Hank Azaria apologises ‘to every Indian person’ for voicing Apu in The Simpsons

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https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2021/apr/13/hank-azaria-apu-the-simpsons-apology

The actor Hank Azaria has apologised “to every single Indian person” for his portrayal of Apu in The Simpsons.

Azaria, who is white, voiced the role of the Indian American shopkeeper from the show’s inception in 1989 but stood down last year amid criticism of racial stereotyping. He said he was willing to be held accountable for its “negative consequences”.

Speaking on Monday on the Armchair Expert podcast hosted by the actors Dax Shepard and Monica Padman, who is Indian American, Azaria, 56, said that though he believed the show was founded on good intentions, it contributed to the “structural racism” in the US.

He said that it had also taken him some time to realize that his portrayal of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon was offensive to the Indian American community.

“I really didn’t know any better,” he said. “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.”

To Padman, he 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.”

Azaria’s character came under close scrutiny in a 2017 documentary, The Problem with Apu, made by the Indian American comedian Hari Kondabolu as a look at “how western culture depicts south-east Asian communities”, according to IMDB.

In The Simpsons, Apu, an immigrant from West Bengal with a doctorate in computer science, runs the Kwik-E-Mart convenience store in Springfield. Storylines involving him have often been contentious, including an episode aired in 1996 in which the mayor sought to expel undocumented migrants and Apu purchased a forged birth certificate from local mobsters.

In tweets about the podcast, Kondabolu welcomed Azaria’s apology but saw it as a “comeuppance” for the show.

“The ‘Apu Controversy’ is not real. Racism isn’t ‘controversial’, it’s a constant,” he wrote. “Unless you think People of Color finally standing up for themselves is ‘controversial’. However, I suppose a word like ‘controversy’ is more clickable than ‘comeuppance’.”

In another tweet Kondabolu called Azaria “kind and thoughtful”, which he said proved that “people are not simply ‘products of their time’ but have the ability to learn and grow”.

Earlier this year Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, told the BBC the show was striving for inclusivity. Last year he announced that non-white characters would no longer be voiced by white actors, and in February he said the Black actor Kevin Michael Richardson would assume the role of Julius Hibbert, an African American doctor, from Harry Shearer, who voices characters including Mr Burns.

“Bigotry and racism are still an incredible problem and it’s good to finally go for more equality and representation,” Groening said.

But he said there had been no intention to sideline or offend ethnic minorities.

“All of our actors play dozens of characters each, it was never designed to exclude anyone,” he said.

In an interview on NPR last year, when he announced he was standing down as Apu, Azaria said: “After a lot of soul-searching and doing workshops and reading and talking to people, [I realised] I had a blind spot or two when it came to this character.”

In the Armchair Podcast he said he had worked on understanding the issue with the help of his teenage son Hal.

“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 said 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.”
 
Seriously though what happened to the world? When did everyone get so sensitive?

Anyone who ever saw the Simpsons, especially during that early first nine season run knows that though Apu may have started out as a stereotype, he grew into one of the most endearing characters on the show. And what exactly is so offensive about a hardworking immigrant who is deeply dedicated to his job and his family?

It's ironic that The Simpsons, a show that started out as a subversive take on traditional sitcom shows is being accused of offensive stereotypes because anyone who is a true fan of the show knows that The Simpsons always subverted traditional notions of sitcom comedy, especially during its golden early season run. All the characters grew into multi-dimensional characters with personality. And the same was true for Apu.
 
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Also, are they now going to apologize for every stereotype Hollywood ever made? Are they going to apologize for blackface? Are they going to apologize for the way they portrayed the Chinese and Japanese as devious in those early Hollywood movies? Are they going to apologize for portraying Native Americans as faceless savages in Westerns? Are they going to apologize for the way they have depicted Muslims in every post 9/11 jingoistic war propaganda movie?

Because those are actually dangerous and offensive stereotypes that may have contributed to racism.

And with their latest trend of targeting Muslims; its not just that Muslims are portrayed as faceless terrorists in these movies but also how the biggest war criminals in the world are portrayed as 'crusading good guys' out to protect 'American freedoms'.

Unfortunately this is a typical case of Hollywood trying to show that it cares about racism in the most typically superficial way. Instead of some genuine soul-searching and looking at the way they depict Muslims as a whole, or the way they have depicted blacks, Asians and Native Americans in the past; they are just going to selectively single out things that they can guilt-trip people about, instead of the problematic deeper questions they aren't willing to explore.
 
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Apologising after making millions over decades. Lol, wasteful space in the news.
 
Apologising after making millions over decades. Lol, wasteful space in the news.

It was his job and he didn't think he was doing anything wrong. Indians themselves didn't complain for those decades, it was only after other minorities got traction for taking a stand that American Indians finally spoke up. Before that they would probably be nodding along agreeing that it was free speech and humour and that they were all in it together.
 
If he feels he did a grave mistake in perpetuating stereotypes, he should donate all his Simpsons earnings to the indian-american foundation.
 
What nonsense? Apologize for what? This cancel culture is ruining the free speech. Have to effin apology for every thing these days because some idiot somewhere is offended.
 
It was his job and he didn't think he was doing anything wrong. Indians themselves didn't complain for those decades, it was only after other minorities got traction for taking a stand that American Indians finally spoke up. Before that they would probably be nodding along agreeing that it was free speech and humour and that they were all in it together.

True and I agree with you. I just felt that he didnt need to apologise now either.
 
Apu Nahasapeemapetilon - never heard of a Indian name like that?
 
If he feels he did a grave mistake in perpetuating stereotypes, he should donate all his Simpsons earnings to the indian-american foundation.

The Indian American foundation should then donate most of that money to the African American community for making enough of a noise to make ethnic stereotyping unacceptable.
 
Pathetic. Sad to see the Land of the free bowing down to cultural Marxists and idiots generally.
 
What a load of absolute nonsense. I miss the days where people weren’t so easily offended.

What is so wrong with a white actor playing a non while actor? Isn’t acting about playing a role and doing it well and making it your own? That’s exactly what Hank did with the role of Apu and he should be applauded for that. Instead he is apologising because the snowflakes are offended.

I know a that certain race loves to always play the race and victim card. It looks like Asians are also joining in the trend.
 
I wouldn’t care if a white actor played a Pakistani character in a movie or a tv show. I won’t be crying about diversity and representation, and wanting the white actor to apologise. Bear in mind, I don’t personally think that most Indians care much some white actor playing Apu. Hank is only apologising because a certain other race is offended, as per usual.
 
I wouldn’t care if a white actor played a Pakistani character in a movie or a tv show. I won’t be crying about diversity and representation, and wanting the white actor to apologise. Bear in mind, I don’t personally think that most Indians care much some white actor playing Apu. Hank is only apologising because a certain other race is offended, as per usual.

Indian Americans did actually raise a complaint, there was a thread about it on here. I know Indians aren't usually the confrontational types but it's insulting to suggest that they need to have other races fight their battles for them.
 
Babu Bhatt was one of the funniest characters on Seinfeld. He was more of a stereotypical character than Apu but I, as a Pakistani was never offended by his characterization.

People are too thin-skinned these days. And alot of them are trying to piggyback on BLM by making this about them. It isn't. Indian Americans and Asian Americans are a very small minority and also are among some of the most well-integrated people in America. It's not the same for the blacks who make up over 20% of the population, are deeply marginalized and have been ever since they were brought to America against their own will as slaves centuries ago.
 
The Indian American foundation should then donate most of that money to the African American community for making enough of a noise to make ethnic stereotyping unacceptable.

From your PP posts, you come across as a confused desi, so you might have some insight on this topic .. were you ever mocked with an Apu accent in your childhood in the UK ?

I'm just trying to figure who the target audience is that Hank Azaria is apologizing to here .. is it the desis born and brought up in US/UK that were bullied in school or is it south asians who emigrate later in their college/career years that faced the brunt of Apu ? Was it people with thick accents or just desis who looked like Apu? You must know.
 
From your PP posts, you come across as a confused desi, so you might have some insight on this topic .. were you ever mocked with an Apu accent in your childhood in the UK ?

I'm just trying to figure who the target audience is that Hank Azaria is apologizing to here .. is it the desis born and brought up in US/UK that were bullied in school or is it south asians who emigrate later in their college/career years that faced the brunt of Apu ? Was it people with thick accents or just desis who looked like Apu? You must know.

Priyanka choirs said she was bullied
 
From your PP posts, you come across as a confused desi, so you might have some insight on this topic .. were you ever mocked with an Apu accent in your childhood in the UK ?

I'm just trying to figure who the target audience is that Hank Azaria is apologizing to here .. is it the desis born and brought up in US/UK that were bullied in school or is it south asians who emigrate later in their college/career years that faced the brunt of Apu ? Was it people with thick accents or just desis who looked like Apu? You must know.

Not sure what you mean by confused. Can you please elaborate so I can understand where the impression has come from. I certainly have some insight on this topic but let's clear that up first.
 
Why can’t cancel culture actually cancel Modi and fascist India?
 
Cancel culture targets racists or if someone made any racist statement in their life before.

I see...so that’s why they don’t target political leaders who are responsible for mass murder?
 
I see...so that’s why they don’t target political leaders who are responsible for mass murder?

They also specifically target white people. Dark skinned people like us get a free pass.
 
This is getting ridiculous.

There's nothing wrong with the character. He doesn't need to apologize.
 
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