Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth
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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

Ashton Kutcher, Jackass, Hops on the Brownface Bandwagon [UPDATED]

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Here's a charming video of Two and a Half Men star Ashton Kutcher doing his best impression of Mike Meyers doing his best impression of an unfunny Indian stereotype. In brownface. No, you're not having a fever dream.

The spot's a bizarre attempt to advertise PopChips, which is apparently a type of food that, like Ashton Kutcher, always leaves a weird taste in your mouth. There's a whole series of these spots designed to look like they're dating service videos made for undateable men, each of them derivative of something that's derivative of something else. There's the Russell Brand archetype, the Karl Lagerfeld lookalike (way to pitch one right down the middle of the American common man's taste, Pop Chips!), the proto-dirtbag who Might Be A Redneck.

But Kutcher's depiction of Raj while in full brown makeup and a cerulean dhoti-like garment is the most cringeworthy. Raj, the human stereotype, is shy, wanting to be sexual but naive, saying vaguely inappropriate things akin to what high school assholes try to make the foreign exchange student say ("SAY PUSSY! SAY DICK!" "SAY I LOVE THE BOOBIES!"). He's got an accent that Kutcher would likely never dare break out in front of a group of Bollywood actors. Not to mention the fact that he's not funny. I defy you to watch the spot without feeling like you want to crawl out of your skin so you can crawl back inside and hide until it's over. It's that bad.

But the inherent racist weirdness of the ad has gone unnoticed by everyone from the New York Times — who wrote an entire article about Kutcher's flailing attempt to be a chip pimping impersonation artist without once mentioning the fact that one of the spots is Ashton Kutcher acting like an Indian stereotype — to the multiple celebrities LOLing over the PopChips spots on Twitter. A few people (including an unusually astute crowd of YouTube commenters) have noticed that the Date Raj spot is actually pretty problematic on account of the fact that Kutcher's painted himself to look Indian and is acting like a jackass.

It shouldn't have to be spelled out, but you're a white person and a role requires you to put on makeup so that you look like you're another nationality and act out how racist white people think members of that other race or nationality act, then you should probably not take that role. Because that shit's racist.

Update: Keith Belling, the founder and CEO of PopChips, just issued this apology:

we received a lot feedback about the dating campaign parody we launched today and appreciate everyone who took the time to share their point of view.

our team worked hard to create a light-hearted parody featuring a variety of characters that was meant to provide a few laughs. we did not intend to offend anyone. i take full responsibility and apologize to anyone we offended.


[Anil Dash]