In Apu Debate, Hank Azaria Proposes a 'New Direction'

Hank Azaria says he's 'willing to step aside'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 25, 2018 8:14 AM CDT

Lots of people weren't quite satisfied with The Simpsons' response to a discussion of negative stereotypes of South Asians pushed by character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon—perhaps including the man who voices him. In an interview on Tuesday's Late Show, Hank Azaria told Stephen Colbert he "had nothing to do with the writing or the voicing" of the recent Simpsons episode that appeared to downplay the debate. "I think if anyone came away from that segment thinking they need to lighten up … that's definitely not the message that I want to send," Azaria said, per Variety. "I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the room … genuinely informing whatever new direction the character takes," he added, even if it means Azaria and Apu have to part ways.

The fate of the character remains unclear—showrunner Al Jean has vowed to "continue to try and find an answer that is popular & more important right," per Variety—but Azaria says he's "perfectly willing to step aside. It just feels like the right thing to do to me." After all, it's Azaria's portrayal of Apu that's at the center of the debate that first arose out of Hari Kondabolu's documentary The Problem With Apu. According to Kotaku, Kondabolu took issue with Apu sounding like "a white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father." He's also described Apu as a tool used to bully Indian kids, per the Guardian. The thought of someone "being bullied based on Apu really makes me sad," Azaria told Colbert. "I wanted to bring joy and laughter to people." (More on the controversy here.)

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