Dear Hank Azaria,
My name is Sudip Bhattacharya and I am writing you to ask if you could please stop doing the voice of Apu on The Simpsons.
This is hard for me to tell you, because like many others, I am a fan of the show and have watched it since I was a kid.
But, the character of Apu has always, and I mean always, confused and bothered me.
I know he is a Hindu, but I’ve never met one in real life who is as weird as him, and trust me, my family is Hindu too and I’ve been around Hindus all my life, so I think I’d know.
Further, the accent seems a little strained, as if you yourself have never ever met an Indian person, or from wherever Apu is supposed to be from.
Again, as someone whose family is South Asian I can safely say that despite the accents I’ve heard over my lifetime I have never heard someone talk or act like Apu.
I know you’re not trying to be racist or maybe you yourself already understand how annoying it can be for an entire population of people to be portrayed in such a way.
And yes, the Indian accent is a common one and can be sometimes funny for people to do. Even I’ve done it with friends before realizing that how much self-hatred I was projecting through my jokes and fake accents.
Also, as I’ve hinted earlier in this letter, the accent that I was doing and the accent that you do for each episode is an exaggerated one. In all honesty, real Indians don’t act like that. They don’t sound like that. And certainly, none of them who own a convenience store in a lily-white town named Springfield would ever have the balls to serve uncooked hot dogs to their customers.
That being said: I still think you, as an actor who’s pretty well known (I mean, who can dispute your awesome acting skills in The Smurfs franchise, a classic of modern cinema) should realize and do the right thing, which is to silence the Apu character forever and to join in bringing more nuanced people of color into your TV screens.
You might be asking yourself, “Wait, I’m not the only who’s done an accent? Why are you after me?”
That is true.
Even to this day, we have characters who like to use accents for jokes, or better yet, like to portray their own ethnicities in such a way that it can only be described as embarrassing.
In all honesty, what I’m saying to you could also be said to that guy on The Big Bang Theory whose Indian character apparently can’t get a date or even talk to a girl. Cause in the modern age, as more and more of us are sick and tired of obvious racial quirks such as accents, its better just to portray South Asians and Asians in general as sexless, feckless, and simply as subhuman beings through their actions.
So yes, I agree. Fuck that guy too.
But that doesn’t absolve you for what you’ve done, which is perpetuate a stereotype that’s haunted an entire group of people.
You are a white man doing an accent of a brown character.
I repeat: you are a white man doing an accent of a brown character.
That isn’t normal anymore or needed.
We have our own to showcase those of us who have actually been born and raised and who have done a pretty good job of being bad-asses at what we do.
i.e. The Mindy Project and Master of None.
And yes, I am aware that both those shows aren’t perfect (everyone that Mindy dates is a white guy basically) and the main character’s name on Master of None is Dev, as if somehow having a name beyond three letters would be too confusing for an audience.
But still, those shows are waaaaaaaay better than yours right now, and waaaaay funnier it seems. Especially as The Simpsons limp along in this new millennium.
Personally, I think by getting rid of Apu, you can maybe bring in a South Asian character with more complexity, someone who is maybe an aspiring reporter who fights for the truth and can play the best basketball of his dreams (in his dreams). All I’m saying is that I’m a phone-call away.
And please, do not have Apu die in some suicide bomb or by turning him to the dark side. I am still traumatized from that season of 24 in which Kal Penn (yes that Kal Penn from Harold and Kumar) as a terrorist.
I mean, seriously, what the fuck was that about? He was just some young guy who seemed to be the focal point for why racial profiling never works and then suddenly, guess what America, he was a terrorist all along and that white guy who seemed racist in the beginning of the episode, he was right all along. I mean, what the heck was that? My mind literally melted into my seat.
Anyway, as for you sir, either change the character or get rid of it.
You’re rich. You don’t need this one-trick pony anymore.
And besides, just as a warning from a friend you never saw or before heard from: I’m probably getting my own TV show someday. And it’s going to be a major hit. No doubt.
So…if you ever want to boost your career, I would be more than happy to invite you on as my first guest.
Believe me, you’re going to need an ally, especially when the Smurfs franchise loses its luster.
Sudip “the beast from the east” Bhattacharya (and no, not that “east’ you fucking racist)