Is It Really Brownface? Ashton Kutcher’s Controversial Ad Pulled

May 3, 2012  |  

Brown face and racial hypersensitivity strike again in the case of Ashton Kutcher’s new Popchips ad campaign. Set up like the dating game, the online campaign for “World Wide Lovers Dating Service” features Kutcher playing a British weed head named Nigel, a Southern biker named Swordfish, and a Karl Lagerfeld-like fashion mogul. But it’s Kutcher’s impersonation of a 39-year-old Bollywood producer that has caused alarm because of the stereotypical Indian accent and “brownface” that go along with it.

Immediately after going viral, New York writer and entrepreneur Anil Dash demanded an apology for the “ignorance” of Internet ad spot, saying:

“I think the people behind this Popchips ad are not racist. I think they just made a racist ad, because they’re so steeped in our culture’s racism that they didn’t even realize they were doing it.”

In the clip, which has already been pulled due to the angered response from Dash, Brooklyn-based hip-hop group Das Racist, and several tweeters, Raj makes comments like:

“I’m Raj, I’m a Bollywood producer. I’m looking for the most delicious thing on the planet, like Kardashian hot … I would give that dog a bone.”

Though it’s easy to see where that type of caricature could ruffle a few feathers, a spokesman for the company insists there was no racist intent behind the ad’s creation.

“The new popchips worldwide dating video and ad campaign featuring four characters was created to provoke a few laughs and was never intended to stereotype or offend anyone,” the spokesperson said. “At popchips we embrace all types of shapes, flavors and colors, and appreciate all snackers, no matter their race or ethnicity. We hope people can enjoy this in the spirit it was intended.”

If Raj were the sole character in this ad then I would be more inclined to think it was a tad insensitive, but since Kutcher mimics several stereotypical types of personas in this ad, the backlash seems a little over the top. What do you think? Check out the ad here and let us know.

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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