Hank Azaria Is Now Woke and 'Willing to Step Aside' From Voicing Apu On The Simpsons

Hank Azaria appeared on Stephen Colbert’s show last night to promote that show Brockmire that people keep talking to me about in the same way they talk about Billions and SMILF—you know, with lines like “it’s actually really good” and “I know, I know, but watch it.”

But before Colbert let him do any promo, he asked Azaria about the recent controversy (which is actually more like decades-long controversy that began receiving mainstream attention after last year’s documentary The Problem With Apu) surrounding the fact that he—an American of Greek, Spanish, and Jewish heritage—has voiced an Indian character since 1990.

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“Do you understand why some Indian American or South Asian American actors are offended by that character?” Colbert asksed.

“Yeah, not just actors. Of course I understand,” Azaria said, adding:

“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 moving 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 bring 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.”

He went on to say that he had nothing to do with The Simpsons’ poorly-received response to the recent uproar over the character of Apu, and said he wants there to be “inclusion in the writers’ room” and that he was “perfectly willing to step aside” if the show’s [theoretical] South Asian writers decide to take the character in a new direction. (“I want to see Indian [and] South Asian writers in the writers’ room,” Azaria said.)

Colbert’s audience applauded. I merely wondered what took him so long to hire a decent crisis PR firm.

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[E! Online]


Did you see these two making it red carpet official earlier this week? No? Well, here they are”

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DISCUSSION

When representation of a group is absent or near absent, then any representation will be welcomed at first; even if it is stereotypes and #face-acting by another ethnicity. As time goes on and representation increases so the quality of that representation needs to improve too or appreciation will drop. The Simpsons is a unique case because of its longevity as a show, it was welcomed because it was willing to put ethnic characters in at all near the start of its run and it spurred others to do the same. Trouble is that the shows that followed did more than the Simpsons, and The Simpsons never really changed so it slid down the spectrum.

Representation is always going to be a moving target. Did you know that Rudyard Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden” poem was controversial when it was written because it was seen as too progressive and taking too many potshots at the establishment view of non-White People? Or that the movie based one of his poem’s “Gunga Din” was controversial for showing the heroism of a “simple” Indian water bearer on screen? Neither of them have a progressive reputation now, but like I say: A moving target. The Simpsons just never kept up.