Brownface enthusiast Ashton Kutcher met his wife Mila Kunis on the set of That ’70s Show, a just-fine tv show that is very well-remembered. They became friends with the rest of the cast including Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Wilmer Valderrama, Debra Jo Rupp, Kurtwood Smith, and Danny Masterson, a Scientologist recently sentenced to 30 years in prison for raping two women. For anyone out there who values bodily autonomy, parity between the genders, or justice, this is a win. Seeing a rapist punished this way is somewhat rare, let alone a celebrity rapist. Usually, the virulent misogyny of American culture finds a way for the man to be redeemed or at least employed anyway. Why would we ever let a man, let alone a celebrity, see the consequences of their actions?
While we cannot know the beliefs Kutcher and Kunis hold in their hearts and minds, we do know how they used their power, position, and platform as celebrities in the matter of Masterson’s rape: they went to the mat for him. The court accepted letters of support for Masterson, written to speak positively about his character and in favor of a lighter sentence. Those letters were then revealed to the public and within those, we saw Kutcher and Kunis falling over themselves to praise Masterson for being Kutcher’s “mentor” and for being such an incredible person in Kunis’ definition. While again, we don’t know their thoughts, we can accurately say that despite knowing Masterson was convicted of raping two people, they still believed him a good person worthy of their support and protection. Usually, rape apologia is the purview of Woody Allen defenders or Roman Polanski apologists, but here are Kutcher and Kunis adding Masterson to that pantheon of scum, advocating for a lighter punishment for the man who forced non-consensual sex on two people.
When, inevitably, Kutcher and Kunis noticed a backlash forming, they posted a video with the stripped-down aesthetic of an apology. Instead of contrition, they gravely informed us that they had no idea their letters in support of a rapist would be made public, as if they were wronged or wounded. I was struck by this because it sounded so familiar. Where had I heard this ridiculous line before?
Why of course: Blackfishing enthusiast Iggy Azalea. Months back, when the Tory Lanez verdict was passed down, letters of support were also made public, including Azalea’s in which she asked for a lighter sentence for the man who shot Megan Thee Stallion. There was a backlash then too, to which she responded similarly: she had no idea it would be made public. Azalea, Kutcher, and Kunis all show us that celebrities will not always operate by the same morality that we normals do and will draw no line against protecting their fellow rich and famous. I cannot say what they feel, but I can say they all lent their power to protect men who have attacked and hurt women, referencing their friendship as more powerful than the evil those men had done. It’s unfortunate to note that Smith and Rupp, Red and Kitty on That ’70s Show, also wrote letters of support and therefore seemingly placed their friendship with a coworker on a tv show from 20+ years ago over the pain that coworker caused when he raped two people. Notably absent among the letters are Grace and Prepon.
It’s refreshing that the gossip-consuming public isn’t accepting this bullshit. The re-examination of past clips like those found in this super-cut (sorry, but X is the only place I could find it) has put Kunis, and especially Kutcher, in a harsh light. Hearing Kutcher talk about “girls we can’t wait to turn 18” on Punk’d and regaling Rosie O’Donnell with tales of slipping a 14-year-old Kunis the tongue when he was 19 sit at odds with his new posture as an anti-child-trafficking advocate.
It stands to reason that any celebrity with even the slightest ability to pay attention should note what’s happening here. If they lift their fingers in the future to write a glowing letter in support of their pal who’s found guilty of a major crime, they should expect that letter to be public. That Kutcher, Kunis, and Azalea had no defense but that they didn’t think anyone would know, shows they don’t really give a shit. They will protect their fellow wealthy friends no matter what they do because if one can be held to account, so can they all. That they’re only upset they were caught should tell you everything you need to know. Now that it feels clear that we cannot assume celebrities will do the right thing and not support a convicted rapist, perhaps the threat that their letters of support will go public will keep them in better check. If they can’t bring themselves to care about rape victims, perhaps they can care about that.