'The Simpsons' voice actor reveals he's ready to step down from the show after recent controversy
For nearly 30 years, The Simpsons has graced our TV screens with its satirical humor, overwhelming yellowness, and one-of-a-kind take on American family life. However, while society has changed a lot over these past few decades, the hit show has stayed very close to its original format - and that's caused a number of problems recently.
Last year, a comedian named Hari Kondabolu addressed one of the most prominent issues with The Simpsons in a documentary titled, "The Problem With Apu", which, if you couldn't figure it out from the title, focuses on the character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. In his criticism, Kondabolu pointed out that Apu - an Indian man who works as a store clerk in the Kwiki Mart - was often portrayed as nothing more than a compilation of Asian stereotypes, and the way he was written sometimes came across as thinly-veiled racism.
Since then, The Simpsons actually released an episode titled, "No Good Read Goes Unpunished", which addressed people's concerns about the character - but not everybody was happy with how the issue was left.
Rather than apologize for their portrayal of Apu, the show basically accepted they were in the wrong... and then proceeded to do nothing about it. In fact, they even implied that nothing would ever be done about the issue at the end of the episode, when Marge picks up a framed photo of Apu and says, "Some things will be dealt with at a later date," to which Lisa replies, "If at all."
Indeed, earlier last year, Hank Azaria - the (white) actor who voices Apu, said of Kondabolu's documentary:
"I think the documentary made some really interesting points and gave us a lot to think about and we really are thinking about it. Definitely anybody that was hurt or offended by it, or by any character or vocal performance, it's really upsetting that it was offensive or hurtful to anybody.
"I think it's an important conversation worth having. We're still thinking about it. It's a lot to digest."
So, again, they acknowledged the problem, but didn't really do anything about it.
Now, however, that might change.
Last night, in an interview with Stephen Colbert, Azaria showed that he had changed his opinion on Apu, and said that he would be willing to step down from voicing the part.
"I’ve given this a lot of thought, and as I say, my eyes have been opened," he said.
"I think the most important thing is to listen to Indian people and their experience with it. I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the writers' room … including how [Apu] is voiced or not voiced. I’m perfectly willing to step aside. It just feels like the right thing to do to me."
Kondablu later tweeted a response to Azaria's statement, saying, "Thank you, @HankAzaria. I appreciate what you said & how you said it."
So, with fans and stars of the show pushing for a rethinking of Apu's character, it's looking more and more likely that the producers might actually take action on the issue in the near future. And, when they do, it still won't be soon enough.