Was an apology really necessary here?

I suppose the notion of authenticity becomes a little complicated when it comes to animation. On the disability arts scene, there has long been the idea that only actors with disabilities should play characters with disabilities, otherwise it becomes the equivalent of blacking up. The only way you can get an authentic portrayal of a character with a disability is to cast an actor with that disability in the role. The same logic applies to members of any other minority. Yet I just came across this news that “Hank Azaria has apologised for voicing the Indian character Apu on The Simpsons.” Azaria has voiced Apu since 1990, but came under increasing criticism for reinforcing ethnic stereotypes. While I agree that it is only logical that an Indian actor should play an Indian character, was that apology really necessary? Nobody saw the colour of Azaria’s skin; he was just putting on a voice, as he did for all his other Simpsons roles. Isn’t making him apologise going a tad over the top? After all, The Simpsons is a cornerstone of popular culture, Apu included, and surely nothing to feel guilty about. Further, if the character reinforced ethnic stereotypes, then surely it is the writers and directors who created the character who should apologise, rather than the actor voicing him. I’m not saying Apu shouldn’t have been recast, but given the transgression wasn’t that overt, did the guy who played him for so long really need to apologise? It’s not like he was painting his skin black, or pretending to need to use a wheelchair.

4 thoughts on “Was an apology really necessary here?

  1. I would turn your post around. Was anyone hurt by this apology? Might some individuals appreciate the apology? If the answers, as I think them, are no and yes, then perhaps it was on balance a good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting point….but also begs the question, were all the female characters voiced by female actors, and male characters by male actors? I gather that Bart was voiced by a woman, for example. Should we expect apologies for this too?

    Liked by 2 people

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