May 11 2012
Unless you were hiding under a rock or not online much, you would most likely have seen you have seen or heard about the Ashton Kutcher ad for Popchips depicting him (among other characters) as an Indian man, Raj a Bollywood Producer, with a fake and bad Indian accent and in brownface! Yeah, ok and if you haven’t seen the ad or clip online, the above pic should help you. Take a minute to fully appreciate it.
Now this ad was pulled after following a public uproar over its alleged racist overtones. Which makes me shake my head? How is this ad racist? Because Kutcher was in brownface and faked a badly done Indian accent. He also fakes a German/Austrian accent – does that make it racist against Germans & Austrians? Indian origin Canadian stand up comic genius Russell Peters makes fun of the Indian accent – would you call him racist? No!! He also does killer Philipino, Chinese, Vietnamese, South American, Mexican, Arab and British accents. Is he racist against all these people? One think that I notice in his videos is when he is doing a joke about a particular ethnic group, it’s that ethnic group that laughs the loudest & the hardest! Because they know that there is some truth in it and he is just stating a stereotype.
And you think Indians don’t make fun of other nations? Indian ads & music channels used to have a ton of ads or videos of Indians faking American or UK accents. Look at all the voice overs of English & American announcers speaking in badly accented Hindi (I seriously think that some Indians consider that entertainment). There are jokes where the punchline is badly pronounced English words in Hindi, Tamil & Malayalam and more Indian languages. Hell, the Malayalam tv, movie & mimicry industry has run for decades on mispronouncing English words & faking accents. Are they all racist?
Stereotypes are poking good hearted fun at a particular ethnicity. That’s exactly what this portrayal of “Raj” is – a stereotype. Done badly – yes. The accent is terrible – yes. I am not a fan of Ashton, I don’t think much of him as an actor. I don’t watch his movies. I think he isn’t very talented. He isn’t very funny. I thought the ad was a bit funny. Indians take themselves way too seriously. They make fun of others but they can’t take a joke. If you want to get riled up over something choose something more substantial. Like actual racism and mis-treatment based on race & colour. Not this stupid stuff!
The original ad is below.