• Wed, May 2 2012

Ashton Kutcher’s Faux-Dating Ad Isn’t Funny Enough To Excuse The Brownface

Ashton Kutcher Raj PopChips faux dating ad brownfaceOut of nowhere popped up this faux-dating ad sponsored by popchips, starring Ashton Kutcher as various stereotypical personas searching for love: Southern biker Swordfish, stoner Nigel (good accent), a genuinely funny parody of Karl Lagerfeld called Darl… and a Bollywood producer named Raj.

Maybe I’m a hardass, but I found Raj more offensive than funny. We already experienced the “summer of brownface” back in 2008, and actually there are several Indian actors on television now: Manish Dayal playing another Raj, on 90210 (though he just died), and Raza Jaffrey valiantly trying to make Dev a good guy on Smash. Perhaps Ashton and PopChips’ reasoning was to have Ashton — who the company named their “president of pop culture” in 2010 — embody all types of characters, but we don’t need his approximation of non-Western culture. As we learned with Smash‘s Bollywood number starring Dev, it’s offensive enough when you make an Indian guy do the stereotypical accent/garb/etc., but it’s worse when it’s a white guy. Considering that Hollywood thinks blackface is back to being acceptable, I’d say that this is a step backwards.

They weren’t entirely off-base: The Darl character is an equally radical transformation but is actually funny, especially when he says, “Sorry, I was holding my breath to look skinnier.” And finally, we get Ashton himself at the end, deadpanning, “Your waiting room is like a freakshow. Are we all in the same category?” We’d rather have more of Ashton playing it straight and less of the other guys.

Photo: Us Magazine

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