Here’s a charming video of Two and a Half Men star Ashton Kutcher doing his best impression of Mike Meyers doing his best impression of an unfunny Indian stereotype. In brownface. No, you’re not having a fever dream.
The spot’s a bizarre attempt to advertise PopChips, which is apparently a type of food that, like Ashton Kutcher, always leaves a weird taste in your mouth. There’s a whole series of these spots designed to look like they’re dating service videos made for undateable men, each of them derivative of something that’s derivative of something else. There’s the Russell Brand archetype, the Karl Lagerfeld lookalike (way to pitch one right down the middle of the American common man’s taste, Pop Chips!), the proto-dirtbag who Might Be A Redneck.
But Kutcher’s depiction of Raj while in full brown makeup and a cerulean dhoti-like garment is the most cringeworthy. Raj, the human stereotype, is shy, wanting to be sexual but naive, saying vaguely inappropriate things akin to what high school assholes try to make the foreign exchange student say (“SAY PUSSY! SAY DICK!” “SAY I LOVE THE BOOBIES!”). He’s got an accent that Kutcher would likely never dare break out in front of a group of Bollywood actors. Not to mention the fact that he’s not funny. I defy you to watch the spot without feeling like you want to crawl out of your skin so you can crawl back inside and hide until it’s over. It’s that bad.
Is it possible that no one working on any part of this “creative” process saw how this was going horribly wrong? Or is thinly-veiled racism just the easiest and most exciting way to generate buzz these days?