Ashton Kutcher and Popchips: Tasty But Racist?

Categories: Wake Up Call

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Last week, Popchips released a series of faux dating ads staring Ashton Kutcher in a number of roles and targeted for the ever-popular viral market. One of those ads, featuring Kutcher in brownface and aping an Indian accent, went viral in all the wrong ways. After an uproar on social media and elsewhere, Popchips hastily withdrew the ad featuring Kutcher as "Raj," a Bollywood producer.

A couple of days later, comedian and actor Hasan Minhaj articulated this video response:


Of course, many question the difference between Kutcher's commercial and Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator. Both after all are commercial products that utilize stereotypes for comedic effect. The counter-argument here is that stereotypes are a tool that can be used to illuminate, denigrate, or just get a cheap laugh at someone else's expense. It seems reasonable to assess that Kutcher's hackneyed portrayal of "Indians" was less about insightful/inciteful social commentary and more about selling chips.

In that light, it's arguable that Kutcher wasn't participating in the pointy-white-hat flavor of racism but rather racism's cousin, stereotypical tasteless jackassery. This ad was well within Popchip's rights to make, but maybe they pulled the ad so quickly because they didn't want something tasteless associated with their product.


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12 comments
Maluorata
Maluorata

OMG! 
Hasan Minhaj sorta looks like Achmed the Dead Terrorist. Now does anyone jump in Jeff Dunhams shit for his puppets????? ITS ALL IN HUMOUR MAN!! If the world doesn't lighten up and get a sense of Humour it will explode!

jliven23
jliven23

BBQ popchips are delicious...some of the others are just a tad light on the seasoning though. It's become my go-to snack in airports. Popchips and vodka.

Maluorat
Maluorat

oh for gods sake..You people are all deflicted... It was a commercial. Cant say Indian people and Asian people don't make fun of Americans. And Yes a lot of Indian people sound just like that. We have neighbors that are from Ujjain and they and they sound just like that. Get your panties out of your ass and get over it.. Did you ever hear the saying  "Imitation is the greatest form of flattery" Its okay for just about any race to make fun of whites. especially if they are American Whites. What makes your culture so damn much better than ours. As I said ... Get your panties out of your ass and get on with your life. blah blah blah

dcoryer
dcoryer

This is great and spot on..."indians and asians are the new clownable minority"...very interesting and eye opening.

Gtrachel
Gtrachel

First things first, I think Hasan Minhaj is totally justified in being as angry as he is about this ridiculous piece of jackassery.  I mean, Ashton looks like an idiot, his portrayal is completely offensive, and what the hell is that faux-Mandarin-style jacket?  Did the person who conceived this ad have any experience with anyone from the Asian continent?  That said, I have to speak up for Raj on The Big Bang Theory -- I don't think he belongs in the negative stereotype column!  All of the heroes on that show are hopeless geeks, and most of them are white; Raj is a star, and the actor who plays him is totally hot and everyone knows this.

Ando Muneno
Ando Muneno

I'm actually fond of their Thai flavor. Clearly Kutcher should have dressed as a Lady Boy to advertise that flavor. 

Ando Muneno
Ando Muneno

I'm about 95% sure we're not going to have a meaningful conversation here but let me at least try:

Nobody is saying Kutcher doesn't have a right to make this ad. Some, myself included, thought it was a shitty joke that uses a shitty stereotype for shitty cheap laughs. So we called him on it and apparently Pop Chips turned around and said, "Huh, this ad campaign  isn't exactly appealing to the people we want to buy our chips... 'the people' meaning everyone who eats chips." So they yanked it and now it's all good save for the bit where we still get to talk about how it was kinda a dumb call from the beginning. I don't think the world is a lesser place because this ad went away so it's really hard for me to feel bad about calling it dumb. 

A friend of mine recently shared with me a similar case. Apparently, pampers ran a series of ads centered around demonstrating just how bad dad's were at putting diapers on babies. Thousands of stay-at-home dads/single dads raised hell over it because, let's be real, changing a diaper is bad enough without the company who makes those diapers telling you that you suck at it. So pampers pulled the ads and replaced them with ads showing how badass dads can be at the whole diaper thing. The net result is this:
1. Pampers pitched a bigger tent and got more sales: Win for pampers.
2. Dads who use pampers got recognized for doing a shitty job well: Win for dads.
3. People who thought the original ads were works of art got butthurt about it: Loss for them.

So everyone walked out of that situation happier, except for the people who were butthurt because pampers caved to "PC BS." Oooooh well. 

Ando Muneno
Ando Muneno

I tend to agree, although I haven't watched The Big Bang Theory. Shocking I know, you'd totally think it's my demographic.

I thought Outsourced treated race pretty well but I only watched the first six episodes or so. Apparently it got real dumb, real fast, after that point. 

jliven23
jliven23

Good call....I tried the thai flavor today and liked it a lot. On the back of the bag it shows you how to perfect the tuck. Van Wilder set the bar pretty high.

Sadamhusain
Sadamhusain

I am surprised you were able to watch six episodes of Outsourced.

Ando Muneno
Ando Muneno

Oh wow! I was trying to figure out why they would include a single-use super glue but now it all makes sense. 

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