Earlier, when I said the FBI had won the day’s “Oh no, baby. What is you doing?” award, I was totally wrong. The FBI was like, “Nobody can screw up worse than this,” and PepsiCo was like, “Hold my beer!”
In an astonishingly offensive move, Pepsi cast Kendall Jenner in an ad that co-opts the resistance movement to sell soda. Not only does it co-opt the movement, but the commercial centers Jenner, a white woman, and police as the focal points in images of people protesting whatever it is they’re protesting in a commercial for Pepsi.
The ad starts out innocuously enough. Jenner is at a photo shoot, apparently oblivious to the streets full of people just outside. Images of protesters of all colors move across the screen. We see a woman in a hijab, several musicians playing their instruments and a man standing on his balcony watching the movement.
Suddenly Jenner becomes aware of what is going on. One head nod of encouragement from an Asian man later, and she takes off her platinum-blond wig; hands it to one of only two black women we will see on the fringes of this ad; wipes the lipstick off her mouth; and moves into the crowd of people, smiling, bouncy and being a Kardashian-Jenner.
Everyone is laughing and grinning, dancing and jigging and partying it up, because what is resistance but one big party—AMIRITE?!
On the outskirts of the crowd, Jenner spots a group of policemen, lined up in front of the protesters. Notably, they aren’t wearing the militarized riot gear we’ve become used to seeing in scenes from protests.
Kendall boldly walks up to one of the police officers and tentatively hands him a Pepsi. There’s a pause of anticipation as everyone waits to see what happens.
He opens the Pepsi and drinks it. THE CROWD GOES WILD. Everyone cheers! We’ve solved all of our problems with a fucking can of Pepsi.
Now, let me just run down for you the problems I have with the imagery of this commercial.
Kendall Jenner. I had always thought of her as an outlier in her family, one who didn’t necessarily insert herself into things that are above her melanin level, unlike her attention-whore sisters. This, however, goes beyond the pale.
You center Kendall Jenner in a whitewashed protest, because let’s be honest: The crowd at the protest is looking pretty light, too, save for the few light-skinned black dudes and the nonthreatening Asians thrown in here and there. What exactly are they protesting? Price hikes at Starbucks?
Next, lily-white Jenner taking her wig off and handing it to a black woman. Peak whiteness. “Here, girl. Hold my wig,” as if the only role a black woman could play in this commercial is one of servitude.
And really, where are the black women? Black women have been leading the charge in the resistance movement since day one. How is it that in a commercial based on protest, the only two black women we see are relegated to the background, so far out of the shot as to almost be hidden from view?
Because in case you didn’t know, when Jenner walks up and “faces off” against the cops before handing one her Pepsi? That imagery is completely ripped off from a black woman who didn’t have the privilege of whiteness to stop the cops from pointing their guns at her.
They quite literally exploit the imagery of Ieshia Evans to sell soda. Ain’t that some shit?
And finally, handing a Pepsi to a cop and telling him to “live bolder”—what exactly is Pepsi trying to say here? Is it encouraging cops to “live bolder” as they continue to kill unarmed black people in the street?
Are we supposed to be moved because Jenner, in all her whiteness, was “brave” enough to walk up to a cop and confront him with her can of soda?
I’m not here for this shit, and Twitter wasn’t, either. They dragged that commercial to hell, and rightly so.
Dear Pepsi: How dare you. Do better, you bastards.