Hank Arazia, the actor who voices Apu in The Simpsons has admitted that accusations that the character is racist have been ‘really upsetting’.
It’s the first time Azaria, who voices a host of characters on the long-running cartoon series, has spoken about the concerns since a documentary, The Problem With Apu, was aired in the US.
Made by Hari Kondabolu, a US comedian of South Indian descent, he outlined how while the Kwik-E-Mart manager may mean well, his character perpetuates lazy and often offensive stereotypes about Indian culture.
“It’s really upsetting that [Apu] was offensive or hurtful to anybody,” he told TMZ.
He also agreed that ‘the documentary makes some really interesting points’ and has given ‘a lot for The Simpsons to think about’.
As to whether the show would be doing something about it, he went on to say ‘we’re just really thinking… it’s a lot to digest’.
Speaking to the BBC, Hari was happy to admit that while the character is funny, the jokes are often as the expense of Indian people, which can over time be damaging.
Of course he’s funny, but that doesn’t mean this representation is accurate or right or righteous,” he said.
“It gets to the insidiousness of racism… because you don’t even notice it when it’s right in front of you. It becomes so normal that you don’t even think about it.
“It seeps into our language to the point we don’t even question it because it seems like it’s just been that way forever.”
Apart from the fact that the actor who portrays Apu is white, his character is the owner of a convenience store, has an arranged marriage, and an exaggeratedly large amount of children.
There have also always been frequent gags about the cleanliness of the Kwik-E-Mart, and the poor quality of its products.
The documentary, which aired on truTV featuring talking head interviews with the likes of Aziz Ansari, also from Indian heritage, and Whoopi Goldberg.