One of the voice stars of The Simpsons, Hank Azaria, has admitted that serious discussions need to be had about the role of Apu on the show.
The concerns follow the release of a new documentary titled The Problem With Apu, which examines the problematic role of the character on the hugely popular animated show.
Comedian and filmmaker Hari Kondabolu uses the documentary to highlight the various ways in which Apu represents little more than an offensive, racist Indian stereotype that may be doing more harm than good in American society.
It’s difficult to disagree with this assessment given that the character is voiced by a white man doing a exaggerated impression of an Indian man.
The documentary has already won widespread acclaim, though Kondabolu does have one regret from making the film – he never got to speak to Azaria on camera about his role in the development of the character.
“What I really wanted at the end of the film was to have a real conversation,” he told Esquire.
“I wanted people to see it and say, ‘Oh this is two adults trying to work through something, but they’re funny about it and it’s kinda awkward, but they work through it and come to a compromise.’ Even if there wasn’t a clean resolution, I wanted to show the importance of those awkward conversations, especially in this era—that’s so crucial.”
Azaria has finally broken his silence on the documentary though, offering an apology to anyone who may have been offended by Apu as part of a brief interview with TMZ.
“I think the documentary made some really interesting points and gave us a lot to think about and we really are thinking about it,” he said. “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,” he added, “We’re still thinking about it. It’s a lot to digest.”
One possible option could see Apu and his family written out of the show, given the toxic legacy attached to the character.
The writers of The Simpsons have done similar in the past – characters like Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure were retired after the shock death of voice actor Phil Hartman – while any attempt to retool Apu could come off heavy-handed.
One more viable option could be to introduce an entirely new set of Indian characters, free from stereotype, though any decision will ultimately rest on the shoulders of Matt Groening, the show’s creator.