Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu made a documentary in 2017 called "The Problem With Apu" which examined "The Simpsons" character, Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
Kondabolu is a big fan of the show but has always been rankled by the stereotypical Indian character.
He told Vanity Fair that Apu is a flawed for a number of reasons, the most important being that he's "a white person's perception of an Indian immigrant."
Hank Azaria, the white man who does Apu's voice, watched the documentary and told TMZ that it made "some really interesting points." Azaria also voices Moe Szyslak, Chief Wiggum, Comic Book Guy, and the Sea Captain on the show.
"The Simpsons" addressed the controversy with a sorry-not-sorry response in 2018 in an episode entitled, "No Good Read Goes Unpunished." In one scene, Marge Simpson is reading a book that has been rewritten because it wasn't politically correct to her daughter Lisa. But Lisa complains she doesn't like the new version.
Then Lisa looks to the camera and says, "It's hard to say. Something that started decades ago, and was applauded and inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?" she says before looking at her nightstand with a framed photo of Apu.
#TheSimpsons completely toothless response to @harikondabolu#TheProblemWithApu about the racist character Apu:
"Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect... What can you do?" pic.twitter.com/Bj7qE2FXWN
— soham (@sohamberlamps) April 9, 2018
In 2018, Hank Azaria discussed the controversy on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert."
"It has come to my attention more and more ... that people in the South Asian community in this country have been fairly upset by the voice and characterization of Apu," Azaria said.
"The idea that anybody who is young or old, past or present, was bullied or teased based on the character of Apu, it just really makes me sad," ge continued. "It was certainly not my intention. I wanted to bring laughter and joy with this character. The idea that it's brought pain and suffering — in any way — [or] that it's used to marginalize people, it is upsetting. Genuinely."
In the interview, Azaria revealed that the voice of Apu was inspired by Peter Sellers, a white man, who played an Indian character in the 1968 film, "The Party."
On Friday, Azaria told Slash Film he'd no longer be doing the voice of Apu.
"All we know there is I won't be doing the voice anymore, unless there's some way to transition it or something," Azaria said. "What they're going to do with the character is their call. It's up to them and they haven't sorted it out yet. All we've agreed on is I won't do the voice anymore."
While it remains to be seen what comes of Apu, the new development is a landmark moment for South-Asian representation in entertainment. It shows that society had progressed to the point where it is no longer funny for actors to do other-the-top ethnic stereotypes just to get a laugh. "The Simpsons" one of the most iconic comedy shows in television history, finally agrees.
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