The Simpsons creator Matt Groening says he doesn’t really care about the “chasm of criticism” his praise for the classic character Apu might bring. Groening says despite the woke whiplash, producers still have “ambitious” plans for more stories featuring Apu, who was written out of the long-running series due to outcry and criticism that the Indian cartoon character reflected an insulting racial stereotype.
Hank Azaria, the white actor who voiced Apu, stepped down after receiving backlash for voicing the Indian character. But Groening says, “we’ve got plans for Apu.”
“We’re working on something kind of ambitious. That’s all I can say,” Groening said in a recent interview with USA Today.
Groening was asked to elaborate on his comments in 2018 — amid increased complaints over Apu reflecting a racial stereotype — in which he said, “I think it’s a time in our culture where people love to pretend they’re offended.”
“I have to word this carefully,” Groening said. “I think audiences are smarter than the posse gives them credit for, and people can handle nuance, except for the ones who can’t handle nuance. And then there’s that phrase, something them if they can’t take a joke.”
When asked about whether he would change the nature of Apu’s character or the stories in the wake of receiving criticism that the character promotes a negative stereotype, Groening said, “I think the Apu stories are fantastic, and he’s one of the most nuanced characters on a silly two-dimensional cartoon show.”
“So, yeah, I’m proud of Apu,” Groening added. “I’m trying not to open up another chasm of criticism, but it doesn’t matter what I say. I’ll get it anyway.”
The Simpsons creator went on to say that while the show announced it would no longer have any white actors voice non-white characters, he is “fine with it,” despite it not being his idea.
“It was not my idea, but I’m fine with it. Who can be against diversity? So it’s great,” Groening said. “However, I will just say that the actors were not hired to play specific characters. They were hired to do whatever characters we thought of.”
“To me, the amazing thing is seeing all our brilliant actors who can do multiple voices, do multiple voices,” he added. “That’s part of the fun of animation, However, to be more inclusive and hire more people, I’m completely in favor of that.”