As we as a culture become more conscious of the lack of diversity on television, we've begun taking a look back on our past and reflect on how problematic some characters and casting decisions have been.
One example that comes to mind is The Simpsons character Apu, an Indian man who owns a convenience store and speaks with a thick, stereotypical Indian accent. It’s also worth noting that Apu is voiced by a white actor.
Faces in the public eye, specifically those of Indian descent, have come forward to talk about the harm that Apu’s stereotypical character has done to their identities in American culture. Comedian Hari Kondabolu directed a documentary called The Problem with Apu which addressed how he himself had been affected.
Actress Priyanka Chopra of ABC’s Quantico also discussed the problem with Apu during a recent appearance on The View, as well as the responsibility The Simpsons has to be more respectful. “He was the bane of my life growing up,” Chopra said. “The show, I think, aired in ‘89… and the population of Indian Americans in America has tripled since that time, so the voice is louder.”
.@priyankachopra talks the controversial 'Simpsons' character Apu, and says it is time to "try to erase stereotypes": “Yes, it’s a cartoon, yes it’s a pop culture super successful show — but that gives it more responsibility!” https://t.co/QKtRIq4yibpic.twitter.com/Ia3r6xvmnN
— The View (@TheView) May 3, 2018
After the conversation around Apu arose, gaining tons of media attention, The Simpsons addressed the controversy in an episode called “No Good Read Goes Unpunished,” but in a way that left many fans disappointed at the show’s refusal to atone for its mistakes.
Hank Azaria, the voice behind Apu, did appear more apologetic in addressing the character during an appearance on The Late Show.
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) April 25, 2018
Good for voices like Chopra for speaking out about harmful stereotypes. Even when it seems hard, change is possible, and the many Indian Americans looking up to Chopra are surely very thankful.