what their American experience of it has been. As you know, in television terms, listening to voices means inclusion in the writers’ room. I really want to see Indian, South Asian 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. I am 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 feels like the right thing to do to me.”
Kondabolu, who brought these complaints to the surface years ago on W. Kamau Bell’s talk show, and then more recently in his own documentary for truTV, was glad to see this development.
— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) April 25, 2018