Posted on: April 18, 2021 Posted by: Anna Lee Comments: 0


Hank Azaria on the 2016 Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, Calif. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

{That a} white man voiced an Indian character on The Simpsons shouldn’t be the reason for anti-Indian racism in america.

As one of many world’s main consultants on Simpsons character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon (sure, that is sarcasm!), I’ve as soon as once more been requested to convey my huge experience to one of many nice controversies of our technology: Is Apu a racist determine?

I’ve written about this controversy quite a few instances, each for Nationwide Assessment, in addition to for different publications. And “controversy” is an exaggeration; that is largely a made up challenge, contrived for folks to assert sufferer standing, not a real affront to equality and justice.

The newest foray within the Apu wars was a remark made by Hank Azaria, a white man who has lengthy been the voice actor for the famously Indian character. Earlier this week, showing as a visitor on the Armchair Skilled podcast, Azaria took his self-flagellation to the following degree:

“I used to be talking at my son’s college, I used to be speaking to the Indian children there as a result of I needed to get their enter,” Azaria stated. “A 17-year-old … he’s by no means even seen The Simpsons however is aware of what Apu means. It’s virtually a slur at this level. All he is aware of is that’s how his persons are considered and represented to many individuals on this nation.”

The boy, “with tears in his eyes,” Azaria stated, requested the actor to inform Hollywood writers what they do issues and has ramifications on folks’s lives. Azaria stated he would ship the message.

“I actually do apologize,” Azaria stated. “It’s vital. I apologize individually in creating that and collaborating in that. A part of me looks like I must go to each single Indian individual on this nation and personally apologize. And typically I do.”

However the Apu wars preceded Azaria’s newest self-flagellation. They largely started with The Downside with Apu, a documentary/comedy written and produced by Hari Kondabolu, an Indian-American slapstick comedian. The film lays out the case that Apu has turn out to be a logo of racial stereotypes and bigotry, and that the character has propagated prejudice in opposition to Asian People — Indian People specifically.

From early on, I stated that Kondabolu was off base. Here’s what I wrote initially in April 2018:

That stated, Kondabolu’s tirade largely runs off the tracks as he blames the Apu character for all kinds of slights and insults throughout his profession: “Apu was the one Indian we had on TV in any respect so I used to be glad for any illustration as a child. . . . He’s humorous, however that doesn’t imply this illustration is correct or proper or righteous. It will get to the insidiousness of racism, although, since you don’t even discover it when it’s proper in entrance of you.”

The ridiculousness of this assertion is nearly an excessive amount of to bear. On the present, Apu is a strongly accented, conventional Indian immigrant. As such, he’s the proprietor of a comfort retailer (clearly a nod to the various 7-11s and different small companies owned by Indians all through the northeastern United States), who later will get an organized marriage, has octuplets, and is proven as a implausible father and husband. He’s additionally, amongst different issues, a gun proprietor who’s extraordinarily non secular and dedicated to his Hindu tradition.

Some rapidly condemned my place, and others merely attacked it as blind and ignorant. In the meantime, the producers of The Simpsons appeared to be on my facet, although finally the controversy resulted within the predictable Hollywood response: They nearly killed off Apu from the favored animated present. For the showrunners, who in all probability imagine Apu is a decent, lovable character, a struggle with the woke mob wasn’t definitely worth the effort.

Azaria has been attacked for his participation on this supposed atrocity as effectively. He initially politely appeared on Kondabolu’s documentary, however was largely blindsided by the complaints. He then was criticized for not offering passable responses to claims of racism and bigotry. Once more, as anticipated, reasonably than persevering with to battle the thankless struggle in opposition to the woke mob, Azaria merely raised the white flag of give up. In 2018, he determined to completely cease voicing the character.

Unsurprisingly, that didn’t finish the saga for Azaria. Prices of racism have dogged him ever since. Therefore his self-flagellation on the Armchair Skilled podcast. Apparently, the ridiculousness by no means ends.

However it ought to. For one factor, does Azaria actually suppose most Indians give this even probably the most fleeting, passing thought? The Simpsons shouldn’t be extensively seen, and even accessible, in India. There was a brief interval through the Nineteen Nineties when the present gained some notoriety there, however principally as a result of folks fell in love with the character of Apu.

1.4 billion Indians don’t actually care. The few right here within the U.S. who do care have, for probably the most half, misdiagnosed an issue, and blamed, in an unbelievable and mind-boggling twist of logic . . . a cartoon character.

Ask most children in highschool immediately about Apu, and also you’ll discover not solely that few have ever watched The Simpsons, but in addition that few actually have a clue who Apu is. The probabilities that bigots at his son’s college are utilizing this character as their major weapon in opposition to Indian-American college students are very low.

I explored this a number of years in the past, in an off-the-cuff setting with quite a few Indian-American college students. I requested what Hollywood character was most used to “insult” their ancestry; the reply was not Apu from The Simpsons. It was Raj, the closely accented immigrant Indian on The Massive Bang Idea. With the tip of that present, even that reference is now dated. I’ve requested numerous college students this query over time, and I’ve obtained very comparable responses. Different names which can be generally introduced up embody Baljeet, an Indian animated character on the Disney present Phineas and Ferb, and Dopinder, the closely accented taxi driver within the Deadpool movies. Apu is nearly by no means introduced up because the weapon of alternative from the prejudiced attackers.

Anybody see a sample?

Bigots care not about what weapon they use to harm the targets of their assault. They may use something that’s handy. The characters, due to this fact, should not the issue; the bigots are. Within the days lengthy forgotten, it was the time period ‘dotheads’ (referring to the purple dots that we Hindus typically adorn on our foreheads) that was mostly used.

Moreover, does anybody suppose the colour of the voice actor issues? Azaria has repeatedly claimed that solely folks of colour ought to voice such characters, however the examples above had been voiced by South-Asian actors, and the concentrating on nonetheless occurred. The one different answer is . . . to by no means present Indian characters in any respect, right?

The truth that, years after Azaria left the character of Apu behind, he nonetheless feels compelled to apologize (apparently, personally to each Indian soul, which implies about one-sixth of the complete inhabitants of the planet) reveals how ludicrous the social media mob has turn out to be. Azaria conceded the purpose to progressives, did precisely what they needed him to do, and remains to be dogged by the controversy. There isn’t any pleasing the left-wing mob.

As for Azaria apologizing: Most Indians wouldn’t know who he was, and wouldn’t care. However I’m not most Indians. I’d love a private go to by Hank Azaria to my residence in order that he might apologize to me and my household. I can’t think about something could be extra satisfying than assembly one in every of my comedic heroes in individual the nice and eternal voice Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. As one of many Indian People who has been most focused for his place on this challenge, I feel I deserve an apology. Give me a name, Hank. We are able to make it occur.





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