After Years of Scrutiny, Actor Will No Longer Voice Character on ‘The Simpsons’
The fate of the longtime owner of the Kwik-E-Mart on The Simpsons, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, is unknown as his voice actor steps away from the role.
After 30 years of voicing a popular character of Indian descent on “The Simpsons”, voice actor Hank Azaria is stepping down from the role, due to recent years of controversy surrounding his portrayal.
Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is a well-known character in the popular animated series on Fox. In the series, he’s portrayed as a hard-working convenience store owner and speaks with a heavy Indian accent. In our age of social justice and “woke” culture, these traits could be seen as racial stereotypes — all the more when the character is voiced by a white person.
It looks like the show has finally decided to resolve the problem.
“All we know there is I won’t be doing the voice anymore, unless there’s some way to transition it or something,” Azaria said, according to /Film, an industry news blog, reported on Friday.
Azaria explained that the decision was mutual among the show’s creators and staff.
This isn’t too surprising. Previously, Azaria said he’d be open to stepping down from the role, and emphasized that he never meant to be offensive or insulting in his portrayal. The actor also voices many other characters on the show, so it would not sever his connection to the show.
Indian comedian Hari Kondabolu — whose 2017 documentary, The Problem with Apu, thrust controversy over the character into the mainstream — wrote Friday on Twitter that he hopes “The Simpsons” keeps Apu and lets “a very talented writing staff do something interesting with him.”
Kondabolu assured that his documentary wasn’t seeking to get rid of the character of Apu but to discuss race, representation & how to be critical of things, even if you like them, such as “The Simpsons”.
Characters on TV shows can certainly be voiced by new actors almost seamlessly — but with accusations of the previous version of Apu being offensive, a new voice for him may sound purposely different, to avoid the old tropes. Will that upset fans?
“The Simpsons” has been on air since 1989 and is lauded as a cultural milestone but has gone through many creative overhauls in tone and content due to its extensive run. Fans of the series when it first debuted may not even watch the show anymore. Although some viewers may see this recent development as pandering to political correctness, changing Apu’s character may not be that controversial at all since the show has already been changing for various reasons for the past three decades, to suit current audiences.