Thought Catalog
May 3, 2012

Ashton Kutcher Sparks A Global Conversation About Race, And How Maybe You Shouldn’t Paint Your Face Like That

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What is the issue?

Let’s have a frank discussion about racism? Shall we? No; I don’t want to talk about it either, but we must.

So: Is racism hipster? Or maybe it’s not hipster? Or does racism all have to do with that new show Girls, and was anyone ever racist before that show came on; damn that stupid show? Or maybe is racism maybe the fault of that one guy down in Florida, you know the one that I’m talking about? And hey, can you ever be racist to white people? Or can you never be racist to white people?

So many questions, but now we have finally arrived at an answer: IT’S ALL ASHTON KUTCHER’S FAULT. And thank god. Here’s his possibly racist new ad for PopChips, where he sports “brownface,” great, and impersonates an Indian fellow named “Raj.” …Because it’s funny! That’s a funny thing to do! God, Ashton Kutcher kills himself for comedy and you people don’t even appreciate it.

…So there’s that. The thing that happened next is that the internet — which usually is very shy, and which hesitates before making rash statements of any kind — but anyway, the internet exploded, with people saying: “Hey, that’s racist,” and, “Don’t go around painting your face like that, Ashton Kutcher!”

First, technology writer Anil Dash blogged the following:

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. Make some different decisions.

Which makes sense, but then he added the following:

I think we can attack the process by which these broken, racist, exploitative parts of our culture are created. I think the people behind this Popchips ad are not racist. I think they just made a racist ad, because they’re so steeped in our culture’s racism that they didn’t even realize they were doing it. …Popchips should not pull this ad down: Instead, they should leave it up and link to not an apology, but an explanation of how their process failed and resulted in this racist ad being created.

No. Slow down, Mr. Anil Dash! You’re confusing us with this whole thing that you’re doing. Can’t we just get rid of the ad and blame Ashton? What’s with all this “nuanced discussion” crap, urgggh.

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But next, hip-hop group Das Rascist managed to clarify the whole thing with the following tweet. And again, thank god:

Hey [Ashton], what’s with the racist brownface video you talentless, pretending to care about sex trafficking piece of sh-t?

Whew. So that’s settled. Oh, wait. Here’s a response to that tweet by some random dude:

@dasracist is @davechappelle racist when he does a skit painted up as a white dude? No, he’s funny! White people can’t do the same?

Luckily, at this point I remembered that I hate Twitter, so I got off Twitter, and thank God. I was getting confused there.

And then, PopChips went and pulled the extended “Raj” ad from their YouTube channel, which resolved the whole thing, thank God, except that it didn’t, and people are still freaking out.

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So, where are we with this now? If we’re keeping score at home, here’s the following list of what’s what:

  1. Racism = clearly bad.
  2. But people can maybe be somewhat unintentionally racist, because our culture is so steeped in it.
  3. Or maybe not.
  4. What’s up with Dave Chappelle getting a free pass like that?
  5. But then again, maybe it’s NOT racist to do “whiteface,” because white people have historically been lame and bad.
  6. How did Dave Chappelle even get dragged into this discussion again?
  7. But hey, maybe Das Racist is racist because it’s right there in their name, people.
  8. But then it turns out that two members of Das Racist are Indian guys, so maybe not.
  9. I need a drink. A big one.

And so, after we all go and have a big drink, all of us, let’s all go back to assigning blame to Ashton Kutcher, who is responsible for the following things, probably:

  1. The entirely extraneous and unnecessary final two seasons of “That 70s Show.”
  2. That godawful movie with that b-tch Katherine Heigl which was just a rip-off of Mr. and Ms. Smith, anyway.
  3. Being from Iowa, which is a boring state that I’ve driven though.
  4. Those camera ads that he does.
  5. And racism, probably.
  6. Or at least he’s guilty of bad-decision making in doing this ad for PopChips, probably.

…So there’s that. And we haven’t even gotten into the fact that the gay character in the ad is kinda offensive, ’cause no one’s even started talking about that.

But hey, one thing is clear: the potato chip ad is not funny. And that’s a problem. If you’re going to be really racist, then you need to be really funny. Like Dave Chappelle, say. …So is that the moral here? If you do racist humor, then be really funny? …Not that I’m saying that Dave Chappelle is racist! Oh god, I’m not saying that. I’ll get comments saying that’s what I said anyway, though.. I more think he does “edgy” humor that’s racially-tinged. Or I’ll just go ahead and call him racist and get mean comments, because screw it, why not?

Anyway, what’s the moral here? Or is there no moral, and it’s just a bunch of zany stuff that happened? A bunch of zany stuff with chips. For the record, here’s PopChips’ official statement on the matter, which clarifies exactly jacksh-t: “At PopChips we embrace all types of shapes, flavors and colors, and appreciate all snackers, no matter their race or ethnicity.”

See? So be you “barbecue-flavored” Brownish Red, or “original” White in hue and complexion, it doesn’t matter! PopChips still embraces you, and wants you to spend money on their product. So that’s nice.

…In the end, all we can really say for sure here is that I’m not racist, and we know that for sure. …But you might be racist? But maybe it’s not your fault, you might just be really steeped in it and such. Anyway, the internet will settle it and come to a non-rash conclusion, I’m sure. The internet resolves all things, and once again, thank God.  TC mark