Gather round, friends, and let’s have ourselves a chitchat about Ashton Kutcher’s ad campaign for Pop Chips snacks, where he plays different characters of different nationalities and ethnicities — notably, an Indian character. It’s so very funny:
Wait, not funny. Discomfitingly racist. This was not the take-home message from many news outlets, mind you: The New York Times didn’t mention it; the New York Daily News didn’t mention it; the New York Post says that his “skin is darkened by makeup;” E! doesn’t care; the Seattle PI doesn’t care; Us Weekly posted a beefcake shot of Kutcher getting done up in brownface; People didn’t mention it. And yet, yikes.
But he was joking; but he makes fun of other accents, too; but it’s not racist, it’s just silly; you are too sensitive; not everything is about race — nope! Not acceptable! Jokes can still be racist! It’s 2012, folks. Does this ad use imagery that is primarily seen elsewhere as a means to degrade and marginalize people? It sure does.
“I can’t imagine I have to explain this to anyone in 2012, but 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,” writes tech hero Anil Dash in a terrific and forward-looking analysis of the ad. “Make some different decisions.”
Interestingly, as recently as 6 p.m. today, Pop Chips had separate ads up on YouTube for each of Kutcher’s different characters, including an extended-play audience with Raj. But by shortly after 7 p.m., they had all been marked “Private” and are inaccessible. Perhaps different decisions are being made very quickly. UPDATE: And it looks like all of the other videos with Kutcher’s other characters spotlighted individually are back up, but Raj’s remains taken down.