Family Guy is the latest animated series to join the ranks of having actors stepping away from roles, with Mike Henry announcing on Twitter that he will no longer be voicing Cleveland Brown on the animated sitcom. Henry also voiced Brown in the spinoff series The Cleveland Show. Earlier this week, Big Mouth star Jenny Slate and Central Park star Kristen Bell revealed that they would no longer be voicing their mixed-race characters in their respective series as to prevent contributing to the erasure of Black performers in the entertainment industry. These decisions all come in the wake of worldwide Black Lives Matter protests of racial injustices.
"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," Henry shared on Twitter. "Therefore, I will be stepping down from the role."
Quests for proper representation in the world of animation have grown more passionate in recent years, thanks in large part to the 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu from comedian Hari Kondabolu.
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. pic.twitter.com/FmKasWITKT— Mike Henry (@mikehenrybro) June 26, 2020
The iconic Simpsons character has been featured on the series for 30 years, but much like how the characters themselves never age, Apu rarely elevated above being anything other than a convenience store cashier, a formerly popular stereotype for people of South Asian descent in pop culture. The documentary highlighted why it was so problematic for one of the most famous Indian characters to be reduced to such a stereotype, but also the problems of having Hank Azaria, who is not of Indian descent, voice the character.
Azaria himself has previously stated that his plan for the character was to leave the role behind, though Simpsons creator Matt Groening confirmed that Apu is set to remain on the series.
This is only one way in which the movie and TV industry is attempting to do right by its audiences who criticize them for long ignoring racial insensitivities.
When HBO Max debuted earlier this year, it included Gone With the Wind, a film long decried for its racist themes. In response to these issues, the service now broadcasts the film with a disclaimer about the inaccuracies of its representations, though still makes the unaltered film available. Other TV series have aimed to remove controversial elements entirely, as various episodes of Scrubs, 30 Rock, and Community have all been pulled from services due to their offensive qualities.
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