I've never been a soda person, so trust me when I say that this argument does not come from a Coca Cola-induced rage when I say I'm upset with Pepsi's latest commercial. You shouldn't be surprised. It's been almost a week since the original clip of model-endorsed, cop-stopping cans began appearing on my Twitter feed more frequently than a Kris Kardashian meme. You have got to be blind if you missed this latest advertising scheme from soft drink mogul, Pepsi — the company could have filled a 2-liter bottle with Mentos and still shaken things up less.
This isn't the first time Pepsi has made an advertising slip-up, but it's definitely their most visible with over 1.6 million views in the short 48 hours since it was posted online. In case you haven't seen the full two-minute clip, however, I'll give you the SparkNotes: The commercial begins with young adults of different races and genders practicing art. An Asian man plays the cello, a Middle Eastern woman in a hijab snaps photographs and a thin blonde woman models in a doorway. The first two are of unknown age and purpose. The last one is Kendall Jenner.
SNL made fun of this obvious inclusion of faux-diversity in its April 9 episode. "We're celebrating all these cultures," an unnamed Pepsi director played by Beck Bennett joked. The screen then pans to show a Black man hip-hop dancing, an Asian man playing the cello, a Middle Eastern woman standing to the side in a hijab and white people being obnoxious. Ah, yes. Each stereotype doing its job.
In the official commercial, this incredibly diverse group of individuals are drawn from the safety of their houses into the street, where a crowd of skimpily-clothed, intoxicatingly-energetic and overwhelmingly-excited millennials are running through the streets, screaming and waving signs. The draw of the crowd is so infectious that even Kendall is motivated to join, accepted by hugs and fist-bumps. If you thought you were catching sight of the Lollapalooza gates on opening day, think again.
Instead, the angsty teens are holding signs promoting peace and equality. What for is not mentioned, but we can assume it's some universal cause that this generation seems to get so hyped about. One thing is certain: The signs aren't promoting artists or songs. It's not a concert, it's a protest. And with live music and copious photographers, it looks like the most fun protest I've ever seen.
In real life, protests aren't like that.
In real life, Portland police officers assault and detain marchers for protesting the shooting of 17-year-old Quanice Hayes.
In real life, one of Chicago's police chiefs blames the Black Lives Matter movement for the city's increase in homicides.
And in real life, nurse and mother Ieshia Evans was arrested for obstructing the road with her silent stance before riot police in Baton Rouge.
But in Pepsi commercials, Kendall Jenner snags an ice-cold can from the crowd and presents it to the cop as a symbol of poorly-feigned resistance that only merely emulates the genuine courage of Evans in its ironic juxtapositon. Needless to say, the white cops are cool with the white girl offering them the refreshing taste of Pepsi and let the raucous crowd pass, no questions asked. As Bernice King tweeted on April 13, if only her father, Martin Luther King Jr., had known the #powerofpepsi.
People are upset because of this latest stunt's racial insensitivity, and I don't blame them. Showed in conjunction with Nivea's "White is Purity" campaign and Playstation Portable White's launch of billboards depicting white people pushing African Americans aside, it makes sense that we'd start to look toward advertising as a source of recently-coined tone-deafness. But that conclusion is obvious.
Additionally, I'm also upset about a different aspect of the commercial — one that insults our entire generation. What bothers me most is how Jenner tramps into the crowd, smiling and shouting, as if the point of marches is to have fun with friends.
As if protests are for partying.
As if this is the new thing our generation does for fun.
As if our messages, our musings, our missions are nothing more than an opportunity to have a good time.
As if our jurisdiction is a joke.
Pepsi, I'm still not a soda drinker. I wouldn't have bought a Pepsi before this ad, and I'm not going to buy one now. You sold me on one thing, though.
If I'm going to try and make a difference, I have to make sure that the world takes me seriously. The actions of my generation can't be treated like a social trend. Our voice is clearer and more unified than chaotic street-dancing. Our ideas are the way of the future.
Would you like a straw while you sip on that?