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Nonwhite Roles On The Simpsons And Family Guy To Be Recast

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As America continues to examine systemic racism in society, scenes of blackface and white people playing those of color have been cut from several recent shows (which were all on NBC by some coincidence). And it’s caused folks in the animation community to scratch the back of their heads in guilt and wonder, “uhh, is a white voice actor playing a Black cartoon character really all that different?”

The first white VA to announce their departure from a Black role this week was Jenny Slate, who played Missy on Netflix’s Big Mouth until now. Though the character is mixed-race, she looks more Black than Caucasian. “At the start of the show, I reasoned with myself that it was permissible for me to play Missy because her mom is Jewish and white — as am I,” she explained.

It’s typical of excuses that other actors have given, such as Kristen Bell when she faced complaints about voicing a biracial character in Apple TV’s new series Central Park. A few hours after Slate’s announcement, Bell said she had changed her mind and was voluntarily giving the role to a Black actress.

But the biggest domino was yet to fall. The Simpsons has not only been the longest-running example of racial miscasting, it faced controversy over it well before any other show did. Hank Azaria said last January he was no longer comfortable voicing Apu, but there was no mention of a recast at the time and the show’s most recent episodes seem to leave him silent. Shearer also voices Dr. Hibbert and Carl.

Looks like that’s finally changing. A new statement from Fox released today reads, “Moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters.” Not only that, Mike Henry is vacating his role as Cleveland Brown on Family Guy, stating “I love this character, but persons of color should play characters of color.” We can expect this to become the new norm in the animation industry.

Presumably characters belonging to other races will have to be recast as well, and…that could introduce a problem of its own. While most of the Black characters in these shows are well-rounded humans, I don’t know why an actual Asian person would be comfortable playing characters like Cookie Kwan or Tricia Takanawa, who tend to just show up, do Asian-y things and then leave.