‘The Simpsons’ ends white actors voicing characters of color

Hank Azaria, the voice of Indian actor Apu, said in January he was stepping down. Supplied
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Updated 28 June 2020

‘The Simpsons’ ends white actors voicing characters of color

LOS ANGELES: “The Simpsons” will no longer use white actors to dub ethnic minority characters, the producers of the long-running animated series announced Friday.

The decision includes a recurring character from the series, launched in 1989 – Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, a grocer of Indian origin voiced in the American version of the show by white actor Hank Azaria.

The character has long been seen as problematic and conveying racist stereotypes. Last January Azaria announced that, in agreement with producers, he was abandoning the role.

“Moving forward, THE SIMPSONS will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters,” Fox Studios said in a statement to AFP.

The change will also affect the character of Dr. Hibbert, a Black man dubbed by the white actor Harry Shearer who also lends his voice to many other characters on the series – from Homer Simpson’s boss Mr. Burns to the chirpy neighbor Ned Flanders.

The announcement came as Mike Henry, the white actor who voices the Black character of Cleveland Brown in “Family Guy,” another animated series produced by Fox, announced on Twitter that he was giving up the role.

“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,” he wrote.

Americans are in the midst of a reckoning on systemic racism and discrimination ignited by the death of George Floyd, an African American man, in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.


In Lebanon, single-concert festival serenades empty ruins

Updated 05 July 2020

In Lebanon, single-concert festival serenades empty ruins

  • The Baalbek International Festival was streamed live on television and social media
  • The night kicked off with the Lebanese philharmonic orchestra and choir performing the national anthem

BEIRUT: A philharmonic orchestra performed to spectator-free Roman ruins in east Lebanon Sunday, after a top summer festival downsized to a single concert in a year of economic meltdown and pandemic.
The Baalbek International Festival was instead streamed live on television and social media, in what its director called a message of “hope and resilience” amid ever-worsening daily woes.
The night kicked off with the Lebanese philharmonic orchestra and choir performing the national anthem, followed by Carmina Burana’s “O Fortuna,” a 13th century poem set to music.

The program, which ran for just over an hour, included a mix of classical music and rock and folk tunes by composers ranging from Beethoven to Lebanon’s Rahbani brothers.
Held in the open air and conducted by Harout Fazlian, the 150 musicians and chorists were scattered inside the illuminated Temple of Bacchus, as drones filmed them among the enormous ruins and Greco-Roman temples of Baalbek.
Festival director Nayla de Freige told AFP most artists performed for free at the designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
The concert aimed to represent “a way of saying that Lebanon does not want to die. We have an extremely productive and creative art and culture sector,” she said.
“We want to send a message of civilization, hope and resilience.”
Baalbek itself became a militia stronghold during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, but conservation and tourism have revived the ruins over the past three decades.
Lebanon is known for its summer music festivals, which have in past years drawn large crowds every night and attracted performers like Shakira, Sting and Andrea Bocelli.
Other festivals have not yet announced their plans for this year.
Lebanon has recorded just 1,873 cases of COVID-19, including 36 deaths.
But measures to stem the spread of the virus have exacerbated the country’s worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
Since economic woes in the autumn sparked mass protests against a political class deemed irretrievably corrupt, tens of thousands have lost their jobs or part of their income, and prices have skyrocketed.
Banks have prevented depositors from withdrawing their dollar savings, while the local currency has lost more than 80 percent of its value to the greenback on the black market.