The Simpsons voice actor Hank Azaria has recently revealed that he feels the need to apologise to every Indian in North America, over his depiction of Apu — the beloved Indian-American character on Fox’s long-running TV show.
This whole controversy began back in 2017, when Apu was deemed to be offensive by comedian Hari Kondabolou in his documentary titled “The Problem With Apu.”
Kondabolou’s problem with the character was that “Everything with Apu is like this running joke. And the running joke is that he’s Indian,” while failing to understand that The Simpsons’ main shtick is making fun of stereotypes.
During a recent interview on the Armchair Expert podcast, at the 1 hour and 15 seconds mark, Azaria talked about voicing Apu and the lessons that his experience following the release of The Problem With Apu has taught him.
“I was speaking at my son’s school. I was talking to the Indian students there because I wanted to get their input,” Azaria told Armchair Expert hosts Dax Shepard and Monica Padman.
“A 17-year-old, maybe a year ago… he’s never even seen The Simpsons but knows what Apu means. It’s practically a slur at this point. All he knows is that is how his people are thought of and represented… to many people in this country,” the actor said.
Azaria then continued, “With tears in his eyes he said to me, and it was so sweet the way he put it, would you please tell the writers in Hollywood that what they do, and what they come up with really matters in people’s lives?”
Here’s where Azaria simply decides to bend the knee and apologise for playing Apu all of these years, even when most fans of the show actually love the character.
“I said to him, and I’m going to say to you right now, I really do apologise,” Azaria said. “I apologise for my part in creating that. In participating in that. You know, part of me feels like I need to go to every single Indian person in this country and personally apologise.”
Azaria then proceeds to explain himself even further, adding that he was initially inspired by “Peter Sellers’ performance in a movie called The Party…Peter Sellers in brown face and doing this really silly character.”
“Now here’s a great example of white privilege relative advantage,” the actor continues, “to me as a 15-year-old, when I saw that movie, there’s no difference between how funny Peter Sellers is as a French guy as Closeau, or as a German guy in Doctor Strangelove, or as Hrundi V. Bakshi in The Party — it’s just funny.”
“So I’m like ‘great.’ I’m a mimic, I’m an aspiring voice guy, so I can do the accent, I can do Strangelove, and I can do Clouseu, so there’s no difference to me, It’s all good,” added Azaria. “So I’m happily homaging this joyous character of Apu, because it’s a joyful performance by Sellers,” continued Azaria, while also adding that Sellers’ performance was “very marginalising and racist.”
What’s interesting is that Azaria himself believed that Sellers’ performance in The Party was racist and marginalising, but he’s now just realised how offensive it was. You know, after he was singled out as the man who made Apu from The Simpsons offensive.
Azaria now wants to apologise to every Indian in the country, because someone made a documentary about how offensive a character he’s played for almost 30 years is.
In February of last year, Azaria told The New York Times that he would no longer be playing Apu on The Simpsons, and we all know that this wouldn’t be the case had it not been for Kondabolou.
It isn’t like it matters any more, since The Simpsons will no longer allow that white voice actors play non-white roles, because a vocal minority deems it offensive, further proving that not even Fox nor Disney understand that the characters on the show are supposed to make fun of stereotypes.
Do you believe that Hank Azaria should apologise to every Indian in North America? Is he virtue signalling only because a documentary, made by an unfunny comedian, aimed to hold him accountable for his interpretation of Apu? Sound off your thoughts in the comments section down below or on social media.