A former actor of the long-running TV show “The Simpsons”, expressed regret recently for having voiced the controversial character “Apu”, and for creating a “marginalizing dehumanizing stereotype”.
Hank Azaria recently criticized his role as Apu in the popular cartoon sitcom, “The Simpsons.” He described his ancestry to be “Sephardic Jews of Greece.”
Apu is a character who appeared on the show. He was an Indian-American and ran the Kwik-E-Mart store. His catchphrase was “Thank you, please come again.”
Hari Kondabolu is an Indian comedian who criticized Azaria for portraying the character in 2017. He also condemned Hollywood’s portrayal of South Asians through a documentary titled “The Problem with Apu.”
Azaria and Kondabolu spoke on the podcast for their first conversation in public since the controversy began. The two discussed the role of the voice actor.
Kondabolu described Azaria’s voice-acting of Apu by saying “a white man doing an impression of white guy making fun my father.”
The comedian stated that if he saw Hank Azaria doing this voice at a gathering, he would kick him in the s**t.
The actor acknowledged that he was “afraid of” addressing the issue in 2017, when he was skeptical about Kondabolu’s criticism. Azaria, however, said that watching the comedian’s documentary made it clear to him that he was making the “path” harder for performers whom he admires.
Azaria said, “The only Indian accent I could understand, besides the guys working at the 7-11 that was close to me in LA, was Peter Sellers’ in ‘The Party.'” It was a tribute to one of my heroes, Peter Sellers.
Azaria, in response to Kondabolu’s comments against him made in 2017, said: “I was really scared.” You’re a comic, so some of what you say is gotcha and bitey, just as it should be. It’s funny and makes some good points. “Being on the other side of that really, truly scared me, you understand?”
Azaria said his casting as Apu was “embarrassing”, and he believed it contributed to “the dehumanization” of Desis in the United States.
The voice actor said, “I created a stereotype that is dehumanizing and marginalizing.”
Gene Demby noted that Azaria had attended seminars on “race, power, and privilege” which helped him feel at ease as a beginner on race issues.
Azaria thanked Kondabolu “for dragging me and forcing me into this discussion.”
It’s a long history of white people sharing their knowledge and claiming credit for what they have learned without recognizing the contributions of the people of colour who got them there. Kondabolu responded, “This is everyone of color who worked.”