Priyanka Chopra Calls The Simpson’s Apu “Out of Date on so Many Levels”
Hari Kondabolu’s The Problem with Apu opened a conversation that’s been decades in the making to a new public awareness: Hank Azaria’s Apu voice on The Simpsons. Bringing together almost every prominent South Asian actors in Hollywood, the documentary addressed how the character led to stereotyping, bullying, and further marginalization for South Asians living in the United States. Since the documentary’s premiere, The Simpsons responded with a pretty awful and callous episode, Matt Groening doubled down, and Azaria has said he might step aside.
Priyanka Chopra was not in the documentary, but shared her thoughts on Apu when she recently appeared on The View. The actress expressed her support for Kondabolu’s film and its mission. “He was the bane of my life growing up, for sure,” says Chopra. She talks about the many reasons people defend the character, continuing:
“There’s a couple of things, a lot of people are talking about, ‘Oh, the show was so successful for 30 years, why are we suddenly waking up and being offended by a character that everyone loved?’ People say that The Simpsons makes fun of every race, like they talk about stereotypical characters—every character is stereotypical, which is true. But the thing is, a couple of things have happened. The show, I think, aired in ’89 and it was path-breaking at the time for television. Everyone looked yellow, except Apu. So that made him stand out completely, plus he had the accent.”
Chopra puts on the Apu accent, and with an exasperated eye-roll, says “And all of us speak like that, all the time.”
“And what happened from that time and now, the number, the population of Indian-Americans in America has tripled since that time,” says Chopra, “So that voice is louder. Representation and the demand for representation for people of color is louder. There’s the Internet and the media, where people can have a conversation.”
The Quantico actress adds that she found the voice offensive long before the documentary, pointing out that when she was “in high school at 14, 15″ she was asked why she didn’t speak like Apu. “Or are my parents doctors?” She adds. “Did I find gold in my rivers? Did I go to school on elephants? I always had questions like that.”
“Yes, it is a cartoon,” says Chopra, “Yes, it’s a pop culturally super successful show, but that gives it more responsibility. It’s out of date on so many levels.”
Chopra’s Quantico press tour has had lots of great moments where she calls out Hollywood stereotype, like her Late Night with Seth Meyers interview where she talks about the fact that “aliens only land on America” and the way that Bollywood has been reduced to a genre, rather than an industry.
(via Indiewire, image: screencap)
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