The Simpsons' Indian character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon has triggered a conversation on the representation of Indians on the show and the team behind the sitcom plans to address it.
Comedian Hari Kondabolu released a documentary late last year titled The Problem with Apu in which he interviews celebrities of South Asian descent on Apu from the animated sitcom.
He told the BBC Culture that the show places a broad stereotype about Indians and he finds that problematic, claiming that Apu's representation seeps into racism without people even noticing it.
"The Simpsons is an important work of art that has influenced so many, including myself. Apu was the only Indian we had on TV at all so I was happy for any representation as a kid. And of course he’s funny, but that doesn’t mean this representation is accurate or right or righteous. It gets to the insidiousness of racism, though, because you don’t even notice it when it’s right in front of you."
Hank Azaria, the voice of Apu, told TMZ,com that the documentary made "a really interesting point that gave us a lot of things to think about," he also said that it's "an important conversation, one definitely worth having."
Rumours of Apu being cut from the show escalated following the documentary and Azaria clarified that he never intended on causing people suffering through his character.
"The idea that anybody, young or old, past or present, was bullied or teased or worse based on the character of Apu on The Simpsons, or the voice or any other tropes of the character is distressing, especially in post-9/11 America."
The actor added, "The idea that anybody was marginalised based on it or had a hard time was very upsetting to me personally and professionally. It’s a character I’ve done for 29 years now, and I’ve done it with a lot of love, and joy, and pride. That certainly wasn’t the intent. The intent was to make people laugh and bring joy. For it to cause suffering or pain in any way, it’s disturbing, actually."
He appreciated the efforts of Hari for having made the documentary as "it's really important when people express themselves about racial issues, what they feel is unfair or upsetting or distressing or makes them angry, sad or hurt."
Azari also added that the documentary's message was not lost on the sitcom's team as they plan on addressing the issue.
"The most important thing to do is listen, try to understand, try to sympathise, which is what I’m doing. I know that The Simpsons guys are doing that too; they’re giving it a lot of thought, and we’ve discussed a little bit. They will definitely address — maybe publicly, certainly creatively within the context of the show — what they want to do, if anything, with the character."