Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Is This Ashton Kutcher Video Racist or Just Unfunny?

Ashton Kutcher is doing a new campaign for PopChips in which he portrays different characters in a bunch of "dating videos." One of them is "Raj," an indian man that you can see above. It's being called racist by a bunch of different people, most notably by tech pundit Anil Dash. Is it racist? He's wearing "brownface," which isn't the same as blackface, which is offensive and racist because of its history, not just because people are wearing makeup. And I don't like flinging accusations of racism or offensiveness at comedians unless it's really, truly warranted; comedians deserve the benefit of the doubt for the most part. But there's still something unseemly about this video — watching it made me uncomfortable immediately.

But was I uncomfortable because it's racist, or because it just sucks? Because regardless of charges of racism, it isn't good comedy. This shit makes The Love Guru look like Dr. Strangelove. What do you think? Is this truly offensive, warranting a scrambled apology from the PR company and yanked ads, or is it just another example of a lousy commercial that's not funny but is, in the end, harmless?

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  • sarah

    No, it's pretty racist, because it's effectively boiling down an entire race into a (horribly-acted) caricature.

  • Sahil

    I'm Indian (fine! East Indian!) and while I don't really find this racist, I would agree that its just not funny. Stuff like this makes sense when they can actually make fun of the stereotypes. One of my most favorite types of comedy is when people make fun of stereotypes, because stereotypes are almost always true. But anyway, this wasn't really racist (to me), just that it wasn't funny as well.

  • someone


  • Jordan Haven

    Can't it be both?

  • http://twitter.com/dethbird Rishi Satsangi

    Pretty bad accent. Non-jokes. It's not racist, just unfunny. You let ME to Raj and I'll show you how to be completely offensive and hilarious. Ashton just grabbed from a mixed bag of Apu from the Simpsons, and any other head bobbling sterotype like something Peter Sellers would do. Peter Sellers is funny although completely inaccurate. Ashton is both inaccurate and unfunny. Who the hell green lights this tripe?

  • Johnb78

    If it's racist, then pretty much any national-stereotype humour has to be classed as racist: it's no didn't from showing Frenchmen as sleazy romantics, Brits as soccer hooligans, Texans as dumb rednecks, or indeed anything Sascha Barron-Cohen has ever done. Which, fine, but kinda devalues the term na?

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.tile David Tile

    they're all gone. thanks, in part, to posts like this :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Goto-Tengo/100002594966860 Goto Tengo

    Anything where the main purpose is selling a product gets judged by a harder standard, and any company is going to fold quicker than any comedian who's doing an envelope pushing act.

    Amy Sedaris had this hilarious story where she went for some "glamour" photoshoot, but she insisted that they do pictures where she was made up to have bruises on her face. She kept the makeup on after the shoot, and, on the way home, a woman approached her, touched her arm tenderly, and asked, "Are you okay?" Sedaris replied with an enraptured smile: "I think I'm in love."

    I think that's a really funny anecdote. But a Doritos ad campaign about how your girlfriend likes to be beaten up? I dunnnno.

  • http://twitter.com/felixincognito felix incognito

    Brownface IS the same as blackface. Sure, the history of brownface isn't as widely known or, arguably, studied as that of blackface, but it boils down to one thing: white performers in racial drag portraying an extreme stereotype of a historically oppressed race. This is never okay.

    Also, are you suggesting that Ashton Kutcher is a comedian? He's not, you know.

    • BonzoGal

       Agree on all points.  Also, this wasn't just unfunny, it was boring.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2203179 James Rocker

    Has Fischer Stevens weighed in on this yet?