Priyanka Chopra is adding her voice to the Apu controversy. The “Quantico” actress appeared on the May 3 episode of “The View” and referred to the controversial character from “The Simpsons” as “the bane of [her] life” while she was growing up in India. The Fox animated series has long faced backlash for its stereotypical portrayal of Springfield’s Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu.
“He was the bane of my life growing up, for sure,” Chopra said about the character. “A lot of people are talking about, ‘Oh, the show was so successful for 30 years, why are we suddenly waking up and being offended by a character that everyone loved?’”
“What happened from that time to now, the population of Indian Americans has tripled,” she continued. “So the voice is louder. Representation for people of color is louder. There’s the Internet and the media, where people can have a conversation.”
The backlash against “The Simpsons'” depiction of Apu was accelerated in the last year due to the release of Hari Kondabolu and Michael Melamedoff’s documentary “The Problem With Apu,” in which Indian and South Asian actors spoke about the character’s racial insensitivity. The show addressed the backlash during an April 8 episode by dismissing it, which only intensified the discussion.
During her appearance on “The View,” Chopra remembers how her her high school classmates often asked her ignorant questions based on the stereotype they saw on “The Simpsons.”
“I was always asked when I was in high school at 14, 15, why I didn’t speak like that,” she said. “Or are my parents doctors (which they are)? Did I find gold in my rivers? Did I go to school on elephants? I always had questions like that. So I think, yes, it is a time where, why try to erase stereotype? Yes, it is a cartoon. Yes, it’s a pop culturally super successful show. But that gives it more responsibility. It’s out of date on so many levels.”
Hank Azaria, who has voiced Apu for over two decades, told Stephen Colbert last month that he would be willing to step aside from playing the character given the backlash. Watch Chopra’s appearance on “The View” in the video below.