Hank Azaria who has voiced over one hundred characters in The Simpson has apologised for his portrayal of Indian immigrant Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
The Simpsons have been criticized in recent years for its racist portrayal of characters from its white actors. One of the most popular character critiques has been Apu’s character and his stereotypical depiction of people of Indian and South Asian descent.
Comedian Hari Kondabolu’s film The Problem with Apu released in 2017, was a film that explored the real-life impacts that Apu’s character had on Indian society in America. Growing up Kondabolu was happy to see some representation of his culture, however, when he grew up he realised,
"...[Apu] 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."
Voice actor of Apu, Hank Azaria appeared on Dax Shepherd’s Armchair Expert podcast and said that the criticism was always going to come as he had been voicing the character for over thirty-one years,
“I really didn’t know any better. 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.”
“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 apologise.”
“If it’s a character of colour, there’s not the same level of opportunity there. The first argument is, if it’s an Indian character, Latin character or Black character, please let’s have that person voice the character.”
“It’s more authentic, they might also bring their experience of their culture to it – and let’s not take away jobs from people who don’t have enough.”