Voice actor Hank Azaria steps down from voicing Apu
Actor Hank Azaria, a prevalent voice actor on The Simpsons has decided that he will no longer be voicing the character of Apu. He stated that he has been thoughtfully considering the change for many years before he made the final decision.
Azaria wanted to consult with Indian-Americans when making his decision, but after self-reflection he said that he would not feel very good if a TV show depicted someone like him — a white and Jewish male — in a similar way to how they portray Apu, which is a stereotypical one.
He stated that, “If that character were the only representation of Jewish people in American culture for 20 years, which was the case with Apu, I might not love that.”
At this point in time, we do not know if The Simpsons will continue to use Apu, or if a new actor will take over the role.
This topic is something that is starting to be discussed more and more often. There are so many actors portraying people within communities they do not belong to.
For example, Robert Downey Jr. portrayed a fictional black character in the 2008 movie Tropic Thunder, and Emma Stone portrayed an Asian-Hawaiian character in Aloha, a movie from 2015.
It is said very often in the live action film industry that actors should not be playing characters they do not represent themselves, but it is rarely discussed within animated productions.
Azaria decided to step back because of the character being a stereotype of a whole ethnicity, something that I very much agree with his decision on.
I grew up in a small town and the only people who I really interacted with were the people who lived there, which was a lot of Italian-Canadians. If I wasn’t exposed to other cultures outside of my small town, it would be very easy to see this depiction and believe that this is how all Indian-Americans are.
I also think that it is a good idea to cast people in roles that they are fit to play. There is such a surplus of amazing actors from different racial backgrounds and sexual orientations that it seems very strange to me that people are still cast in roles that portray a very stereotypical view of people.
I get the idea of wanting to explore different character arcs and things of that nature. As a drama kid, I used to get typecast as a dumb blonde all the time, which was very frustrating for me. At the same time, there are a lot of characters I cannot play.
I will never be able to play a character that is not a blonde white girl, because that is who I am, and that is the only racial and gender-based experience I can bring forth.
I think that it is important to remember when talking about Azaria no longer voicing Apu; he was portraying a character that had an experience that he could not relate to, and one that created a very stereotypical depiction.
He stated that he was initially reluctant to listen to the voices which said Apu was a stereotype, but I think it was very smart of Azaria to look at himself and talk to people to expand his view on the character.