Just last week, Pepsi released an ad starring Kendall Jenner. In the advertisement, Kendall is at a photoshoot wearing a blonde wig. She is distracted by the protestors outside, and then pulls off her wig to join the protest. She walks through a crowd of young protestors and picks up a can of pepsi from a seemingly random cooler in the middle of the march. She walks towards a row of police officers standing in riot police fashion and hands one of them the can. The officer smiles and seemingly, the situation is resolved.
There are several issues with this commercial. The main one is that Pepsi is using people of color as accessories to a white woman, Kendall Jenner. It starts by Kendall thrusting her blonde wig into the arms of a black woman. This could be seen as a metaphor for the constant emotional labor that women of color are forced to perform for white women. Mainstream feminist movements have always revolved around white women and their needs; women of color have always been expected to support and contribute to these movement that do absolutely nothing to benefit them and only serve to further the needs of white women. On top of that, most of the people visible in the protest were young people of color but when Kendall walked in she simply fixed the entire thing by handing the officer a soda. This alludes to the idea that people of color are in need of a white person to “save” them.
Another issue is that Pepsi trivialized the importance of social justice movements. The advertisement had several imageries similar to the Black Lives Matter movement. Police officers in riot gear were pictured forming a barricade in front of the protestors, and the moment Kendall handed one of the officers a pepsi, their icy demeanor melted. The real problem is that this belittles the real struggles that activists face during demonstrations. Activists are pepper sprayed, tasered, beaten, and sometimes even killed for exercising their First Amendment rights. Ellen Hearns, a former organizer of the Black Lives Matter movement states that the ad “Plays down the sacrifices people have historically taken in utilizing protests…No one is finding joy from Pepsi at a protest, that’s just not the reality of our lives. That’s not what it looks like to take bold action.”
Pepsi has taken down the ad and apologized for any frustration that it may have caused:
“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday. “We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout.”
As young adults, ads like these are meant to target us and relate to the diversity of our generation. It is important that we understand that issues like these should not be taken lightly.
Picture Credits: Aol Entertainment