In past years, the imagery of a peaceful protest wherein a potentially tense confrontation between the protesters and a line of riot police could be heartwarming defused by some people offering gestures and gifts of goodwill like flowers and food to the cops at close proximity was a positive ideal. In this age however, the mere suggestion of it is horrendously bad, especially in light of the ever increasing intensity of violence and hurt feelings regarding protesters of every stripe since those simpler times. This is why a new commercial advertisement by the soda company Pepsi featuring model Kendall Jenner has crashed and burned with audiences, mere minutes after it premiered.
As told by CNN, Pepsi had a debut of their new ad with Jenner as spokesperson last Tuesday April 4. The general gist of the commercial was what appeared to be a peaceful protest on a vaguely generalized subject, with marchers and placards waving, approaching a line of police officers at attention. Along the way they catch the attention of a cellist with a Middle Eastern look, a Muslim woman photographer and Kendall Jenner, who notices the crowd while in the middle of a photo shoot. As the cellist joins up and the photographer walks out of her studio to take pictures, Jenner also decides to take part in the march, doffing her blonde wig and stepping out of her glittery dress for a more practical (yet still stylish) ensemble. Upon approaching the police line, Jenner picks up a can of Pepsi, walks up to an officer and offers him the drink. He accepts and gulps it down to everyone’s joy. The whole sequence takes place with Skip Marley’s song “Lions” in the background.
It all sounds rather uplifting, however so many quarters on social media have taken offense to the story the ad tells. Accusations run the gamut of Pepsi appropriating either the Black Lives Matter movement, the Muslim travel bans (that haven’t taken off) and even the equating of drinking soda with social justice, all red flags in the face of many opinion makers. In particular the image of Jenner giving the cop a Pepsi can was taken to be similar to real-life protestor Ieshia Evans from the Baton Rouge protests (in her case, she was arrested).
Hecklers on Twitter question the concept of the gesture that now looks sour on contemporary protesters. A community organizer who has been arrested in a protest sarcastically commented that maybe he would have been let off if he offered his arresters a Pepsi.
Pepsi had stated that the new global ad campaign “reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony, and we think that’s an import message to convey”. Kendall Jenner has not commented on the backlash of the video, now viewed over 280,000 times on YouTube.
Photo courtesy of CNBC