Is Protesting Trendy?
April 7, 2017
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Pepsi recently came out with a political 30-second ad in attempt to attract a politically active younger demographic. The ad stars Kendall Jenner as a high-fashion model who joins a protest after being beckoned by the protestors. Jenner then rips off her wig and make-up and joins. Grabbing a Pepsi, she then heads towards one of the grim-faced police officers, and hands him the drink. He accepts and smiles, insinuating that maybe the protestors and the police officers have found peace. This ad also showed images of Jenner approaching the police officers, which by some looks far too similar to photos of Ieshia Evans, a protestor who was detained by law enforcement while protesting in Baton Rouge following the shooting death of Alton Sterling at the hands of police.
This commercial was on the right path to becoming a very uplifting and political masterpiece, but after some controversy arose, many could see that the ad is very “tone deaf.” The ad is glamorizing protesting in a sense that a soda can end police brutality and inequality. Pepsi quickly began trending in the U.S. on Twitter, as social media users made sarcastic and comical comments describing their disapproval of the ad. Community organizer and frequent Black Lives Matter protestor, Deray McKeeson, commented on the ad, tweeting “If I had carried Pepsi I guess I never would’ve gotten arrested. Who knew?”
Exploiting protesting and the civil rights movement was a topic that was frequently brought up. “Corporations like Pepsi should make political statements. But their statements shouldn’t distort political realities to generate revenue,” Khaled Beydoun, a law professor and scholar of critical race theory at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, wrote on Twitter. Protesting for your rights, your skin color, your sexual orientation, and for your life isn’t a trend. It’s not suddenly cool because the “it-girl” of the media is doing it. Kendall Jenner is someone who has not actively spoken up for human rights and is not at all labeled an activist. So her being in the ad also added some fuel to fire.
“I could understand what Pepsi was trying to do, but from the actress to giving the cops soda- just isn’t realistic at all. The way law enforcement use unnecessary force on protestors to try to dehumanize them shouldn’t be sugar coated by soda. The commercial had a lot of elements missing that could’ve actually made the ad believable,” Deonna Young (12) commented. Pepsi has since deleted the video from Youtube and other media platforms due to the backlash. They left stating that, “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.”