The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has bought several issues to light for every ethnic minority especially in the matter of representation within media, including film, television and even cartoons.
The Simpsons is a favorite amongst children and adults alike, and has been for decades now, and has always been inclusive of the portrayal of ethnic minorities, but only visually. The producers of the Emmy Award winning show made a statement to AFP News at the end of June and made the important, and welcome, announcement that from now on, “white actors will no longer voice non-white characters.”
This move will see changes in characters such as Dr Hibbert, an African-American doctor, who was previously voiced by Harry Shearer, who is a white actor who also plays the part of Mr Burns and the Simpsons’ over-friendly neighbor, Ned Flanders.
Another character change will be that of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, an Indian immigrant man who owns a grocery store, and is famous for his heavy Indian accent and line, “thank you, come again.”
Apu, who’s voiced by white actor Hank Azaria, previously faced criticism regarding the representation of their ethnic heritage in the show. In 2017, Indian American comedian, Hari Kondabolu released a documentary entitled, “The Problem With Apu,” which looked at ethnic representation within mainstream media.
This would be the first time in the history of The Simpsons that changes will be made to some main character arcs and their voices and under such circumstances. Following suit, white actors such as Jenny Slate and Mike Henry also made the decision to step down from the ethnic characters they play on cartoon sitcoms such as Big Mouth and Family Guy
Mike Henry announced his decision on Twitter where he tweeted, “It’s been an honor to play Cleveland on Family Guy for 20 years. I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color. Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role.”
Jenny Slate also announced her decision to step down from her role as Missy on Big Mouth in an Instagram post, where she stated, “I will continue to engage in meaningful anti-racist action, to be thoughtful about the messages in my work, to be curious and open to feedback, and to do my best to take responsibility for the ways that I am a part of the problem. I am so very sorry. Black voices must be heard. Black Lives Matter.”