BRUNSWICK — A Bowdoin College graduate whose documentary helped shed light on Asian stereotypes said he hopes a popular and controversial character from “The Simpsons” will live on.

Actor Hank Azaria announced last week that he will no longer voice Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the Indian-American character on the long-running animated sitcom.

Hari Konadabolu Photo by Rob Holysz via harikondabolu.com

Azaria and the creators of “The Simpsons” have been criticized for the stereotypical portrayal of the Kwik-E Mart owner, with fans and others calling it racist.

The issue began attracting attention with “The Problem With Apu,” a 2017 documentary by comedian Hari Kondabolu, a 2004 Bowdoin graduate. 

In the film, Kondabolu, a comedian who is of Indian descent, talks with other South Asian actors like Hasan Minhaj, Aziz Ansari, Utkarsh Ambudka and Aasif Mandvi among others about their relationship with the character Apu. 

According to a 2017 MaineToday interview, they talk about being “taunted” in Apu’s sing-song accent, and of seeing the show, one Kondabolu said he enjoys, depict a character he described as “a white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father.” 

According to /Film, an industry news blog that reportedly asked Azaria about the issue after a discussion panel, the decision for Azaria to stop voicing the character after 30 years was a mutual one. 

“All we know there is I won’t be doing the voice anymore, unless there’s some way to transition it or something,” Azaria said, according to /Film. “What they’re going to do with the character is their call …. It’s up to them, and they haven’t sorted it out yet. All we’ve agreed on is, I won’t do the voice anymore.”

On Twitter, Kondabolu wrote that he hopes the Simpson’s writers will keep Apu around, and that the “very talented writing staff (will) do something interesting with him.”

The documentary was not made to get rid of the “dated” cartoon character, he tweeted, “but to discuss race, representation and my community (which I love very much). It was also about how you can love something (like “The Simpsons”) and still be critical about aspects of it (Apu).”


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