What to do about Apu: Voice actor speaks up


Katie Cole

Voice actor of  ‘Apu’ on ‘the Simpsons,’ Hank Azaria, is “willing to step aside” from voicing the controversial character. April 24th, On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Azaria stated his “eyes have been opened” to the dispute over the racist overtones many see following Apu, and that Azaria never intended to offend.  

“The most important thing is, we have to listen to South Asian, Indian, people in this country when they talk about how they feel and what they think about this character,” Azaria told Colbert. The character first appeared on the long-running cartoon February 25, 1990 and has made recurring appearances ever since. He is the shopkeeper of a Kwik-E-Mart, a convenience-style store, has an arranged marriage, and is an illegal immigrant. He has a Hindi accent, though Hank Azaria is not of south asian descent. Many have come to call Apu a ‘racist caricature.’

The controversy and caricature of Apu was the subject of the documentary The Problem with Apu, written by Hari Kondabolu.  “I don’t find Apu offensive, I find him annoying and insulting. But for me, one: It’s inaccurate. Two: It’s insulting to my parents. And three: When that’s the only depiction you have, that’s how the world sees you,” said Kondabolu in his documentary. Kondabolu noted he had been bullied based on the character of Apu.

“The idea that anybody, 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 spread laughter and joy with this character and the idea that it’s brought pain and suffering in any way, that it was used to marginalize people, it’s upsetting,” said Azaria on The Late Show. No word yet what the writers of ‘The Simpsons’ plan to do about Apu.