The Simpsons” will no longer use White actors to voice non-White characters, according to the show’s producers.
“Moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters,” Fox spokesman Les Eisner said in a statement Friday.
Over the three decades since the animated sitcom began, it has used White actors to play a number of non-White characters including Harry Shearer as Dr. Julius Hibbert and Hank Azaria as Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
In January, Azaria announced he would stop voicing Apu after 30 years playing the thickly accented Indian-American character. Azaria is not South Asian.
The decision to remove Azaria from voicing Apu was mutual, the actor said, according to /Film. “We all agreed on it,” he said. “We all feel like it’s the right thing and good about it.”
“My documentary ‘The Problem with Apu’ was not made to get rid of a dated cartoon character, but to discuss race, representation & my community (which I love very much),” Kondabolu wrote. “It was also about how you can love something (like the Simpsons) & still be critical about aspects of it (Apu).”
In his doc, Kondabolu interviewed celebrities of South Asian descent, including Aziz Ansari and Kal Penn, to discuss how characterizations like Apu can be viewed as racism.
In the episode, the young Lisa Simpson said, “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” Lisa then glanced at a framed photograph of Apu inscribed with the message, “Don’t have a cow.”
“The idea that anybody — young or old, past or present — was bullied or teased based on the character of Apu, it just really makes me sad,” said Azaria, who voices other characters on the show.
“It was certainly not my intention,” he said. “I wanted to spread laughter and joy with this character, and the idea that it’s brought pain and suffering in any way, that it was used to marginalize people, it’s upsetting.”