"Times have changed, but in some ways we’re going backwards."
The Simpsons star Joe Mantegna has waded into the long-running debate over Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, claiming that the controversy is an example of political correctness going “too far”.
The depiction of the popular Kwik-E-Mart owner was first debated by comedian Hari Kondabolu in 2017, who claimed that it perpetuates racial stereotypes. In the wake of the controversy, voice actor Hank Azaria offered to “stand down” from the role if required, while later reports claimed that The Simpsons were considering axing the character altogether.
But Mantegna, who is best known as the voice of Springfield gangster Fat Tony, says that the debate has gone too far.
“I find some of that controversy…sometimes I feel we’ve taken political correctness perhaps too far I’m not a big advocate of censorship,” Mantegna told Metro.
“Times have changed, but in some ways we’re going backwards. They’re just words and if you start censoring certain things you give them a power. Now you’re saying this is a magical kind of thing and you can’t touch that, you can’t say that.
“As opposed to just saying you have to be smart enough to understand we can do satire and say words…I think they’re putting braces on people’s minds.”
Mantegna also transferred the debate to the character of Fat Tony and argued that Kondabolu’s argument could also be levelled at the comic mobster.
“Every time I play a gangster, it’s Italian American because there was a mafia – why pretend there wasn’t?,” he explained,
“On the other hand, Frank Sinatra was Italian American, Galileo and Michelangelo were Italian, so in other words, you have to break down those stereotypes. You can’t have it both ways.”
Meanwhile, Simpsons creator Matt Groening responded to the debate earlier this year, affirming his love for the character.
“I love Apu. I love the character, and it makes me feel bad that it makes other people feel bad”, he told the New York Times.
“But on the other hand, it’s tainted now — the conversation, there’s no nuance to the conversation now. It seems very, very clunky. I love the character. I love the show.”