Hank Azaria gave an honest answer about his controversial 'Simpsons' role.

If you're a fan of "The Simpsons," you definitely know — and may even adore — Apu.

The Indian Kwik-E-Mart owner who reliably tells his customers, "Thank you, come again" is a clownish series favorite among many "Simpsons" diehards.

But in recent months, more attention has been paid to "The Problem with Apu" — both in the actual sense and the documentary from comedian Hari Kondabolu, which premiered last year on TruTV.

GIF via "The Simpsons."


Now, Hank Azaria — the actor whose voice has brought Apu (and a host of other "Simpsons" characters) to life onscreen for decades — has spoken out about the controversy that's ensnared his contentious character since the documentary aired.

And, fortunately, he hit all the right notes.  

But hold on! *pumps brakes*

Before you roll your eyes thinking this is just another one of those stories about an actor bowing to the P.C. police, you should at least know that Kondabolu, a New Yorker of Indian descent, has never criticized the show for its lack of political correctness.

The Fox series has long held a special place in his heart and personal history; he simply wanted it to do better.

"I was obsessed with 'The Simpsons' growing up and it has greatly influenced my comedy," Kondabolu said in a statement in September 2017.

"However," he noted, "as my mother proves, you can criticize something you love because you expect more from it."

A month later, in November 2017, Kondabolu explained to the BBC why Apu — who speaks in a caricatured accent and is often defined by the stereotypes associated with his South Asian identity — has been so harmful:

“Apu was the only Indian we had on TV at all so I was happy for any representation as a kid. And of course he's funny, but that doesn't mean this representation is accurate or right or righteous. It gets to the insidiousness of racism, though, because you don't even notice it when it's right in front of you. It becomes so normal that you don't even think about it. It seeps into our language to the point we don't even question it because it seems like it's just been that way forever.”

After months of silence from the series' creators, "The Simpsons" addressed the controversy in an episode that aired in early April 2018 — but totally botched the response. The episode used a conversation between Marge and Lisa as an attempt to illustrate the predicament the show found itself in.

"Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect," Lisa said in the episode, as the camera panned to include a picture of Apu. "What can you do?"

In a series of tweets, Kondabolu reiterated that his criticisms weren't about political correctness, but the problems that result from a lack of proper media representation.

Clearly, "Simpson" critics were not pleased. So finally, on April 24, Azaria addressed the issue as a guest on "The Late Show."

It went much better.

Speaking with Stephen Colbert, Azaria said his "eyes have been opened" to the problem with Apu.

He continued:

"I think the most important thing is that we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people, in this country when they talk about what they feel and how they think about this character, and what their American experience of it has been."

The actor called for more artists of South Asian descent to have a seat at the writers' table for shows like "The Simpsons" so that characters like Apu are shaped by those who've actually lived similar experiences, and noted that he's open to evolving or ending his work on the show, if it's decided that's what's best.

"I'm perfectly willing and happy to step aside or help transition [Apu] into something new," Azaria said. "I really hope that's what 'The Simpsons' does. It not only makes sense, but it just feels like the right thing to do to me."

Like I said: This isn't a story about an actor forced to apologize for being un-P.C. It's a story about an actor understanding exactly how his character exacerbates a bigger cultural problem.

Characters like Apu are not only steeped in harmful, inaccurate stereotypes, but they're often the only depictions of marginalized groups many white Americans see on TV. If "The Simpsons" had featured other prominent South Asian characters in its nearly three decades of fictional storylines, the problem with Apu would be far less scarring to fans like Kondabolu. (He's not calling for Apu to be scrubbed from past episodes, by the way.)

“After a while, you’d watch 'The Simpsons' on a Sunday and you’d get a sense of how you’d be made fun of at school on Monday, based on what Apu did in the latest episode," the comedian told the BBC.

Apu's depiction really did have — and still has — real-world consequences.

Kondabolu, however, saw Azaria's interview with Colbert. And he's happy with how the comedian broached the topic.

Azaria's response to the controversy is an encouraging sign, but the problem with Apu remains.

So, until our TV screens reflect the real world we live in — where marginalized groups are portrayed both frequently and fairly — let's follow Kondabolu's lead and demand better of the shows we love.

Courtesy of Verizon
True

If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

Keep Reading Show less