film / tv / substack / social media / lists / web / celeb / pajiba love / misc / about / cbr
film / tv / substack / web / celeb

GettyImages-1145559195.jpg

Harry Shearer Is Still Annoyed He's Not Voicing A Black Man Anymore

By Andrew Sanford | TV | May 15, 2024 |

By Andrew Sanford | TV | May 15, 2024 |


GettyImages-1145559195.jpg

Police murdered George Floyd in May of 2020. His murder resulted in mass protests and many industries faced a reckoning regarding diversity and representation. In the animation world, long-running shows had to address the fact that white actors voiced many characters of color. Big Mouth, Family Guy, and Bob’s Burgers replaced the actors voicing Black characters with actors of color. It was meant to address an inequality in the voice-acting industry that had gone on too long. A show that had already dealt with such an issue was The Simpsons.

Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is an Indian character voiced by a white man (Hank Azaria). He is also a full-on racial stereotype. Indian and South Asian men and women complained about the character for years. A documentary called The Problem With Apu by comedian Hari Kondabolu brought that discussion to a more national stage. Azaria agreed with Kondabolu’s sentiments and stepped away from the role, which was then retired. A show as big and popular as The Simpsons making a move like this helps set a good example. They would do something similar in 2020.

Producers of The Simpsons announced that white actors would no longer voice characters of color. Azaria was once again replaced, this time as the voice of Carl Carlson. Actor Alex Désert would take over the role. Again, Azaria put up no fuss in being replaced. Harry Shearer was replaced as the voice of Doctor Julius Hibbert by legendary voice actor Kevin Michael Richardson. Shearer has been less than graceful.

Sitting down with the Times of London, Shearer recently voiced his annoyance at the change, criticizing Richardson in the process. “Folk say the show has become woke in recent years and one of my characters has been affected,” Shearer said. “I voiced the Black physician, Dr. Hibbert, who I based on Bill Cosby. Back then he was known as the ‘whitest Black man on television.’ Then, a couple of years ago, I received an email saying they’d employed a Black actor, who then copied my voice. The result is a Black man imitating a white man imitating the whitest Black man on TV.”

The quote is pretty tone-deaf. There’s also an odd Trumpian quality to the whole “folks are saying” before claiming the show is woke through surrogate people that may or may not exist. It’s a way to complain without complaining. Shearer disagreed with the decision in 2020, arguing that acting is “playing someone [he’s] not.” The fact is that people of color and minorities have not been given the same opportunities as white actors over the years. You won’t often find a Black actor voicing a white character. This is a way to move that needle in the right direction, even if it’s barely moving it at all.

Shearer’s continued complaints are unfortunate, to say the least. Having another aging white comedian complain about wokeness is my least favorite song that gets played over and over these days. It lacks context and feels more self-centered than anything else. Shearer is making it about his work and not the problem being addressed. It’s sad and will continue as long as white men feel slighted. So, ya know, forever.