Matt Groening makes a statement is at odds with that of Apu’s voice actor Hank Azaria
For the last few months, a pop culture controversy has been steadily brewing – one which even casual fans of The Simpsons will already be familiar with. It’s a debate around race, culture, and representation, which centres around one of the most popular characters of the world’s most popular TV show.
The story has developed from The Problem With Apu, a documentary by filmmaker and self-professed comedian Hari Kondabolu, which debuted at the end of 2017. The film presents the case that the show’s character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is a racist stereotype that is harmful to the South Asian communities of America. A great deal of the argument hinges on the fact that the character, a dark-skinned man of Indian origin, is voiced by Simpsons mainstay Hank Azaria, a Jewish man from New York City.
You can watch the trailer below:
Of course, the character of Apu, is, undeniably, a stereotype, but whether or not it is a harmful portrayal of Indian-Americans is entirely subjective. I mean, after all, he is an independent business owner, beloved in his community, who defends his property with firearms where necessary – what could be more American than that?
It is notable that Kondabolu doesn’t seem to have a problem with the shows litany of other national and cultural stereotypes, such as mob boss Fat Tony, Cleetus the slack-jawed yokel, Groundskeeper Willie, or Luigi the pizza chef. In fact, it is acknowledged in the above trailer that “The Simpsons stereotypes all races”. The argument is that, before Apu, this particular community “did not have any other representation”.
Whatever your thoughts on the topic, it’s certainly generated a great deal of column inches since it hit screens, and it’s a controversy that has followed Hank Azaria around ever since. In a recent appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Azaria remarked that he would be willing to “step aside” from the character, and that he “hopes that’s what The Simpsons does”.
This sentiment was welcomed by many, including the majority of the studio audience. However, if you thought that was a conclusion to this saga, think again. Now, the main man himself, Simpsons creator Matt Groening has had his say on the controversy, and it’s fair to say that he and Azaria are not singing from the same hymn sheet.
Groening was asked directly in an interview with USA Today whether he had any thoughts on the snowballing criticism. “Not really”, he replied, “I’m proud of what we do on the show. And I think it’s a time in our culture where people love to pretend they’re offended”.
Groening did not elaborate much on his answer throughout the rest of the interview, but it’s fair to say that his comments will have added fuel to the fire of this particular moral crusade.
The Problem With Apu currently has a user score of 4.3/10 on IMDB.
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