UPDATE: (Weds 1:30 P.M.EST): Pepsi changed its tune Wednesday, noting that they were pulling the ad in a released statement. The statement, as quoted by NY Magazine, reads as follows:
Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.
ORIGINAL STORY: If you didn’t know this already, today marked the day that everyone could finally go home. Because apparently, Pepsi saved the world, guys.
At least that’s what they want you to believe in this twisted, silly, not-even-remotely imaginative ad that debuted today. Released on the 49th anniversary of Martin Luther King‘s death, the ad features the soft-drink company successfully partnering with a reality star to end police brutality and discrimination because … ‘Murica.
It sounds like a bad punchline, I know. But it’s not. It’s just that type of bad advertising that happens when, presumably, no people of color sit at the table.
In the commercial, which closely resembles many a White liberal’s wet dream, Kendall of the House Jenner, first of her name, supermodel and esteemed member of the First Family of Cultural Appropriation, saves the day!
Set to the song Lions, by Bob Marley’s grandson Skip, the ad goes on for a painful 2 minutes and 39 seconds. But I promise, by the first 20 seconds, you’ll be ready to throw up in your mouth (and not just because Pepsi is kind of gross).
But before we explore this in depth, let’s also just say this: I’m quite sure that Pepsi went into this with the best of intentions. I can just picture the room of happy people high-fiving and cheering each other on for being SO relevant with their work! So diverse in their casting! So — dare we say that word that white folks have so adoringly adopted into their vernacular — woke!
So join me as I examine the evidence below. Because, y’all, I got time today.
Let’s start with the beginning of the ad, which kicks off in a massive blaze of failure with the most blatant imagery of Black women being placed in roles of servitude. Rather than placing them at the forefront of this fictional movement, as Black women have historically been for the many real causes we have championed, the good folks at Pepsi literally give this woman ONE purpose: to admire and serve the ad’s White female star.
The Unnamed Woman Of The House Sunken Place is seen tucking Kendall’s hair ever-so-gingerly behind her ear, all while staring at her longingly. See how she gazes upon the rich, blonde star– who is the literal epitome of White beauty standards. Meanwhile, Kendall hovers over the woman impatiently, no doubt thinking rich thoughts of overpriced coffee beverages, gluten-free meals and woeful privileged indifference.
But, oh! As this orgy of tone-deaf ignorance is taking place, the Brown people in the ad, meanwhile, are suddenly waking up!
And how, might you ask? By drinking Pepsi from a black can, which automatically awakens their activist spirits!
It’s as if Pepsi, when served in black, is the pinnacle beverage of choice for smart, good-intentioned folks. A can of Woke Juice, if you will.
I mean, just look at how it inspires the Asian man in the video to put down his cello to go and join the happiest, smiliest protest movement EVER! (Still, he knows better than to call it a movement. Nope, he definitely can’t do that. All Pepsi wants him to do here, like so many liberals, is simply to “join the conversation.” You know how liberals loooove to hurry up and … talk!)
At the :53 mark, we catch our first glimpse of a Muslim woman, who, in her hijab, is caught in the double-consciousness whirlwind of the ad. She is miserable with all of the photos she has presumably taken, with the exception of one, which is circled aggressively. That photo is of two smiling (presumably) White folks, no doubt serving as a subtle reminder of media’s favorite mantra: only White is right.
And lest you think she is here to pursue any agency in the Koombaya March, think again, friends. Instead, she simply seeks the chance to gaze upon, capture and uplift White people further, via her camera (and her Pepsi!).
So what happens? She drinks some
Pepsi Woke Juice, looks directly at the camera in a frame where she is literally caught up in flames (because that’s not problematic at all), and finds the strength within her to run outside to ultimately …
… take more pictures of Kendall! (Duh, she’s the Princess Of PYTs!)
Around 1:19, the ad introduces the two most prominent Black men in the ad, Dancing Man One and Dancing Man Two, who are happily performing for the crowd of White folks looking on with adulation. Dancing Man One is dressed in a beret and overalls, as if he had been working in the fields by day and as a Panther by night, while Dancing Man Two is clad in the best, stereotypical “fresh out of jail” outfit the ad’s stylist could conjure. Nondescript blue button-up? Check. White t-shirt? Check. Corn-rows? CHECK!
We see them dance. We see them smile. And somehow, everything suddenly feels ok. Way to go, Pepsi (cue those cellos!).
At this point, having finished his can of Woke juice, the man from before now gives permission to Kendall to join the protest. See how he nods at her to convey the true message of the ad: Hey girl … protests are ok, safe and COOL. Look, we’re happy. Fighting for your rights is FUN! A new cool hobby like rollerblading, pottery painting and crossfit! Come with us, we just want to dance and play our cellos for you. And give you delicious Pepsi.
Having been embraced by a representative from the Brown Coalition, Kendall is suddenly empowered to whip off her wig and hand it to her Black
servant stylist, who looks on in shock. But don’t be shocked, boo! For Princess Kendall knows that by shedding her blonde hair and transitioning back into a brunette, she can return to Hollywood’s safe space.
So off goes the wig as Kendall heads toward the land of Kardashia, free of the burdens of typical Whiteness (because no one else can be woke like them). Onward she journeys to the mythical land’s capital city of … Dolezalville. Only there can she truly find the strength to march jovially toward victory, brandishing nothing but her Pepsi and her privilege.
Through the crowd she travels, past the cello-playing Asian man who gifted her with that permission-nod. Past the Black men who danced for the white folks’ entertainment, but not before pausing momentarily for a fleeting fist bump, careful not to linger too long away from her mission.
Up, up and away she goes, to the land of White Saviordom.
Look at how they love her!
Look at how they approve!
Look at how GREAT this Colorblind Pepsitopia is for them!
Then, having transformed into a true, denim-clad heroine, she can finally take on the impossible task of ending the scourge of the Western world … all by giving the cops a soda.
**PSA: We interrupt our sarcastic annotation to drag them for this blatant, egregious, borderline-pathetic evocation of a truly brave activist, Ieshia Evans, who risked her life to protest the deaths of Black men at the hands of police. How in the Donald-Trump-Is-President-Hell did Pepsi think it was a good idea to have Kendall Jenner, with big smiles and stupid clothes, give a happy cop some Save The World Soda? Sugary drinks and bad denim vs riot gear and painful reminders of Black mortality — yeah, not the same thing.**
The commercial closes with Kendall, having now restored order to the world, running up to the now-Black-and-Brown-led crowd to march with them into victory. From there, Pepsi declares that everyone should “Live Bolder,” (as if Black and Brown people haven’t been at the forefront of social change), “Live Louder,” (because you can only be loud with White folks’ permission) and to “Live … For Now.”
You guys — they legitimately Columbused imagery from Black and Brown people on the very real forefront of the very real fight for our lives, who risk their safety and demand for our lives to matter too — and they had the damn nerve to tell us to live … FOR NOW.
All day long, millions tell us we aren’t fit to live in their country or their world. And somehow a bunch of corporate people in some high-rise office building thought it was a good idea to tell us to be braver — like a rich, beautiful, cis-gendered, heterosexual White woman from one of the most adored families in the world.
We haven’t seen an apology from Pepsi yet, but they did say this, according to CNN:
This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony, and we think that’s an import message to convey.
In the meantime, though my heart will deeply miss my beloved Henny & Pepsi combo so very much(S/O to Static Major), I’m forever looking at them like this ….