Greek-American Hank Azaria will be stepping down from his long-time recurring role as Apu in the hit animated series “The Simpsons”.
For the past few years, the character has ignited a controversy due to his behavior and accent on the show. Apu is portrayed as a stereotypical, heavy-accented Indian storeowner on The Simpsons. The fact that, up until now, he has been voiced by the Caucasian Azaria is also problematic for some.
The firestorm of controversy began back in 2017, when the Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu released his documentary, “The Problem With Apu”. The documentary didn’t focus solely on Apu; it used the animated character as a launching point for talking about Hollywood’s depiction of Indians in general, but Apu was nevertheless the central figure in the film.
Kondabolu emphasized that the documentary wasn’t intended to advocate for Apu’s removal from “The Simpsons,” or lay blame on any one person. Instead, the comedian wanted to start a conversation on ethnic and racial portrayals in Hollywood, and point out some problematic tropes which tend to crop up repeatedly.
In interviews conducted after the documentary, Azaria seemed to genuinely be moved by the documentary’s message. He said “The Problem with Apu” had given him “a lot of things to think about.”
Although the creators of The Simpsons seemed dismissive of the controversy when addressing it in later episodes, Azaria had said he would be perfectly willing to either step down or help the character transition. As of now, it is not clear if Apu as a character will remain on the show, or how much the controversy affected Azaria’s decision to step down.