Aaron Paul, Kesha, et al 'taking responsibility' for racism in earnest video prompts heated debate

A new anti-racism video titled 'I Take Responsibility' in which a range of celebrities admit to the ways in which they've contributed to systematic racism has prompted mixed response online. 

The clip, made in partnership with the NAACP amid the Black Lives Matter movement, features actors like Aaron Paul, Stanley Tucci and Sarah Paulson, pop star Kesha and many more famous faces. They're presented in black and white as they make solemn vows to camera while melancholy music plays in the background. 

"I take responsibility for every time it was easier to ignore than to call it out for what it was," Kristen Bell says in the clip. 

"Every not so funny joke, every unfair stereotype," says Justin Theroux. 

"Every time I explained away police brutality, or turned a blind away," adds Bryce Dallas Howard. 

Some of the celebrities mention the ways in which recent victims of police brutality have died, without naming names. "Sleeping in your own home should not be a death sentence," says Sarah Paulson, a reference to Breonna Taylor, who was shot by police in her bedroom earlier this year. 

The video was quickly met with a wave of backlash from commentators who see it as "performative nonsense", citing some of the participants as reading their lines off-screen. 

"What are they auditioning for?" one tweet asked, prompting the reply "'Ending Racism: The Musical'".

"The COGNITIVE DISSONANCE of how powerful and righteous Justin Theroux sounds as his eyes MOVE ACROSS THE PAGE," another said. 

Aaron Paul's speech drew perhaps the most ire, with many joking about it being an exercise in acting or a reprisal of his character from Breaking Bad. However, Paul's appearance was defended by many who felt he shouldn't be criticised for taking his part seriously. 

"Everyone: take this shit seriously. Aaron Paul: (takes this shit very seriously indeed). Everyone: haha what an idiot," one tweet read, along with a GIF of an exasperated Ryan Gosling asking "What do you want?" 

"How do celebs keep messing this up so badly?" one Twitter user asked. 

"Stop making this about yourself and donate $1 million each to a local organisation helping Black people!" 

Meanwhile, many defended the campaign's efforts, pointing out that celebrities like Sarah Paulson had already donated to organisations to help the Black Lives Matter movement. 

"Is the black and white video of celebrities cringey - Yes. Is it something that's been done before - No," one tweet read. 

"Will it reach a certain group of people who don't watch the news or aren't political in any way - Yes. Don't criticise them trying. At least they're trying to help." 

Other's highlighted it as a step up from Gal Gadot's star-studded cover of 'Imagine', put together by the Wonder Woman star in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. 

"Ehhh - it's easy to be cynical, but it’s a much better message and use of their voices than people singing a bad Beatles song," one Tweet offered.