THE SIMPSONS: Hank Azaria Apologizes For Voicing Apu And Contributing To Offensive Indian Stereotypes
Hank Azaria, a white American who has voiced several characters on The Simpsons, has publicly apologized for voicing the character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, which he described as an offensive Indian stereotype.
For decades, Hank Azaria has been the voice of multiple characters on The Simpsons. However, it wasn't until 2017 that the voice actor came under scrutiny for voicing Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, an Indian immigrant who runs the Kwik-E-Mart in the show.
Azaria, who is white, appeared on Dax Shepherd's Armchair Expert podcast and addressed the role he had in contributing to an offensive Indian stereotype. Although he initially had a "blind spot" to the cultural issues surrounding Apu, whose thick accent, Indian culture, and Hindu beliefs are often a running joke on the show, Azaria has since learned and reflected on the entire situation. And on the podcast, he issued a formal apology for his part in creating Apu.
"Participating in racism, as in structural racism in this country, is about blind spots," Azaria said. "I really didn't know any better. I didn't think about it. And there were very good intentions on all of our parts and we tried to do a funny, thoughtful character. Just because there were good intentions doesn't mean there weren't real negative consequences for the thing that I am accountable for."
The character of Apu in The Simpsons came under fire when Indian-American comic Hari Kondabolu made a documentary that pointed out the character was founded on racial stereotypes. While Azaria acknowledged that he was "hurt, upset, defensive" upon hearing that criticism, he "didn't want a knee jerk response."
So he took the time to learn about the issues at hand. "I went and learned, I read, I talked to a lot of Indian people," he reflected. "I realized I have had a date with destiny with this thing for 31 years."
Azaria apologized to the podcast's co-host, Monica Padman, who is Indian-American.
"I really do apologize. I know you weren't asking for that but it's important. I apologize for my part in creating that and participating in that. Part of me feels I need to go round to every single Indian person in this country and apologise."
The Simpsons creator Matt Groening recently acknowledged that "times changed" since the show's original airing in 1989. "We're trying to make it better," he told BBC Radio earlier this year. "Bigotry and racism are still an incredible problem and it's good to finally go for more equality and representation."
Last year, it was announced that The Simpsons, which is currently in its 32nd season, would no longer use white actors to voice non-white characters.