In November, truTV released The Problem With Apu, a documentary from comedian Hari Kondabolu that dived into, well, the problem with the Apu character on The Simpsons. For those who are unaware, Apu is a stereotypical Indian man who runs the local convenience store in the series, and was the only recurring character of South Asian heritage to be featured on mainstream television when the series debuted in 1989. The Problem With Apu features interviews with celebrities of South Asian heritage and examines the issues with how Apu's character helps permeate these slurs and stereotypes within the mainstream.
One voice Kondabolu wanted to get for the documentary was that of Hank Azaria, who not only voices Apu but also Chief Wiggum, Professor Frink, and Moe. While Azaria's previously acknowledged the issues with a character like Apu, he declined to be interviewed for Kondabolu's documentary, citing a few of his words being flipped on him in editing. Kondabolu told Uproxx he considered a conversation with Azaria to effectively be the linchpin to the entire project. "I think that’s what this film is about," Kondabolu said, "talking about the history of the Apu character, and The Simpsons‘ use of him, as well as what my community has been through as a result. It’s all about this conversation."
Now while Kondabolu couldn't get a one-on-one with Azaria for The Problem With Apu, TMZ was able to corner him to get a statement regarding the documentary.
When asked about the documentary, Azaria said he feels that "the documentary made some really interesting points and gave us a lot to think about," saying that it was a lot to digest. Azaria also said the reality that "anybody that was hurt and offended by any character or vocal performance is really upsetting, that it was offensive or hurtful to anybody."
Who knows if this would have been all Azaria would've said to Kondabolu if they'd spoken together, but when Kondabolu caught wind of Azaria's comments, he took to Twitter to reply.
Apu doesn’t “offend” me, he “insults” me...and my community. I’m an adult with bigger things to deal with. My film was meant to tell you to go fuck yourself & discuss why I want you to go fuck yourself & how we can prevent future incidents of people wishing others “self-fuckery.”— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) December 3, 2017
"Apu doesn’t 'offend' me," Kondabolu began, "he “insults” me...and my community. I’m an adult with bigger things to deal with. My film was meant to tell you to go fuck yourself & discuss why I want you to go fuck yourself & how we can prevent future incidents of people wishing others 'self-fuckery.'"
Moments before, he reminded folks:
Also, Brown people didn’t just start talking about Apu now. We’ve saying shit for almost 3 decades & nobody heard us.— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) December 3, 2017
"Also, Brown people didn’t just start talking about Apu now," he continued. "We’ve saying shit for almost 3 decades & nobody heard us."
Facts, especially when there are a number of these issues that have been shouted from the rooftops but are only being considered as problems in this new, slowly awakening world (which includes everything from #OscarsSoWhite to #MeToo). The hope is that these issues can be taken more seriously from the offset.
For those who haven't seen The Problem With Apu, it is currently streaming on truTV.com.