Ashton Kutcher's new ad campaign for Pop Chips does a pretty unfunny caricature of an Indian guy, and has thus, understandably, riled up some folks. In the ad, Kutcher's skin is darkened, he puts on a pretty bad Indian accent, eats the chips and utters the comedic gem, "these are the Bomb-ay." Yeah...
The New York Times had details on the campaign this morning (making no mention of the racial depiction). Per The Times' Stuart Elliot:
The campaign, scheduled to be under way on Wednesday morning, features Mr. Kutcher’s portrayal of four different comedic personalities, all of them, natch, fans of Popchips. Mr. Kutcher has been involved with marketing Popchips since he was named the brand’s “president of pop culture” in 2010 ...
$1.5 million is a lot of money to pay for a PR disaster. As a general rule, when planning to disseminate something on the internet, it's probably best to have a very clear idea of why one is imitating another race for comedic purposes. If the answer is just that the accent seems kind of funny, as it seems to be in this Kutcher ad, it's best to avoid it and certainly best not to put aside millions of dollars to promote it. Already (in this case, appropriately named) rap group Das Racist, and a bunch of others, are on Twitter urging people to call or write in to Pop Chips, calling him out by his Twitter handle: "Hey, @aplusk what's with the racist brownface video you talentless, pretending to care about sex trafficking piece of shit?" Das Racist tweets. Kutcher, for his part, is linking to the campaign with the tweet, "Looking for love?"
If you're curious about the other, slightly less offensive, Kutcher characters, they are:
Swordfish sounds like Billy Bob Thornton, or more accurately like Ashton Kutcher doing a Billy Bob Thornton impression, and he's basically just kinda silly and drifter-y. There's a joke about his last name being Pfister or Fister or something that's a bit strange in an ad for chips, but whatever. Look for Swordfish to get his own FX show sometime next year.
Nigel is a stoner hippie with dreads and an accent that's either British or Australian depending on how drunk you are when you watch these videos. Kutcher is clearly a Streepian master of accent and dialect, so it's a joy to watch him work. It's also a joy to hear stoner hippie jokes, which really feel so fresh and new here in 2012.
Darl is Ashton's brilliant Karl Lagerfeld impersonation. His Franco-Saxon accent is consistent and spot-on, and just when you think this Darl character can't get any better, then comes the Eiffel Tower erection joke we've all been waiting for. Our only problem with Darl is that there isn't enough of him!
So that's Kutcher dazzling us as always with his chameleon-like acting abilities. ("you won't believe this is ashton!" the intro video description exclaims.) It's just good to see him at work — he's been working on some characters, y'know, workshopping them, developing their voices — asserting himself as some sort of more brilliant Tracey Ullman. He makes Tracey Ullman look like a pile of dirt these characters are so good. Well done, everyone!