The Simpsons voice actor Hank Azaria talks The Problem With Apu documentary, and says the show may address criticisms of the character. While Springfield is full of many beloved supporting characters, one of the town’s more popular denizens tends to be Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the Indian-American owner of local convenient store the Kwik-E-Mart. Apu’s first appearance on The Simpsons occurred in season 1 episode “The Telltale Head,” and – like many characters on the show – he’s voiced by Azaria.
Despite Apu’s overall popularity among The Simpsons’ fanbase, there is one group that has some serious issues with how the character is portrayed, that being Indian-Americans. Apu is viewed as a clear racial stereotype by many, and some also find it problematic that he is portrayed by a white actor using an exaggerated Indian accent. These criticisms were chronicled in a documentary last year entitled The Problem With Apu, written by and starring Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu.
Related: The Simpsons Predicted Disney & Fox Deal 19 Years Ago
During a recent Television Critics Association panel discussion of Azaria’s current live-action IFC series Brockmire, the Simpsons stalwart was asked about The Problem with Apu, and responded with the following sentiments. Here’s his full quote, via The Wrap.
“The idea that anybody, young or old, past or present, was bullied or teased or worse based on the character of Apu … it’s distressing. The idea that anybody was marginalized based on it or had a hard time was very upsetting to me personally and professionally.”
“As far as what is going to happen with the character going forward, it’s really not just up to me,” he continued, adding that the show’s producers have also “given it a lot of thought.” “They will definitely address — maybe publicly, but certainly within the context of the show — what they want to do, if anything, with the character.”
While Azaria seems clearly bothered by the idea that Apu was used as a tool for bigotry, his statement regarding The Problem With Apu’s criticisms being somehow addressed on The Simpsons itself is perhaps the bigger headline of the two statements. On the other hand, Azaria also seems a bit unsure about whether or not that will end up taking place, at least judging by his wording near the end.
Should The Simpsons make changes to how Apu is portrayed at this late stage of its run, many longtime fans are likely to be annoyed, as Apu is such a major fixture of the series. Meanwhile, if no changes are made to Apu, detractors will be able to point at The Simpsons and say that the show’s creative team is fine staying the course with a character considered by many to be an uncomfortable racial caricature. As with most disagreements, there is unlikely to be a resolution that pleases everyone involved.
More: The Simpsons: How Many Seasons Are Left?
The Simpsons season 29 airs Sundays on FOX.
Source: The Wrap