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Monday, April 12, 2021

Amid US reckoning with systematic racism, TV show The Simpsons ditches use of white voices for characters of colour

Animated TV comedy The Simpsons, which launched in 1989, will no longer use white actors to voice characters of colour, the show’s producers confirmed on Friday. In a brief statement, the makers said, “Moving forward, ‘The Simpsons’ will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters.”

The move comes in consideration of a recurring character from the series Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, a grocer of Indian origin, voiced in the American version of the show by white actor Hank Azaria. Earlier this year, Hank Azaria claimed that he would no longer play the character since it has been criticized as a negative portrayal of Indian-Americans. In fact, the Fox television show has seen years of public pressure for the same. Not to miss, Hank Azaria has also voiced the Simpsons characters of Black police officer Lou and the Mexican-American Bumblebee Man.

The show’s decision will also affect the character of Dr Hibbert, a man of colour, voiced by white actor Harry Shearer. He also lends his voice for other characters like Homer Simpson’s boss Mr Burns and chirpy neighbor Ned Flanders.

For the unversed, the decision certainly comes in the aftermath of widespread reckoning for US pop culture about racism, which was kickstarted after killing of George Floyd by a white police officer. However, the recent statement from the show makers has not cleared if Apu or the other characters would remain on the series. Well, it would not be wrong to say that Homer Simpson, Marge, Bart, Lisa and baby Maggie have managed to capture the US pop culture for more than 30 years in the longest-running scripted show on US television, which is currently syndicated in more than 100 countries.

Meanwhile, apart from Hank Azaria, other white actors including Mike Henry of animated series Family Guy and Kristen Bell of Central Park, have also denied voicing characters of colour any longer. “It’s been an honor to play Cleveland on ‘Family Guy’ for 20 years. I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role,” Henry said on Twitter on Friday.

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