The Simpsons star Hank Azaria made headlines recently when he announced he would no longer be voicing the series’ Indian character Apu.
However, the character was in fact quietly phased out years ago, recurring only as an occasional background character.
Asked on Twitter about the widely reported plans to remove Apu from the series, Simpsons writer and director Jay Kogen said: “That’s old news as far as I know. A few years ago people made it clear they thought Apu was a hurtful racist stereotype. And Hank rightfully doesn’t want to be a part of it.”
“The Simpsons haven’t used Apu in years. We don’t want to hurt folks. We want to make them laugh.”
Simpsons writer, producer and erstwhile showrunner Mike Reiss confirmed back in 2018 the series had made decision to retire Apu.
“Though there’s a lot of discussion on Apu,” Reiss told Vanity Fair, “he’s barely had a line in the past three seasons.”
After the 2016 episode “Much Apu About Something” directly confronted his problematic characterisation, the decision was made to remove him from the spotlight.
“People are saying, ‘Get Apu off the show.’ Well, he’s not on!” Reiss continued.
“Hank Azaria saying he won’t voice the character anymore is like Val Kilmer announcing he won’t play Batman again—no one’s asking him to.“
The collective media obliviousness can probably be put down to just how little attention is truly paid to recent episodes of The Simpsons. The beloved series is now in its 31st season.
Azaria recently revealed he had no idea that the character was causing offence during the series' peak.