Thought Catalog

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

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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.

_____

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.

_____

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

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

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

    Fucking Twitter

    • Oliver Miller

      Twitter marks the moment when I officially became an old person.  Not only do I not get it, and can’t see how it’s fun at all, I don’t get how ANYONE can like it.  And I think you should all stop using it.

      • Mamajamerson

        Ditto on that. I’m so old, in fact, that I never even started using it. I am anti-tweet and I am not ashamed to admit it.

  • Brin

    Ashton Kutcher’s Indian accent is way off. I can say that because I’m Indian ;) (catch the subtle racism?)

    Secondly, look at that face. I’ve imagined the Indian version of Ashton Kutcher for too long,  and NOW ITS HAPPENING. Ashton Kutcher looks pretty decent as an Indian..I’m so marrying him <3

  • http://twitter.com/Nadiaaa87 Nadia

    LOL @ anyone who compares what Dave Chapelle does to donning brownface in order to sell potato chips. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/josephbrillantes Joseph Brillantes

    Just get to the point already.

  • GUESTY

    Ugh even without the racism that is a terrible advert. 

    As a white person, if a black person tells me that something is racist towards black people, then it’s racist. I have never experienced racism, so my opinion on whether or not somebody should feel offended when they (or their ancestors/family/friends) HAVE experienced it, is meaningless. 

    • http://twitter.com/Nadiaaa87 Nadia

      you are a lovely white person. thank you.

    • Oliver Miller

      So by that logic, does that mean Das Racist was right, then, even though they clear-rrrly weren’t right?

      • GUESTY

        Why can’t they be right? 

  • Nishant

    Did you even have something to say? Or were you just in a rush to get a ‘thought’ post out before anyone else did?

    • Oliver Miller

      If you read the article carefully, I think you’ll find that I secretly solved racism.  Forever.  Yes, forever.

      • Nishant

        Is that you, Ashton?

  • Angel

    i’m a black but for some reason i’d feel i’d be more offended if he was in his kelso character in brownface than his own self in brownface because i actually like kelso

    • http://www.facebook.com/CydniiWithTwoEyes Cydnii Wilde Harris

      Side note: If you were really “a black,” you wouldn’t call yourself “a black.”  

      • Olivia

        Cydnii, you’re an idiot.

  • http://thefirstchurchofmutterhals.blogspot.com/ mutterhals

    Honestly, I find Ashton Kutcher more offensive than racism, and that’s some shit right there.

  • Vaibhav

    I am Indian and i am not offended. Russel peters does Indian accent all the time! people don’t get offended then! I think light comedy is okay. Only people with low self esteem should get offended.

    • beatrice

      Definitely agree with that. But sometimes when watching big bang theory I can’t help but think that it totally crossed the boundaries

      • Mouse in the house

         Big Bang Theory’s treatment of Raj is not only racist, it retreads the tired old tropes about foreigners. Here’s the awkward nerdy Indian man who can’t get a girl, can’t speak to girls and peppers all his conversations with quirky anecdotes about the motherland. Of all the characters on that show, his is the most underdeveloped and stereotyped.

        And to Vaibhav’s point above, just because you’re Indian and don’t get offended does not mean it isn’t offensive. Congrats, you’re a super-detached Indian who doesn’t care when people go around misrepresenting his people in the most cliched, stereotypical ways possible.

      • Vaibhav

        Big band theory is just a TV Show! Why take it so seriously? do you really wanna be around people who take such things seriously and judge you because of that? I love my country and i love my people. That does not mean that we cannot have some light fun..
        The best someone can do is learn from stereotypes. There is always truth in them. It is not fiction!!! Being an individual should come first, then being a part of a culture or race.

      • Vaibhav

        bang* 

  • TC

     Maybe he’ll just tweet “YOU JUST GOT PUNK’D AMERICA” and we’ll just laugh it off?

  • beatrice

    To answer your question, yes white people do experience some sort of discrimination. In Asia it really goes down both ways, either major kowtow or foreign language swearing. But alas, the internet fixes all things aye?

  • http://www.twitter.com/clowve Joyce

    It’s not racist, it’s stereotypical. God, people need to get angry correctly.

    • Oliver Miller

      What if he did it ironically?  Would it be racist then?  Or what if he had really done blackface, not brownface?  That’d definitively be racist.  Unless he did it ironically, like “30 Rock” sometimes does.  Anyway, it’s good that Ashton and potato chips got us all talking about this, unless no it isn’t.  Anyway, I blame that show “Girls” for causing this.  Damn you, “Girls”!  From hell’s heart I spit at thee.

  • Hank

    I love how white people leap to be champions for non-white people who aren’t able to speak up themselves about how racist “Thing X” is. Thanks, white people!

    • Anonymous

      uh, so you mean people can’t express genuine concern when they come across something they see as problematic for people other than themselves? are white people not allowed to care about issues that are bigger than themselves? because that’s what I’m getting from this, and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. besides, no one is “leaping to be a champion for” people of color. this is one person’s perspective on an issue that he clearly feels strongly about.

    • Oliver Miller

      It’s all my fault oh nooooo, damn me!  From Hell’s heart I spit at me!

  • Phoebe

    “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.”
    I find it interesting that Oliver not automatically assumed the effeminate man in the ad is gay (not all gay guys are effeminate, not all effeminate guys are gay) and then proceeded to become offended by it, yet he can’t see why perpetuating a stereotype about Indian men is offensive…?

    Not only is the writer afflicted by the very thing he deny exists in the ad, but he is also facilitating the internet riot he criticizes in his article. 

    Moral of the story? When you assume, you make an as out yourself and…oh wait no, just you.

  • http://annogus.tumblr.com/ Anna Gustafson

    Been wading into the depths of sorting out racism/sexism recently and THIS is what my brain feels like EVERY DAY.

  • Phoebe

    “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.”
    I find it interesting that Oliver not automatically assumed the effeminate man in the ad is gay (not all gay guys are effeminate, not all effeminate guys are gay) and then proceeded to become offended by it, yet he can’t see why perpetuating a stereotype about Indian men is offensive…?Not only is the writer afflicted by the very thing he deny exists in the ad, but he is also facilitating the internet riot he criticizes in his article. Moral of the story? When you assume, you make an ass outta yourself and…oh wait no, just you.

    • Oliver Miller

      “Darl” in the ad is a direct and obvious parody of Karl Lagerfeld, but good try with your convoluted logic.  I’m sure if you work hard enough, you can convince yourself that I’m to blame for something else.

  • Andri

    I LOVE THIS ARTICLE

  • bee

    Racism will go away if everyone just shuts the fuck up and stops. talking. about. race. not hard

    • Oliver Miller

      That is clearly not going to happen soon, so let’s all just get confused and angry in the comment section instead.  Comment section party whoot!

    • Guestropod

      Morgan Freeman is that you

    • sdalkfj

      This is the dumbest mentality. If race exists and people have questions we HAVE to talk about it, sorry. It’s officially a thing.

  • Grace

    I hope you have a dream about the various Pop Chip Ashton Kutcher personas in a bed made of cats and ask all of your friends to draw it for you. You can then decide which ones are the most racist on a scale of one to ten!

    • Oliver Miller

      I saw PopChips in the store for the first time ever tonight.  They’re kinda healthy, and I considered buying them, then got confused as to what it would mean if I did that.  I bought low fat Angry Birds gummi birds instead.  True story, bro.

      • Grace

        They’re pretty tasty. Nickelodeon studios in Los Angeles keeps them stocked in the office kitchen. Marginally (but not really) bummed that popchips put this schlock out into the world cause sometimes I take them home from work. True Story, ho.*

        *That seemed appropriate since you incorrectly identified me as a BRO (rude) but now that I’ve actually typed out “ho” I am regretting my choice. It sounds so foreign. Where I grew up, the term was “ho-bag” and it was most commonly used in the phrase: “Look at that skanky ho-bag.” Ok, back to solving racism…

  • J.S.

    Real Question: What’s the deal with people getting offended by people getting offended by racism? 

  • GUEST

    I’ll start caring when pop-chips stop being so delicious.

  • guest

    to be honest, to me, skin colour is just skin colour and painting his face brown should be exactly like wearing a wig or putting on makeup to fit any one of the other stereotypes in this video. what makes me uncomfortable though is just that it harks back to minstrel shows and the like from back in history and really, it’s not something i want harked back to.

  • guest

    pop chips are disgusting

  • Nina

    Lighten up and take a joke. Congress and our house of representatives are comprised of sexist, racist and homophobic a-holes who actually make decisions that affect our lives. Let that rock your world, not Ashton Kutcher who is probably the least malicious and simple-minded person on TV.

    • Oliver Miller

      The pot calling the kettle black, it seems like.  Or, so the raven chides darkness.

    • Lo

      “Lighten up.” Awkwaaaaaaard.

  • intrepidsnark

    “Everyone’s a little bit racist, it’s true.
    But everyone is just about as racist as you!
    If we all could just admit that we are racist a little bit
    And everyone stopped being so PC
    Maybe we could live in harmony!”

    There, I fixed it. 

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