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 what is perhaps the most twisted, silly, not-even-remotely imaginative ad that debuted today. Released on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death, the soft-drink company successfully partners with a reality star to end police brutality and discrimination because … ‘Murica.
It sounds like a bad punchline, we know. But it’s not. It’s just bad advertising that happens, presumably, when no people of color sit at the table.
In the commercial, which closely resembles many a White liberal’s wet dream, the fashion industry’s top supermodel, who just happens to be part of the First Family of Cultural Appropriation saves the day by drinking her Pepsi, sharing it and, in doing so, brokering peace with police. Set to the song Lions, by Bob Marley’s grandson Skip, the ad goes on for a painful 2 minutes and 39 seconds.
But by the first 20 seconds, it already leaves a bad taste in your mouth, and not just because Pepsi is kind of gross, if we’re being honest. So join us as we explore this below, shall we? Because, yall, we got time today.
But before that, let’s also just say this: We’re quite sure that Pepsi went into this with the best of intentions. We 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!
Let’s start with the beginning of the ad, which kicks things off in a massive blaze of failure with the most blatant representation of Black women being placed in a role whose main purpose is to admire and serve the white female star.
The woman is literally tucking Kendall’s hair behind her ear, while staring at her longingly. See how she gazes upon the rich, blonde star– the epitome of White beauty standards. Meanwhile, Kendall hovers over her impatiently. (Can’t you just hear her rich thoughts?)
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 ultimate in Woke Juice.
Just look at how it inspires the Asian man in the video to join the movement of the happiest, smiliest, Whitest protest movement EVER! (But, friends, don’t you dare call it a movement. All Pepsi wants you to do here, like so many White liberals, is simply to “join the conversation.” You know how liberals loooove to hurry up and … talk!)
At the :53 mark, we first catch our 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 of a smiling white couple, which is circled to remind us of media’s favorite mantra, that only White is right. At the same time, she is looking not for agency in any kind of movement, but instead, the chance to gaze upon, capture and uplift White people further.
So what happens? She drinks some Pepsi Woke Juice, looks 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 and ultimately, take pictures of … Kendall.
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. Blue button-up? Check. White t-shirt? Check. Corn-rows? CHECK.
We see them dance. We see them smile. And somehow, for White America, it’s all ok. Way to go, Pepsi!
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 Pepsi.
Kendall, feeling extremely empowered now that she has been embraced by the Brown Coalition, whips off her wig and hands 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.
Back she goes to the Kardashian landscape, free of the burdens of typical Whiteness toward the comfortable residency of a mythical, guilt-free land called … Dolezalville.
It’s then that Kendall finds the strength to march jovially toward her victory.
Through the crowd she travels, past the Asian man who gave her permission. Past the Black men who danced for the white folks’ entertainment, pausing only for a 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 Utopia 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.**
Source: Jonathan Bachman / Reuters
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 people 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 in the meantime, we’re looking at them like this ….