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Every celebrity has something in their past they aren’t proud of doing, whether it’s provocative photos, controversial songs, bad movies, or even misguided commercials. All of these usually come back to haunt notables when they’re older and more established stars. Often with commercials, they’ll end up in perpetual play on YouTube where fans can mock them or use them as memes on social media.

Ashton Kutcher and his wife, Mila Kunis
Ashton Kutcher and his wife, Mila Kunis | C Flanigan/FilmMagic

Ashton Kutcher hasn’t always been perfect throughout his showbiz career, but making commercials is something you wouldn’t normally associate with controversy. Even if Madison Avenue takes more risks nowadays, one of their past failings was sometimes using racial stereotypes.

It may be hard to believe Kutcher did such a thing once in his now 20-year career.

What’s the commercial he did that’s still creating controversy?

When you think of buying a bag of PopChips, you probably don’t think about comedy or even Ashton Kutcher either. In truth, Kutcher is the “President of Pop Culture” for the Popchips brand. It’s just one title of many he’s held over the years, not including social media influencer and becoming an investor in promising tech companies.

With Kutcher responsible for brainstorming online ad ideas for Popchips, it was probably hard for the execs at the company to say no to any of his ideas. The idea he came up with no doubt sounded hilarious in the abstract. His plan was to create what appeared to be a faux dating service and have Kutcher play multiple dating candidates in the ad.

As you can see in the video, he plays numerous stereotypical people, but one drew immediate flak. Playing an exaggerated Indian character named Raj didn’t sit well with many Indian-American actors who’ve become A-list stars here in their own right. Everybody else also called it out as a racist slant.

Criticism became so intense, Popchips removed the ad from their online marketing campaign.

This was done when Kutcher was an established star

You might think this ad was done 20 years ago when Kutcher was still trying to make it in the industry. The Popchips ad was ultimately done in 2012 when Kutcher was still acting on Two and a Half Men.

Even then, though, one would have to argue he did it for the money and to heighten his pop culture powers. As powerful as he already was as a celebrity then, he maybe wasn’t quite as wealthy as he is now after many of his smart investments.

No doubt it must have stung, though, to see many prominent Indian-American people (including comedian Aziz Ansari) call out Kutcher’s portrayal. We all know comedy isn’t always pretty. Nevertheless, everyone who deals in it needs self-awareness to not go over certain lines.

Awareness of racism is much more acute now, seven years later. Popchips’ ad was still scoped out and criticized virtually overnight in 2012.

Kutcher is a good person, yet always known for being a little edgy

There isn’t a doubt Kutcher had no ill intentions behind this Popchips commercials of a fictional dating service. As an actor, he did a memorable job depicting various types of people who might use such a service while subtly flashing a bag of Popchips.

Nevertheless, he’s always been known for taking things to the limits during his showbiz past. If you can remember back to the early 2000s, then you likely recall the extreme practical jokes he pulled on unsuspecting celebrities on MTV’s Punk’d. When Kutcher hosted the show, he was known for being a hard-edged comedic troublemaker, if still likeable.

It didn’t take long for him to mature and become a respected movie/TV actor, plus being an astute investor/promoter of pop culture. Let’s all admit his Popchips ad was just a deviation from that due to riding high as a comedian at the time.

Sometimes it takes a misstep to realize you need to mince every word you say, whether you’re a comedian…or President.