Ashton Kutcher is used to controversy. The “Two and a Half Men” star drew fire recently after Miranda Lambert thought he was mocking country music at the ACM awards and last year he took heat for seemingly defending ousted college football coach Joe Paterno in the midst of allegations that one of the late legend’s assistants had sexual abused boys.
And now he’s in the hot seat again. This time it’s because of allegations that a new ad campaign he stars in for the Popchips brand traffics in racial stereotypes. In the ad, Kutcher’s skin is tinted brown, he sports a bushy mustache and is wearing traditional Indian garb while playing the role of a Bollywood producer named “Raj.”
“I’m raj, I’m a Bollywood producer. I’m looking for the most delicious thing on the planet, like Kardashian hot … I would give that dog a bone ,” Kutcher says in a stereotypical Indian accent in the viral ad, which has since been pulled.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, a spokesperson for the company released a statement hitting back at accusations that the commercial was offensive. “The new popchips worldwide dating video and ad campaign featuring four characters was created to provoke a few laughs and was never intended to stereotype or offend anyone,” the spokesperson said. “At popchips we embrace all types of shapes, flavors and colors, and appreciate all snackers, no matter their race or ethnicity. We hope people can enjoy this in the spirit it was intended.”
The campaign for “World Wide Lovers Dating Service” also has Kutcher playing a British stoner named Nigel, a Southern biker named Swordfish and a swishy Karl Lagerfeld-like fashionista. The rep clarified that the ads were not meant to run on TV, but as a “fun online campaign.”
Blogger Anil Dash, one of the most vocal critics of the spot, as well as a Popchips and Kutcher fan, wrote on his blog on Wednesday that he had spoken to Popchips founder Keith Belling, “Who was sincere and contrite as he offered a thoughtful, apologetic response that indicates he understood much of what I was trying to say here. I’m cautiously optimistic to see the company’s response, and willing to give them time to do it properly. Maybe we can get a good result.”
Kutcher, a notoriously active Twitter user who is in the midst of a divorce from his wife of six years, Demi Moore, had not responded to the flap at press time.