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The Simpsons: Matt Groening says he is ‘proud of Apu’ after racism accusations

‘He’s one of the most nuanced characters,’ said the show creator

Annabel Nugent
Monday 22 March 2021 09:05
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Apu in The Simpson episode Much Apu About Something

The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has said he is “proud of Apu” following criticism that the character was a racist caricature. 

Apu Nahasapeemapetilon – voiced by Friends star Hank Azaria – was previously a frequent character on the beloved animation, but has been accused of perpetuating harmful stereotypes about South Asian people. 

Asked whether he would change Apu’s character or stories in light of the criticism,  Groening told USA Today: “I think the Apu stories are fantastic, and he’s one of the most nuanced characters on a silly two-dimensional cartoon show.”

He added: “So, yeah I’m proud of Apu. I’m trying not to open up another chasm of criticism, but it doesn’t matter what I say. I’ll get it anyway.”

After the 2016 episode “Much Apu About Something” directly confronted his problematic characterisation, the decision was made to halt his appearances.

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Apu was quietly phased out in 2016 in response to the backlash, recurring only as an occasional background character.

Last year, it was announced that white actors would no longer voice non-white characters on the show. Addressing the decision, Groening said: “It was not my idea, but I’m fine with it. Who can be against diversity? So it’s great.

“However, I will just say that the actors were not hired to play specific characters,” he said. “They were hired to do whatever characters we thought of. To me, the amazing thing is seeing all our brilliant actors who can do multiple voices, do multiple voices.

'It’s really upsetting that it was offensive or hurtful to anybody'

“That’s part of the fun of animation, However, to be more inclusive and hire more people, I’m completely in favour of that.”

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Apu was the subject of a 2017 documentary film by comedian Hari Kondabolu titled The Problem with Apu, which explored the real-life repercussions of the character’s existence.

“The Simpsons stereotypes all races,” says one person in the film. “The problem is, we didn’t have any other representation.”

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