Pepsi recently released a new commercial starring model Kendall Jenner, a bunch of actors pretending to be activists, and hidden messages that showcase the issues we are facing today. Within the scene, Jenner is modeling with a blonde wig on as protesters walk by while people of color drink Pepsi and play instruments on the roof of a parking garage.
As the protesters continue to fill the streets, Jenner decides it is her time to finally give back to the American public. As she sashays towards the crowd, she rips off her blonde wig and throws it into the face of the black woman standing next to her.
She then proceeds to change clothes, walk deeper into the crowd of extras, and fist bumps a man with a can of Pepsi. God forbid her manicured hands touch a regular civilian.
Then, as all of the extras, who coincidentally are mainly POC, all clap for Jenner as she becomes their hero. She struts her way to the front of the peaceful protest, where there is a line of armed police officers. Then, in the most monumental way, Kendall Jenner ends the conflict by handing a white cop a Pepsi.
She then turns around and goes back into the crowd of extras and pretends to dance and celebrate her victory of “ending” racism in America.
This commercial is an insult to all activists who have worked towards change, who have protested, and who have been oppressed by our society. It’s a slap in the face to Martin Luther King Jr., who lead many protests but somehow forgot about the old Pepsi trick. His daughter even sent out a tweet making fun of Pepsi’s tone-deafness:
This commercial is an insult to every person of color who has ever felt lost, abused, or unappreciated in a society where rich, white citizens hold the most power, wealth, and clout. Although Jenner probably may not be booked for a commercial anytime soon, there are other problems we need to address:
- Activism is not, will not, and shall not be romanticized. Activism is a way for civilians to put themselves and their people first in order to provide a better future for others, not a concept to be commercialized for capitalistic benefit.
- If you are going to make a commercial about diversity, please stop making the main character white and all of the extras people of color. It’s tiring, tasteless, and disrespectful.
- Pepsi isn’t even that good.
- Belittling the accomplishments made by activists and people of strength in this country to sell cans of carbonated sugar will not be tolerated. We need to be a nation that takes pride in our diversity and use it to create a more accepting future for all.
The commercial intended to encourage people to “join the conversation,” which, ironically worked, but not in the way Pepsi intended it to. In a time where so many are struggling financially, socially, and politically, it’s unacceptable to use people’s pain and needs to gain public attention and sales.
We cannot allow corporations to “cash in” on activism as a cute, fun experience and make it seem as though the issue to all of our problems is within a can of soda. It’s insulting to those who have organized marches, sit-ins, boycotts, etc., to those who are notoriously for their impact on our social, political, and economic world. These acts of hope and leadership have lead to death, incarceration, racial tension, and more – yet, Pepsi commercializes every aspect of it and makes it seem like a party to sell a Coca-Cola knock-off.
This generation has lost sight to what it means to be an activist, to be someone who genuinely wants to make change for the better. #Slacktivism has also become a prominent trend within our social media crazed generation, using these issues and events to boost your online presence. If you want to make change, it will take far more than a retweet or can of Pepsi, please work to achieve change rather than just Twitter fame.
Author: Megan Arnold
Megan is a senior at Metea Valley High School, she is the Layout and Design editor here at The Stampede and was the Features editor prior to that. She loves music of all kinds and is a strong advocator for human rights and agricultural sustainability.