Hank Azaria has revealed he is willing to stand down in the wake of the Apu controversy.
A beloved, bit-part character on the long-running animated Fox series, The Simpsons, the South Asian character was profiled in a recent documentary exploring the racial stereotyping of the character and the negative impact it has had on people of South Asian origin.
The Problem With Apu, a documentary by the Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu, raised questions about the lazy stereotyping of the character and pointed out the shocking racist undertones of having a white guy mimic the voice of a man of South Asian descent.
However, while Kondabolu intially saw Apu as a representation of his people, he later realized the character trope had contributed to racism, describing Apu as 'a white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father'.
Azaria, who has voiced the Kwik-E-Mart Shop owner since the start of the show, admitted to Stephen Colbert that he understood why Apu was considered a racist stereotype.
"Of course I understand," he said. "It's come to my attention more and more over the past couple years. The idea that anyone young or old, past or present, being bullied based on Apu really makes me sad. It certainly was not my intention. I wanted to bring joy and laughter to people."
That being said, Azaria was keen to add that he was merely doing his job, and had no part in the writing of the character or the recent episode which appeared to throw shade at the debate.
"I had nothing to do with the writing or the voicing [in that episode]," said Azaria. "I think if anyone came away from that segment thinking they need to lighten up...that's definitely not the message that I want to send.
"I've given this a lot of thought, and as I say my eyes have been opened. I think the most important thing is to listen to Indian people and their experience with it.
"I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the writers' room...including how [Apu] is voiced or not voiced. I'm perfectly willing to step aside. It just feels like the right thing to do to me."
The episode saw Marge come across a childhood book filled with stereotypes, authored by the Jungle Book author Rudyard Kipling, who comes back as a ghost to tell her to write an updated, politically-correct version of the work.
However, the voice of liberalism and reason and the youngest member of the family, Lisa, tells Marge that, "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?" She then looks straight into the camera and adds, "Some things will be dealt with at a later date, if at all."
After the episode aired, Kondabolu immediately took to Twitter. "In The Problem with Apu, I used Apu & The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups & why this is important. The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress."
What are your thoughts on this matter? Will you still be watching The Simpsons after their refusal to acknowledge Kondabolu's criticism? Or is Apu's portrayal harmless and funny, despite being a little outdated?
Let us known your thoughts in the comment section below.