Hank Azaria and the Apu from The Simpsons Affair
Hank Azaria won’t play Apu on ‘The Simpsons’ anymore. Surely you have heard all the fuss about it, as the veteran of the show stepped away from the character beloved by many over criticism.
He has been the voice actor of various characters, such as the grumpy bartender Moe, Homer’s friend Carl Carlson, or Chief Wiggum, for more than three decades. However, in the past couple of years, his name has been notably associated with Apu, the Indian owner of Springfield’s Kwik-E-Mart convenience store, in a rather negative way.
There are two things Azaria has been ‘guilty of.’ First of all, he isn’t of Indian origin. He is a white Jewish man. Second of all, Apu speaks with a funny accent and has a job typically associated with immigrants. In other words, Apu is now seen as a bundle of stereotypes. And that’s why he has been the hot target of the Hollywood vivid denunciations.
The show has tried to justify the incorrectness in multiple ways. Both the series makers and Azaria himself raised the same question: Isn’t ‘The Simpsons’ all stereotypes? But it didn’t meet with a positive response. There is just no space for stereotypes anymore, whether they are ethnic or sexual. Neither at the movie scene nor in real life. And so, there were attempts even from the side of the characters.
In a scene from a 2018 episode, Marge discovers that one of her favorite books from her childhood is spoiled by cultural stereotypes. She discusses it with Lisa, who, then, says: ‘Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?’ And a picture of Apu appears.
That’s right. You can’t change history. You can’t change something that has been written. You can’t get rid of the already broadcast Simpsons. You can’t alter Apu’s personality and attitude. The only thing you can actually do is to dispose of Apu. Or, at least, his voice actor.
And so, Hank Azaria told a reporter of The New York Times: ‘Once I realized that was the way this character was thought of, I just didn’t want to participate in it anymore. It just didn’t feel right.’ Yet, we don’t know for sure if Apu is going to remain in the TV show.
If I think of what was being filmed 30 years ago, shouldn’t we cast aside most movies and TV series? Take Baywatch, for example. Aren’t its characters a bit too sexist? And there are a plethora of other politically incorrect artistic productions.
Yes, they might be inappropriate, but does it mean that they won’t be broadcast anymore? No. However, modern creations will certainly be different.
The famous Academy Awards have recently imposed diversity requirements, which will take effect in 2024. Any Best Picture nominee will have to comply with representation standards based on race, gender, sexuality, sexual identity, and ability. But shouldn’t really good pictures be able to qualify without these? Isn’t it a bit of an intrusion into the world of cinema? After all, it’s art. And there should be no limits in art.
Last week, Krystof Pavelka mentioned in his article regarding the Apu issue that such absurd affairs evoked by artificial means might, in fact, lead to improper visualizations of the actual problems. What do you think? How is it going to affect us? And isn’t this discussion just a bit too much?