Ashton Kutcher and PopChips (Also Known as the Post Where I Lose All My Readers)

May 3, 2012

in While Perched upon my Soapbox

Ashton Kutcher as Raj for Popchips I find it ironic in a week that I am working on a piece for my blog on hate (in any form), that I find myself as one of the many “start-ups” being slammed for trying to help PopChips go viral with a video advertisement. It is also frustrating to me that the firestorm is even brewing over the “dating site” video clip. I am sure my opinion will probably get me a lot of hate emails and comments below, but I have to comment.

The backstory on the campaign: An agency that represents me and a lot of single bloggers approached us about a viral video campaign. All we knew was that there would be an A-list star and the video would be for a product promotion. All details were kept quiet until the launch date. Yesterday we were sent the video with the expectation to write a quick, brief post and embed the video. That’s it.

It is a parody about the online dating world. It poked fun at the “great” catches that can be found on these sites. PopChips accurately portrayed what it is like perusing through online profiles. It made me think about what it was like reading first emails from these guys and meeting some men for the first and only time. Focusing on my dating experiences, it made me laugh.

The controversy with the campaign: One of the four characters Ashton Kutcher plays is Raj, an Indian Bollywood producer. For this character Ashton was made to look Indian, which included brown make up. He spoke with an accent too.

Unless I missed something, there was nothing that was said by the character Raj that was an ethnic slur or stereotype. As for the make up (one of the complaints), the Oscar award-winning make up artist who created all the looks, did a great job to help Ashton get into all his characters, including the biker tattoos he had as Swordfish.

Ashton Kutcher for PopChips

Another complaint I continue to read is that people are angered Raj said he wants someone “Kardashian hot.” But each of the characters portrayed rattled off what they are looking for in a woman. Would it have been less offensive if Nigel said it? What about Darl?

Hopefully biker guys, Karl Lagerfeld’s family, and yogi-loving dudes don’t join in to say they were disparaged too. Maybe women should be offended because we were objectified in the video and men should feel put off because it is an unfair representation of their gender on dating sites. Or maybe all of us who have used a dating site should be upset because they are making fun of our method of meeting people to date. Let’s all find something wrong with the video because there is so much to over-analyze in this roughly 2 minute video clip.

What about Eddie Murphy, Wayans brothers and so many outrageous stand-ups? These comedians intentionally stereotype and cross lines for a laugh. If one is to become offended by comedians, their routines and race-changing make up techniques would be a much more egregious offense than Ahston Kutcher making this video.

This isn’t a defense, but rather me simply stating there can be a hypersensitivity to things that are not issues when there are more serious problems in society that need addressing. Hopefully this apology  from Keith Belling, the CEO of PopChips will let this die:

“Our team worked hard to create a light-hearted parody featuring a variety of characters that was meant to provide a few laughs. We did not intend to offend anyone,” he wrote. “I take full responsibility and apologize to anyone we offended.”

For the two readers I will have remaining after writing this post, I hope you will visit next week when I publish the piece on hate in which I  opine on the need for tolerance, education, and acceptance for all people–which now might need to include comedians.

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

hollow tree ventures May 3, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Sigh, can we all just stop being offended by everything? You can be offended by ANYthing if you look hard enough and you’re willing to over-analyze.

Horizontal stripes on clothing unfairly portray people as wider than they are! Soda cans descriminate against people without thumbs because thumblessness makes cans difficult to pick up! Dictionaries are bad because they make people with small vocabularies feel stupid!

What’s sad is that I have to consider leaving this comment anonymously because, no doubt, someone will find it offensive.
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Naked Girl in a Dress May 3, 2012 at 1:17 pm

I just got my first email from posting this. The guy called me a “racist piece of shit” among other things, which I am not but I am not going to spend time and energy explaining to him. He said he will never come back (it was his first visit to my site), which is great.


hollow tree ventures May 3, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Let me see if I understand – he sends you an email containing a personal attack on your character, but YOU’RE the one filled with hate? Or is it okay to be hateful if it’s deliberately directed at an individual, but not okay to be offensive to a group of people if it’s totally unintentional, part of a joke, already apologized for, and not even considered offensive by most people in the first place?

Just trying to get The Rules straight…
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Naked Girl in a Dress May 3, 2012 at 7:26 pm

I know. How funny is that? He also said I am a “fucking loser.” Both offensive comments were prefaced with, “this is just my opinion.”

P.J. May 3, 2012 at 1:27 pm

It’s society now. Everything is wrong. No sense of humor.

The way many people see it now is everyone needs a blue ribbon. Candy and cake. I understand being PC, but sheesh, sometimes people have to step back and smile. Life is too short to get all upset over everything.

Look at the bright side. You made the big time. You’ve received hate mail!

I just watched the video, too. People are seriously upset about that? Come on.
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Naked Girl in a Dress May 3, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Ha! Lots have been saying that I have made it as a blogger with the hateful email I received today.

Are you enjoying baseball season? Life is good in the Naked Girl household with a baseball game on each night!


P.J. May 7, 2012 at 11:51 am

Not so much right now. Injuries and such. But it’s only early May. Not concerned. I’ve watched a lot, just been frustrated with a few things. :(
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Naked Girl in a Dress May 7, 2012 at 11:52 am

I am sorry. Injuries, and the limitations they pose, can be very frustrating.

TheDiva May 3, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Great post! I for one will be back next week :)


Naked Girl in a Dress May 3, 2012 at 7:26 pm

I am so happy you will visit next week for my post on hate.


Jen May 3, 2012 at 1:35 pm

You are SUCH a racist. First thing that comes to mind, Kelly. Jesus! People are nuts!!!


Naked Girl in a Dress May 3, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Yes, there are a lot of crazies out there.


Momma Sunshine May 3, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Girl, I’m with you. I think that as a society we’ve all become way too sensitive. It’s like we’re all walking around LOOKING for a reason to become offended. I took the ad as it was intended — to be light-hearted and humorous. It’s not just Raj that is portrayed as a stereotype, but all of the characters. As you pointed out, if someone so chose, just about anyone could find a reason to be offended by the campaign.


Naked Girl in a Dress May 3, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Not only are people looking for this, but there are online bullies who use their followers to incite a riot. The person leading this charge has a loud, offensive voice and over 400,000 followers on Twitter.


David May 3, 2012 at 1:39 pm

I have several thoughts. Some of course could get me arrested in today’s culture but hell if they don’t bubble up anyway. First of all, the backlash is precisely why you have to write what you do. Confused? Honey, I live that way. OK, here’s a quick illustration: my family is a neurological mess. They hate any and all textures and the thought of any pain or being stung by insects is about as warmly welcomed as a zombie attack. So a few years back, we’re living in a house in the middle of the woods surrounded by nature. I forced them to stay outside a lot. And for a few weeks it was truly horrid. But eventually they became so desensitized that they were basically ignoring all bug life. You see our culture is turning into a huge crybaby and we are in danger of losing our ability to just get over ourselves and play in the woods of life. You and I are here to keep people from choking on anger at everybody and everything. Laughing at ourselves as good medicine? You better believe it sister. And STAT. Secondly, I know that the “game” required the mea culpa from Belling but honestly every time you do that – you know apologize to everyone, everywhere for everything you have or ever will do wrong – it’s blood in the damn water and all I’m seeing right now are fins on the horizon. Our culture is living pissed off and we better start to laugh at ourselves or we are going to kill each other. Thirdly (and I’ll cut it – whew, right?) is that if everything is a controversy then doesn’t eventually it get to where nothing is? Remember the piece I wrote, “Midnight at the Last Side Show”? Nobody screams at the sight of the Pierced Man anymore because now everybody basically has their own side show going on. Controversy? Zombie attack? Obama’s Aunt? Teacher marrying a student? Yawn. Please.
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Naked Girl in a Dress May 3, 2012 at 7:23 pm

You are right David! Thanks for taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment.


Jenni Chiu May 3, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Sometimes people get their panties in a twist just because it feels good.
I find the video fun. All the characters are exaggerated (not just Raj). That’s what comedians do, they pick a trait and times it by ten.

I don’t think a lot of companies/people actually set out to offend. On the other hand, there are definitely people who set out to be offended.
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Leah @ The Miracle Journal May 3, 2012 at 2:27 pm

I love that – “there are definitely people who set out to be offended”. SO well said, Jenni!

I’m not sure how we got to this ultra-sensitive place. I think the initial burgeoning of “political correct”ness was probably well-intentioned, but it took a DRASTICALLY wrong turn somewhere.

Kutcher is doing what comedians do, and that includes playing up stereotypes to point out absurdities. I don’t think it’s racist to point out that Eddie Murphy has put on “white face” more than once and both whites and blacks have found it funny.

Kelly, I think you’ve done a fine thing by talking about this publicly.

And for the record – in my experience with online dating, I’ve encountered most of the “types” that Kutcher characterized and I thoroughly enjoyed laughing at myself for participating in it.
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Naked Girl in a Dress May 3, 2012 at 7:21 pm

I agree with you; Jenni had a great comment! There was a wrong turn made with the over-zealous attempt at being PC in this country.

Thanks for the encouraging words.


Naked Girl in a Dress May 3, 2012 at 7:22 pm

This is such a great comment Jenni. Thanks for visiting and weighing in on this.


Vinny C May 3, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I’m part Indian.

I thought it was funny.
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Naked Girl in a Dress May 3, 2012 at 7:20 pm

I have heard the same from many people of Indian descent, including one of the women who was part of the concerted effort to make this video viral.


Mo May 3, 2012 at 3:37 pm

When did we all get so politically correct? How did we all lose our sense of humor? Then again, this is the same culture that gives trophies to kids just for participating.

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Naked Girl in a Dress May 3, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Thanks for visiting Mo. I agree with you.


Charlotte May 3, 2012 at 4:08 pm

What a fantastic post this is, Kelly. Seriously, it’s time we all step back and stop taking everything so damn seriously. I thought this was an extremely light-hearted attempt to poke fun of the process of dating and the many people we are often exposed to. And because there have been so many comedians who have worked various racial jokes into their bit (and the very hysterical Eddie Murphy as white man bit), I don’t see why this is still an issue. I don’t like the business of dissecting everything and spreading a culture of PC so that we’re made to think that supporting something like this makes us RACIST. Many of my best friends are Indian and I’ve heard from several already who said they weren’t offended.

Oy. What a world we live in.
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Naked Girl in a Dress May 3, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Thank you Charlotte. I do think people need to slow down in judging. I think this is one time the power of social media was not used judiciously.


Brett Minor May 3, 2012 at 6:42 pm

I have a motto that I have taught my students for several years:

There is a vast difference between something being offensive and someone being offended.”
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Naked Girl in a Dress May 3, 2012 at 7:15 pm

You are right Brett. I have heard from a lot of people who are Indian descent who saw nothing wrong with it. The person on the witch hunt against Ashton and PopChips is one person. One person with over 400,000 Twitter followers though. That aside, it really is subjective and not finding it offensive does not make one a racist.


michelle May 3, 2012 at 7:42 pm

I love that your ad program is placing ads on this page for, classic. I was not offended by this post or the ad.. can’t make everyone happy.
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Naked Girl in a Dress May 3, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Ha! Really? The ads are random from Google and they are placed based upon keywords in the post. It’s not intentional, but it is ironic.


Marie Nicole May 3, 2012 at 8:03 pm

I admire your professional level headed approach to the situation. I would have been immature. Cried about it for hours, re-read the email over and over, asked my husband if I really am a loser, posted a survey on my blog begging my readers to convince me I’m ok… Then again, nah. I wouldn’t have done any of all that simply because I’ve never seen the video and never would have been asked to do anything about it in the first place. You’ve arrived! Yay!
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Naked Girl in a Dress May 7, 2012 at 11:37 am

You are funny. I am pretty sure you would have taken my approach. From what I know of you I am confident of that.


Barb May 3, 2012 at 8:19 pm

I cannot believe people were “offended” by that. Ugh, so stupid!


Naked Girl in a Dress May 7, 2012 at 11:38 am

I agree Barb.


Pauline May 3, 2012 at 8:35 pm

It seems that the people who complain about things like this are people who think they are smarter than everyone else; they want the world to know that their intelligence can’t stand by and do nothing while the idiots squander in their ignorance. It’s sad. Ironically, the opposite is true. It’s the people who can’t see the big picture, the satire in the piece who are truly ignorant.


Kim May 3, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Great post ! I can’t believe people can no longer differentiate comedy/humor from abject racism.
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Naked Girl in a Dress May 7, 2012 at 11:39 am

Thanks for the compliment Kim.


Classic NYer May 4, 2012 at 12:55 pm

I was going to comment about being proud to have the distinction of being one of two devoted readers, but I see how many people commented before me, so maybe I won’t get that distinction after all…

But you’re totally right. I’m hoping there will be adaywhen we can celebrate our cultural differences, rather than being sensitive about them, or worse, pretending they don’t exist.


Naked Girl in a Dress May 4, 2012 at 4:35 pm

You are a much-appreciated reader Classic NYer. I am so happy you visit often.


Andrea May 6, 2012 at 10:22 am

I haven’t watched the video, but I think people take things way too seriously. I shudder for the world when we get to the point where even saying hi is somehow offensive.


injaynesworld May 6, 2012 at 11:38 am

First, thanks for following me on Twitter. It enabled me to discover you and I believe we’re cut from much of the same cloth. Second, life really starts getting great at 40. You start getting completely comfortable in your own skin and caring less and less about what other people think of you. When you hit 50, you really become dangerous! Third, in the immortal words of George Carlin, “Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.” You don’t need asshole readers like those. Don’t give them another precious moment of your life.


Naked Girl in a Dress May 7, 2012 at 11:41 am

I have heard that in your 50’s you care even less. It really is liberating to not be hyper-aware and overly-sensitive as we are in our 20’s. It’s nice to just live life and be comfortable with the decisions we make for ourselves. It’s great to meet you.


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