Much is unclear about the fate of Simpsons character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon following the way the character was discussed in the thoughtful documentary The Problem With Apu, by Hari Kondabolu, but one thing is certain: Hank Azaria will no longer voice the character.
While speaking to /Film during the Television Critics Association winter press tour for his other show, Brockmire, Azaria clarified what he knew on the issue: “All we know there is I won’t be doing the voice anymore, unless there’s some way to transition it or something. What they’re going to do with the character is their call. It’s up to them and they haven’t sorted it out yet. All we’ve agreed on is I won’t do the voice anymore.”
There has been a lot of back and forth about Apu’s future since the doc was released, ranging from the show addressing it in a rather silly way that was dismissive of the historical backlash to the character to creator Matt Groening’s “people love to pretend that they’re offended” comments on the issue, which didn’t help. However, just knowing that Azaria will be retiring the Apu voice is an important step in the right direction.
What does this mean for the future of Apu? Well, I hope that he stays. I don’t think the evolution of recognizing that the character was based on problematic stereotypes means he needs to be put out to pasture. I think there is a place for Apu in the show, and it just means retooling him only slightly by getting a new voice actor. If The Simpsons were smart, they would get someone like Ben Kingsley to play the role—or Dev Patel or Naveen Andrews. All of a sudden, Apu has a very British-Indian accent, and no one even questions it.
Don’t make the change into a spectacle, but just have it done so we can all just move on from the topic.
There is no need to drag this out or make it any nastier than it has already been. Plus, handling it tactfully will help get those who felt upset at Kondabolu’s documentary, out of a nostalgic need to protect the sacred Simpsons institution, just put their Kwiki-Mart banner down. Despite the drop in quality over time, I’m always going to be a fan of The Simpsons, and I think if any show has proven it can adapt and change with the years, it’s this weird yellow show.
So, just do it, do it well, and let us all move on.
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