The actor who voices Apu in The Simpsons has revealed that he’s willing to stop voicing the character following controversy surrounding the show’s racial stereotyping.
Appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Hank Azaria said that after “giving it a lot of thought”:
I say my eyes have been opened. I think the most important thing is we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people in this country when they talk about what they feel, how they think about this character, and what their American experience of it has been.
I’m perfectly happy and willing to step aside. Or help transition it into something new. I really hope that’s what The Simpsons does, it not only makes sense, it just feels like the right thing to do to me.
People praised the actor for his critical understanding of the importance of representation.
Ngl I’m impressed by Hank’s response. I suspected Apu wasn’t in that terrible and dismissive scene with Lisa and Ma… https://t.co/zWiQNab2aX
— Danika Parikh is on Action Short of a Strike (@Danika Parikh is on Action Short of a Strike)
He also made a nuanced point about legitimate diversity and representation in the writer's room, and that really struck a chord with people – especially people of colour – online.
Listening to voices means inclusion in the writer’s room. I really want to see Indians, South Asian writers in the room. Not in a token way, but genuinely informing whatever new direction this character may take. Including how it is voiced, or not voiced.
Comedian and writer Jenny Yang congratulated him on his thinking:
WOW. Hank Azaria really said he has evolved in his thinking? Even if it means stepping down from voicing Apu???
@oldblagger @PavanMediratta @colbertlateshow @HankAzaria @TheSimpsons "Grow up" is an interesting phrase to use her… https://t.co/GkbJvXf4Mz
— La R.R.y D. Curtis contains MODERNA 3X💉💉💉 (@La R.R.y D. Curtis contains MODERNA 3X💉💉💉)
The Simpsons has come under fire for its character following the airing of documentary The Problem with Apu, which explores the racial stereotypes attached to the character Apu, and the impact this had on South Asian Americans.
Having a diverse workforce in the media and film industries provides powerful and different role models for an equally powerful and diverse population.
Diversity in writers' rooms is key to helping represent different cultures fairly and accurately, and prevents the pitfalls of cultural appropriation, and prevents the perpetuation of superficial and damaging stereotypes of certain groups of people.
There have been countless studies that demonstrate the importance of a diverse workforce – along racial and gender lines – for better productivity and innovation.