Until the assignment of defending Ashton Kutcher fell to me, my fellow Moviefone writers were passing it around like a brown paper bag at a hobo convention. In the end, I was pressed into duty because I had the least unfavorable opinions about the man.

Apparently, people hate the guy -- who knew? I was surprised by that, so I decided to dig around a little. A quick web search for the words "hate ashton kutcher" churned up a tidy 667,000 results, including dozens of profanity-laced blog entries, the Facebook page "For everyone who just hates Ashton Kutcher," a poem by Dave Chappelle with a title that's unprintable here, and -- my personal favorite -- an article bearing the headline "Ashton Kutcher likes to pee outside everywhere & has webbed feet."

Backlash much?

Come on, folks. Hate people who hurt puppies. Hate the politician of your choosing. Hate Osama bin Laden. But Ashton Kutcher? What has he ever done to you? Besides inflicting 'Punk'd' on you, I mean?
Confession: I've always kind of liked Ashton Kutcher. To me, he's like that stoner friend you had in high school who was dumb as a sack of hammers but puppy-dog nice to everybody he met. He's sweet, harmless, and occasionally even entertaining -- you know, pretty much the living embodiment of a smiley face, and about as deep.

And maybe that's why a lot of people dislike him: He makes it all look so easy. He stumbles from one pile of gold to the next, the way you and I step in dog poop.

I don't know for sure that many women hate Ashton, at least actively; if they do, I suspect it's because he's the kind of guy who's married to someone who got her first professional acting role when her hubby was 3.

But it seems to me that guys hate him because he raises the bar for all of us. Face it, men, he makes us look bad. By 20, he was a TV star and well on the way to his first million. At 25, he forged a formidable Hollywood power bloc when he hooked up with Demi Moore. He also produced the first of his many TV series and movies. What have you done lately?

No doubt the boy won some kind of cosmic lottery to have been born with that name (it's real), those looks, that goofy charm and that charisma. With an arsenal like that, talent is not a prerequisite for success. Factor in that his first-ever audition was the one that landed him the role of Michael Kelso on 'That 70s Show' -- there wasn't even a freakin' callback -- and there's plenty of fuel for the ol' hate machine.

Okay, so not everybody hates Ashton Kutcher. His Twitter account, after all, was famously the first to race to 1 million followers, narrowly beating out CNN, which shows you where our priorities lie. As of Jan. 19, he had 6,224,364 Twitter minions, or roughly double the count of Mrs. Kutcher.

And really, who could still harbor intense negative feelings about him if they knew that his fraternal twin brother was born with such serious cardiac problems that he had to have a heart transplant at age 13? Or that before a donor was found, a distraught Ashton almost jumped off a hospital balcony so his brother could have his healthy heart?

Or that, almost as crushingly, his 'No Strings Attached' co-star Natalie Portman said that kissing Ashton was "awkward," and that "it's just weird to kiss someone that you wouldn't choose to kiss in your personal life"?

I'm sure you haters will soothe yourselves with that for a while. And I'm sure you'll take comfort in the fact that, in a few years, Ashton won't be so danged cute, and that due to his fading looks, he'll be forced to pack in the acting and will instead start producing more schlock and dreck and eventually become the next Sherwood Schwartz or Aaron Spelling, a pop-culture alchemist with a knack for spinning crap into doubloons. And even I'd have to agree, no one needs to see that.

Then again, some episodes of 'Gilligan's Island' were pretty funny.

'No Strings Attached' Interview with Ashton Kutcher

Either way, it's hard to argue when you're laughing at the idiot onscreen in 'Dude, Where's My Car?' or secretly envying the sweet simpleton in Garry Marshall's 'Valentine's Day.' Of course, that role was just Ashton Kutcher being Ashton Kutcher, because that's thesame guy he plays in everything he's ever done!

That's part of the secret to his success. He's not acting. He's just being himself. He's made a pretty decent little franchise of it, starring in and producing films and TV shows, jetting around and raising Demi's kids, and schlepping everything from snack foods to cameras with the same affable charm that makes millions love him, millions hate him, and, uh, millions of dollars.

Ashton Kutcher knows who he is. He stays out of trouble (the occasional Brittney Jones debacle aside). He knows his limits. You never hear him say things like, "How come I didn't win an Oscar for 'The Butterfly Effect'?"

And he does it all with no discernible effort or visible talent -- which is a talent in and of itself.

It's just annoying to mortals who spend their days walking around with dog poop on their shoes.

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