Pepsi would like you to believe its soda is the key to world peace. Yes, in a video advert released online last week––and then subsequently taken down––the beverage manufacturer remedies racial, economic, and religious tensions with a single sip.
If only we had known. Thanks, Pepsi.
The almost three minute video follows a group of token millennials––all different ages, races, genders and religions––marching through the streets until they come up against a line of police officers, culminating when pop culture succubus Kendall Jenner joins the fray, handing one officer a Pepsi, recreating the iconic modern protest image of a black woman standing tall in front of cops police at a protest of police brutality.
Pepsi’s attempt to cater to politically-minded young people is obviously tone deaf, but its mere existence points to a larger problem regarding how the world views protest.
Protesting is not only an act of political participation, it is an act of desperation. People protest only when incredibly moved by the injustice they see and experience. It is not, as depicted in Pepsi’s commercial, a parade.
Yes, there are often moments of celebration when people come together to protest for something they believe in, we saw such celebrations worldwide during the Women’s March back in February, but protesters mainly focus on systematic injustice that they and other oppressed people face. To protest is an act of struggle, symbolic of the oppressed taking back power from the system that oppressed them.
Pepsi’s portrayal of protest is one of privilege and commodification. It’s unclear what the protestors in the ad are fighting for. They hold signs that read Peace, Love, and Unity that ring hollow as the attractive protesters grin and celebrate.
Kendall Jenner’s presence as a savior, as a member of a family who built their empire on the commodification of themselves and their image, is almost too perfectly ironic, yet nevertheless reprehensible.
These aren’t real protestors. They’re faded, corporate, carbon copies. Nothing but impostors. There’s no pain here, no injustice to be cured, no struggle for representation, for basic human rights, for freedom.
And under the guise of an advertisement, Pepsi has once again left a horrible taste in our mouths, one we soon won’t forget and hopefully one we’ll never experience again.