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Hank Azaria Discusses Apu Controversy

Apu (voiced by Hank Azaria) The Simpsons - copyright FOX
Apu - The Simpsons - copyright FOX

Hank Azaria Discusses Apu Controversy

On Tuesday night’s episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Hank Azaria discussed the controversy behind one of the characters he voices on The SimpsonsApu Nahasapeemapetilon.  Azaria is a white man, while Apu is an Indian immigrant. Many people have expressed discontent with Azaria’s Indian accent, as well as the stereotypes the character frequently embodies. Watch the interview below.

In this interview, Azaria expresses sadness for anyone who has been mocked or marginalized due to the character of Apu. 

Background Behind the Controversy

In 2017, comedian Hari Kondabolu created a documentary titled The Thing About Apu. In it, Kondabolu discusses the history behind the character, and the history behind his relationship with the character. He also talked to other South Asian people about their feelings regarding the character, which were similar to his own. Another aspect of the documentary followed Kondabolu as he tried to get an interview with Azaria. In that context, the above interview becomes more significant.

In the recent episode of The Simpsons titled “No Good Read Goes Unpunished,” Marge decided to share a book that she loved as a child with Lisa. After Marge re-read the book, she decided to try and remove the “problematic” aspects of the book. At the end of the episode, Lisa admonished her and said  “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” This appeared to be a snide reply to Kondabolu’s documentary. The internet did not take this reply well. Some parts of the internet were angry about the glib reply. Others were angry about the anger. After the episode aired, showrunner Al Jean defended the defense on his Twitter account. In the above interview, Azaria says that he didn’t have anything to do with that episode, and disagrees with the message.

What do you think about this controversy? Do you think that the writers behind The Simpsons should be more empathetic? Talk about it in the comments.

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Siobhan Dempsey

Siobhan is a 24 year old MLIS student who prefers to read over socializing and is passionate about diversity and accessibility.

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