Ashton Kutcher's Bollywood ad yanked amid racism outcry
Published Thursday, May 3, 2012 9:32AM EDT
An ad for potato chip company Popchips featuring Ashton Kutcher as a dark-skinned Bollywood producer with a sing-song accent has been slammed by social media users as being racist.
Ashton Kutcher's new commercials for the chip company, Popchips, were meant to be lighthearted and funny. But one ad has been swiftly pulled after offending Indian-Americans who called it racist.
In the online ad for Popchips, the 34-year-old "Two and a Half Men" star appears as "Raj," a Bollywood producer "looking for love."
Raj was one of four characters Kutcher portrayed in the ad. The other characters included a white, dreadlocked Brit named Nigel, a bearded redneck named Swordfish and a Karl Lagerfeld look-alike.
The combination may have seemed funny to the ad agency Zambezi, which developed the US$1.5-million campaign for the chip company.
But Kutcher's portrayal of Raj went too far, according to social media users.
As of Thursday morning in India, the Raj video had been pulled from the Popchips YouTube channel. The character was also cut from the company's Facebook page.
Blistering commentary about Kutcher's Raj flooded Twitter and Facebook.
The Brooklyn band @dasracist tweeted, "So, a dude who pimps sex trafficking awareness @aplusk to revive a sagging acreer also plays brownface characters for @popchips #america."
Disdain was also expressed in a blog written by New York City tech entrepreneur Anil Dash.
"Don't watch it; It's a hackneyed, unfunny advertisement featuring Kutcher in brownface talking about his romantic options, with the entire punchline being that he's doing it in a fake-Indian outfit and voice. That's it, there's seriously no other gag," Dash wrote on his blog.
Dash also added this stinging thought: "If you find yourself putting brown makeup on a white person in 2012 so they can do a bad ‘funny' accent in order to sell potato chips you are on the wrong course."
Dash's blog post received a flood of comments. Some people said the ad was "indeed tasteless." Others felt that it should be watched with a sense of humour and not taken too seriously.
Still, company executives are playing it safe and doing damage control.
Late Wednesday, Popchips CEO Keith Belling issued an apology.
"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," he wrote in a blog post.
Kutcher has yet to issue any statement of explanation or apology.
What do you think? Did Popchips and Kutcher go too far?