In a series of advertisements that cost $1.5 million to make, Ashton Kutcher – in an attempt to sell snack chips – donned full-on brownface, an awkward accent, and bizarre dance moves for character Bollywood producer “Raj.”
Popchips launched several promotional videos in the format of a dating service to advertise their chips, with each video centered on a specific personality. And Raj has received quite a bit of media attention on his own. Rightfully so, in my opinion. Watch it here:
In an accent that I don’t know that I can describe as even vaguely Indian, he excitedly tells the viewers that he just won a “milking contest” and creepily leers out at the audience when he says he’s looking for something “Kardashian hot.”
The ad is offensive in all kinds of ways. I don’t know why this even has to be said in 2012, but if you thinking about imitating a different ethnic or racial group and have to significantly alter your skin color, don’t. It’s as simple as that. If you have to do that and perpetuate a damaging and belittling stereotype, run in the other direction. I’m also looking at you, Tracey Ullman.
Brooklyn-based trio Das Racist (2/3 of whom are of Indian descent), pointed out the irony of the usually-likeable Kutcher’s willingness to do the ad: “So, a dude who pimps sex trafficking awareness @aplusk to revive a sagging acreer also plays brownface characters for @popchips#america”
In response to the backlash, Popchips CEO Keith Belling issued an apology on the Popchips website on Wednesday:
“We received a lot of 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.”
Seems like a good enough apology to me – he takes responsibility and doesn’t give any of that “I’m-sorry-you-were-offended” B.S. The ad was also pulled from the Popchips campaign. Good riddance.