Hari Kondabolu’s documentary The Problem With Apu created quite the discussion when it aired on Tru TV back in November. At least it created one with folks who were ignorant that a discussion had already existed for quite a while with some people. As Kondabolu said at the time, he felt that Apu from The Simpsons mocked his parents and added to a certain mindset that embarrasses him looking back:
It seems so absurd now, but that’s kind of the impact the character of Apu had on me. It’s almost selfish of me to think the character was just about me in this way because it was really mocking my parents. People who were working hard, who were somewhat voiceless in a society in which they’re trying to support their children. The immigrant struggle is real. It’s hard, and that was something I felt like I should talk about when talking about the character in this film. Even though it was kind of vulnerable, and it still feels embarrassing that I ever felt weird about the way my parents spoke, I needed to address it.
Kondabolu spent most of the film trying to get Azaria on the record about the character to have a discussion but never succeeded. It wasn’t until after the film aired that Azaria was caught by TMZ and spoke about it. The voice actor went deeper with his comments at the Television Critics Association on Friday while also echoing his airport comments. Reporters on hand brought up the documentary and reaction to the character, leading to a more thoughtful response from Azaria according to Variety:
“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,’ the voice or any other tropes of the character is distressing,” said Azaria. “And especially in post 9/11 America, the idea that anybody was marginalized based on it or had a hard time was very upsetting to me personally and professionally.”
Azaria then adds that his only goal was to “make people laugh and bring joy” and that the idea that his characterization of Apu “caused any kind of pain or suffering” was “disturbing.” He then moves on to discuss how The Simpsons will handle Apu going forward, promising that it will “definitely” take on the topic:
“They are giving it a lot of thought,” he said. “We’ve discussed it a little bit, and they will definitely address, maybe publicly, but certainly creatively within the context of the show, what they want to do, if anything, differently with the character.”
We’ll just have to tune in and discover how the show will handle Apu in the future. No matter what happens, Kondabolu noticed and shared some small praise: