Actor, Twitter celebrity, and venture capitalist Ashton Kutcher plunked down in a steaming pot of boiling-hot water today thanks to a new marketing campaign from potato chip maker Popchips. In one particular video — there are five in total — Kutcher takes on the role of “Raj,” a 39-year-old Bollywood producer. While the accent is bad, and the jokes worse, the damning part of the ad is that Kutcher’s skin has been darkened for the part, a move that offends a good many Twitter users (and bloggers, and probably a lot of other people).
Here are a few of the reactions the video has received:
— Megan (@thewherefores) May 2, 2012
— Tina Chadha (@tinaatmetro) May 2, 2012
Hey @aplusk, what’s with the racist brownface video you talentless, pretending to care about sex trafficking piece of shit?
— DAS RACIST (@dasracist) May 2, 2012
The New York Times was the first to write about the $1.5 million Popchip campaign this morning. Interestingly, writer Stuart Elliott made no mention of Kutcher’s and Popchip’s “brownface” faux pas — another thing Twitter users are upset about. But it’s entirely possible that Elliott did not see every ad Popchips had available. Also, it’s entirely possible that Popchip’s PR people deliberately chose to not show that ad.
So far, Popchips has not responded to the early criticism the ad is receiving — at least, they haven’t responded on Twitter. Kutcher has also remained silent on the matter.
Update: The ad has been pulled, reports The New York Times.
Whether or not the video is racist, or just a bad joke, is obviously a matter of opinion. If you’re offended, it’s racism. If you’re not, it’s a joke. (Though, if you ask us, it’s pretty clearly racist — even if it wasn’t intentionally so.) Either way, it looks like Popchips has an expensive PR mess on its hands.
Watch the video below, and let us know whether you think it crosses the line in the comments.
Updated with additional information and edited for clarity at 6:35pm ET