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The Simpsons Apu Controversy – Hank Azaria Said He’s Willing To Step Aside As Apu
In the months after Hari Kondabolu’s documentary The Problem With Apu, which outlined how The Simpsons character perpetuates South Asian stereotypes, there was no response from the show’s producers about how they’d move forward with the character.
Earlier this month, the show responded in an episode with an embarrassing interaction between Lisa and Marge, which Kondabolu described as a jab at “what many of us consider progress.”
Last night, star Hank Azaria, who has voiced Apu for decades, gave a much better response to Stephen Colbert.
“Of course I understand. It’s come to my attention more and more over the past couple years,” Azaria said. “The idea that anyone young or old, past or present, being bullied based on Apu really makes me sad. It certainly was not my intention. I wanted to bring joy and laughter to people.”
Azaria stressed that he was not involved with the response in The Simpsons episode, which executive producer Al Jean told us in a statement “speaks for itself.”
“I had nothing to do with the writing or the voicing [in that episode],” Azaria said. “I think if anyone came away from that segment thinking they need to lighten up…that’s definitely not the message that I want to send.”
Most importantly, though, Azaria said he was willing to step down from his role to help the character make progress.
“I’ve given this a lot of thought, and as I say my eyes have been opened,” he said. “I think the most important thing is to listen to Indian people and their experience with it. I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the writers room…including how [Apu] is voiced or not voiced. I’m perfectly willing to step aside. It just feels like the right thing to do to me.”
And Kondabolu quickly applauded Azaria’s response to the controversy.
Although it seems Jean is hesitant to change, Azaria’s response is a step in the right direction to The Simpsons making real progress.