The Simpsons has faced quite the ongoing controversy in recent years over what to do with Apu. After complaints and a documentary alleging the character is culturally insensitive, Apu was seemingly dropped from the show. The move angered some classic fans who loved the character and what he brought to the series, and there have been steady requests to bring the character back over the years. The situation is back in the news after voice actor Hank Azaria said he will no longer voice Apu, and now he's speaking out about why he made that decision.
Hank Azaria, who has been a big actor for The Simpsons as the voice of several key characters over the past few decades, explained that his decision to stop voicing Apu came after seeing the cultural impact of his portrayal. Now aware that he was potentially a part of the machine that perpetuated stereotypes for Indian-Americans, Azaria decided he was done. He told The New York Times:
Once I realized that that was the way this character was thought of, I just didn’t want to participate in it anymore. It just didn’t feel right.
The Simpsons staff released a statement following Hank Azaria's initial announcement about no longer voicing Apu, but have not addressed what will be done with the character going forward. Suggestions have been made to update the character for modern cultural standards, while others have suggested having an actual Indian-born voice actor take over the character's voice. The series did briefly make mention of the controversy in an episode some time ago, but did so in a way in which the character was not actually involved.
The Simpsons has hinted there is a plan for Apu in the future, though Hank Azaria has said he's not sure what it is. He just knows he's not voicing the character anymore, and that the whole situation is a way to shine a light on a bigger problem.
What happened with this character is a window into an important issue. It’s a good way to start the conversation. I can be accountable and try to make up for it as best I can.
Hank Azaria has said part of his inspiration for the character was rooted in the 1968 comedy The Party. In the movie, white actor Peter Sellers donned brown makeup in order to play a bumbling Indian actor named Hrundi Bakshi. The portrayal has been considered racist and offensive by groups in the past, but Azaria was not aware of those accusations when he began voicing Apu long ago. Should the character return to The Simpsons, one would think the show will attempt to sidestep any performance comparable to Azaria's.
While Apu likely won't be seen on The Simpsons newest season anytime soon, classic episodes featuring the character are available over at Disney+ and FXX. Stick with CinemaBlend for more updates on The Simpsons, and for more on what's happening in the world of television and movies at large.