People are going ape shit (see what I did there?) over Pepsi's new commercial featuring Kardashian heiress Kendall Jenner.
Description of video:
The two-minute and 40-second commercial features a musician (cellist), a photographer, and most notably, Kendall Jenner. The entire commercial is presented as a montage sequence. We see images: The musician and the photographer struggle with their respective crafts. The cellist is practicing so hard his strings break. The photographer pushers away her contact sheets unable to find an good image. Meanwhile, Kendall is at a photo shoot and random people are drinking Pepsi throughout. An ambiguous protest march is making its way down the street and eventually crosses paths with each of the three main characters who join the protest. Kendall is the last to join (Pepsi in hand). She stumbles upon a scene where protesters are shouting at police officers. She then walks up to one of the officers and offers him a Pepsi, which he accepts, opens and takes a sip. All rejoice and the commercial ends with the words "Live Bolder. Live for Now."
I have three issues with the reaction to the commercial.
1. The commercial is so bad it's good.
From the moment the first image of a diverse set of smiling protesters are shown, I immediately laughed out loud (IRL) and said, "This is going to be hilariously corny," and it was. The acting is bad, the images ring false, and images of Pepsi are blatantly inserted in the narrative. Even Kendall's participation in the protest is so contrived I can't imagine that this wasn't all on purpose. It seems like she is playing herself in the commercial and uses her celebrity to waltz in and participate. This is exactly what activists ask celebrities not to do and she is illustrating it perfectly. It's great!
2. OMG, Pepsi and Kendall Jenner lacked nuance on a sensitive issue? Shocking! #sarcasm
I am always amazed at how upset people get when a multinational company lacks nuance in their advertising. Pepsi sells sugary drinks. Pepsi is not Save The Children. If Save The Children's commercial was tone deaf (which they aren't) then we have a serious problem. Not one person of any influence in any current global movement cares what Kendall Jenner is saying or doing, so why do we? Which brings me to my third issue.
3. The Outrage Reflex. Good haters hate expediently.
Expressing ire for anything Kardashian or corporate related is becoming a popular culture pastime. The expedience of the juxtaposition between Kendall, the multinational corporation and comical depictions of protest cannot be left unexercised. The truth is that any problematic aspect of the commercial we find needs help. We must project onto the commercial our assumptions in order to create reasonable criticism. Nowhere in the commercial is there an explicit connection to a specific movement (BLM or otherwise), but much of the criticism is based on tying those two together. Some are connecting it with this image of Iesha Evans, but it could have been associated with any of these images.
Hypothetically, if an ad depicted Lamon Reccord staring down riot police it may have resonated with me more. However, I'm not going to trip when Pepsi doesn't make that commercial. I will trip if they make the Lamon Reccord commercial and the Lamon character gives the officer a Pepsi in the end. My point is that there are way in which this commercial could have missed the mark, but as it stands it's just corny, not insulting. Kendall Jenner gave a police officer a Pepsi (yawn).
The outrage machine can be as expedient as any politician. It's not that the commercial is so insulting, it's that bringing attention to a problematic commercial infused with instant recognition and firebrands gives activists an opportunity to bring attention to their issues with media at large.
In closing: Forget the commercial, Listen to the song
Do I think making a can of Pepsi the lynchpin for mending relationships between the public and the police is ridiculous? Yes, but I'm more irked by the idea that the Skip Marley track in the commercial is likely going to be overlooked (if not outright dismissed) because of the negative reaction people are having to the commercial. The folks who are angry about the commercial would also be the kinds of folks that would appreciate the message of Marley's song, but I worry that they're too distracted with dumping on the whole thing and flossing their level of woke over Pepsi and Kendall to appreciate anything that is associated with the problematic commercial. Watch a video of Skip Marley's Lions below: