There has been a great deal of controversy in recent months over the character of Apu in The Simpsons and the many cultural stereotypes he has represented over the years.
The convenience store owner was brought into the limelight last year in a documentary by comedian and Simpsons' fan Hari Kondabolu who looked at the problems with how the character is represented on screen.
"The Simpsons is an important work of art that has influenced so many, including myself," Hari said. "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."
The Simpsons then attempted to address the problem in a recent episode but many viewers were not happy with how they handled it, including Kondabolu:
Wow. “Politically Incorrect?” That’s the takeaway from my movie & the discussion it sparked? Man, I really loved this show. This is sad. https://t.co/lYFH5LguEJ
— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) April 9, 2018
Actor Hank Azaria who voices Apu has now said that he is willing to leave the role in an interview on Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show.
"I've given this a lot of thought, really a lot of thought, and as I say my eyes have been opened.
"I think the most important thing is we have to listen to South Asian and Indian people in this country when they talk about what they feel and how they think about this character and what their American experience has been." he said.
"Listening to voices means inclusion in the writers room. I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the writers room, not in a token way but genuinely informing whatever new direction this character takes, including how it is voiced or not voiced.
"I’m perfectly willing or happy to step aside or help transition it into something new. I really hope that's what The Simpsons does and it not only makes sense but it just feels like the right thing to do to me."
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) April 25, 2018
Kondabolu saw the interview and tweeted:
— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) April 25, 2018
While comedian Aparna Nancherla also praised Azaria's response:
This is measured & thoughtful & progress. https://t.co/WMGDDrjvnH
— Aparna Nancherla (@aparnapkin) April 25, 2018
The Simpsons producer Al Jean also said last week that they would address the Apu controversy again following the backlash to the recent episode:
.@TheSimpsons I truly appreciate all responses pro and con. Will continue to try to find an answer that is popular & more important right
— Al Jean (@AlJean) April 13, 2018