Ashton Kutcher found himself in hot water last week after a viral ad for Pop Chips featuring the actor in brownface stirred accusations of racism and was promptly taken down.
His main beef? That the company didn't publicly address why they thought the ad was appropriate in the first place.
According to Minhaj:
Maybe Pop Chips consciously didn't want to offend minorities, but subconsciously, they knew that they could get away with clowning Indians and Asians... That's the way it is now. They wouldn't do that with any other ethnicity. There's a barbeque flavor of Pop Chips, why didn't you make him blackfaced and Tyrone? Because you knew you'd get f*cking buried, Pop Chips. That's why. And you know that Asians and Indians are the new 'clownable minority.'
While the company's primary outward response at this point has been apologetic tweets claiming that the clip was all in good fun, Minhaj's video helps keep the scenario in perspective by mixing humor with a much-needed dose of "What the f--- were they thinking?"
We reached out to Minhaj to hear more about why he wanted to make the video, and this is what he had to say:
As South Asian Americans we've made so much progress in becoming nuanced characters in television and pop culture (i.e. Aziz, Mindy, Kal) that this [ad] really wasn't necessary. The accent and character was so hackneyed, it was truly painful to watch and I'd like to think we've made strides since Apu on The Simpsons. You're selling Pop Chips, there's no need to pull others down in order to promote your product through painful, unrealistic characterizations.
One common reaction to the ad's use of stereotypes, both on Twitter and in comments, has been, "How is this any different than Sacha Baron Cohen doing 'Borat'?"
Minhaj's response was decisive: Borat is not in brownface.
"As a man of Jewish descent, Sacha Baron Cohen uses the character of Borat to ridicule antisemitism, misogyny, and bigotry," Minhaj told HuffPost. "What was the point of the 'Raj' character? Oh yeah, to sell Pop Chips by blatantly laughing at Indian people."
He went on to add that Pop Chips aren't alone in harmfully stereotyping for the sake of profit. "I feel the same way about the MetroPCS commercials," he said. "South Asians and our 'characteristics' are being ridiculed in order to sell or distribute a product. "
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