Actor Hank Azaria has apologised for lending his voice to the character of Apu in The Simpsons. Azaria, who is white, voiced the role of the Indian- American shopkeeper since the show started in 1989, but stood down last year amidst criticism of racial stereotyping. He said he was willing to be held accountable.
Azaria was speaking on Monday on the Armchair Expert podcast, hosted by actors Dax Shepard and Monica Padman.
"“I really didn’t know any better. I didn’t think about it. I was unaware how much relative advantage I had received in this country as a white kid from Queens. Just because there were good intentions it doesn’t mean there weren’t real negative consequences to the thing that I am accountable for.”" - Hank Azaria, Actor
Addressing Padman, Azaria said, "I really do apologise. I know you weren’t asking for that but it’s important. I apologise 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 personally apologise.”
In the Armchair Podcast Azaria said that he had worked with his teenage son Hal to try and understand the problem.
“I was speaking at my son’s school, I was talking to the Indian kids there because I wanted to get their input,” he said. “[There was] a 17-year-old, he’s never even seen The Simpsons but knows what Apu means. It’s practically a slur at this point.”
Azaria continued that he “read, spoke to people who knew a lot about racism, spoke to lots of Indian people and went to seminars. I realised I have had a date with destiny with this thing for 31 years.”
Criticism in The Docu, 'The Problem With Apu'
The character of Apu came under scrutiny in the 2017 documentary The Problem With Apu, made by Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu.
Kondabolu welcomed Azaria's apology and tweeted, "@HankAzaria is a kind & thoughtful person that proves that people are not simply “products of their time,” but have the ability to learn & grow. Nothing. But. Respect."
However, Kondabolu saw it as a “comeuppance” for the show.
Hank Azaria's apology has left Twitter divided. While some felt he should have apologised earlier, others extended their support towards the actor.
Apu - The Character
In The Simpsons, Apu is an immigrant from West Bengal with a doctorate in computer science. He runs the Kwik-E-Mart convenience store in Springfield. Storylines involving the character have often led to controversies, including an episode aired in 1996 in which the mayor sought to expel undocumented migrants and Apu purchased a forged birth certificate from local goons.
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