As Hank Azaria quits as Apu’s voice, a look at other racist stereotypes.
When Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, a recurring character in popular animated series, The Simpsons, was introduced, it was a defining moment for most desis in America.
While for most it was their first introduction to anyone Indian or South Asian on American TV, still others with an increasing level of confidence found the tone and depiction jarring, even stereotypical.
In 2017, when Indian American comedian Hari Kondabolu came up with his documentary, The Problem with Apu, the underlying confusion came out on the surface and many realized the need for right representation.
Cut to 2020. American actor Hank Azaria, who has become the voice of Apu, has announced that he won’t be lending his voice to the character anymore.
Thus, adding credence to the point that there was indeed a problem with Apu and the way he represented South Asians in America.
The makers of the Simpsons are yet to announce how they plan to take the character ahead.
But for a rising minority of Indian Americans reveling in an increasing number of desi faces on American entertainment, the bad news still remains that Indians continue to be stereotyped.
Here’s looking at some of the most recent racist moments on American TV and why there may still be a problem with brown representation in entertainment:
Problem: The brown girl gets framed
When desi Bollywood import Priyanka Chopra made her grand debut on American TV with Quantico, there was a lot of interest and speculation.
Quelling all the cynics, Chopra did show that a brown Indian girl could bag a lead role and not get lost in blink-and-you-miss-it appearances.
She came, she conquered and the TRPs did speak of her dominion. But still, the plot twist, where Chopra herself says aloud: “The Brown girl gets framed,” did stick out in the story. High time, that Indians or brown actors are not projected or mistaken to be terrorists on TV?
Phineas and Ferb
The problem: Return (or not) of the nerdy Indian kid?
Disney Channel’s musical television comedy series, Phineas and Ferb that has been announced into a film this year is lovable and cute.
But still, what strikes sometimes as a brown viewer is the portrayal of the character of Baljeet Tjinder, an Indian American boy who often appears to be almost forced to stick out from rest of the lot.
Tjinder, is busy cramming academics when his American peers are out on fancy summer holidays. He is shown engrossed in Maths reinforcing the nerdy Indian kid stereotype and is often the butt of jokes. Hardly, the model an Indian kid in 2020 would like to be in the shoes of.
The Problem: Bullying an Indian. Sounds familiar?
The American comedy series shows the character of Ravi played by Karan Brar who has spent ten years of his childhood growing up in West Bengal, India. Despite being a lovable character, he is routinely shown to be awkward and timid. He is often bullied by his classmates and friends, almost bringing in the worst nightmares of the desi kids growing up in the America of ’80s.