Kendall Jenner’s activism extends about as far as firing off a “women rule!” tweet on International Women’s Day, and captioning a photo of herself wearing a “vote” crop top with “her her her her” two days before the 2016 election. So natch, Pepsi thought she would make the perfect face for the resistance!
You’ve probably already watched the excruciatingly painful two-and-a-half-minute “short film” Pepsi released this week, featuring Jenner, a young, rich, white model, joining a protest after locking eyes with a cute Asian cellist with a goatee. She tears her blonde wig off, wipes away her Merlot-red lipstick—you have to nail a flawless no-makeup makeup look if you’re gonna join the revolution BITCH!— and walks among the sparse groups of people holding signs that read “Join the Conversation!” “Love!” or sometimes just a poorly drawn peace sign.
Now a brunette and super-woke Jenner bravely approaches a police officer and hands him a Pepsi. He takes a sip and gives the cop to his left a look like, “It doesn’t taste that bad,” and poof! Just like that, Trump isn’t president, there’s no Muslim ban, no police brutality, no civil war in Syria, and systemic racism evaporates like condensation on an ice cold Pepsi. All is right with the world!
Bless their heart, Pepsi — a company that hasn’t been without its own human rights violations — tried multiple times to assure us that this ad isn’t the worst. “The creative showcases a moment of unity, and a point where multiple storylines converge in the final advert,” Pepsi said in a statement to Teen Vogue. The “multiple storylines” they’re referring to include a wealthy cellist playing on the rooftop of his sickass studio apartment; a Muslim woman in a headscarf who is literally screaming because she doesn’t like any of the photos she took on her last shoot; and Jenner realizing that even socially aware activists can be young and hot.
“It depicts various groups of people embracing a spontaneous moment,” Pepsi continued, “and showcasing Pepsi’s brand rallying cry to ‘Live For Now,’ in an exploration of what that truly means to live life unbounded, unfiltered and uninhibited.”
For Pepsi, being “unbounded, unfiltered and uninhibited” means giving a soda to a cop. Only when an actual protester tried a similar stunt in real life, it (obviously!) didn’t end well. Although, he wasn’t a hot white woman.
The problem with this ad, aside from everything, is that it portrays the conflict as being between protesters and police, which is inaccurate. It even asserts that all of our problems could be solved if only protestors were nicer to cops, as if that’s the missing link here. Portraying Black Lives Matter marches, the Women’s March on Washington, the Anti-Muslim ban marches — or any of the protests this Pepsi ad could possibly be referencing — as anti-cop is misleading and harmful to those movements. This citizen vs. cop mentality perpetuates the idea that saying “Black Lives Matter” is the same as saying “Blue Lives Don’t.”
“Of course the lives of cops matter," writer and comedian Franchesca Ramsey says in a video for Vox. "That’s why if you kill a police officer, you are rightly arrested and prosecuted." Meanwhile, since 2005, only 13 officers have been convicted for on-duty shootings. Ramsey also notes that it’s important not to confuse occupation with identity. "Becoming a police officer is a choice," she says. "It’s not something you’re born into."
And as patron saint Beyonce explained to Elle last year, you can have respect and admiration for police officers, while still criticizing police brutality. “Those are two separate things,” she said. This Pepsi ad conflates those ideas.
Additionally, a majority of conflict between cops and citizens isn’t between them and rich white women. In fact, as Jess Zimmerman writes for the New Republic, “white women’s safety has long been used as an excuse and a vehicle for oppression,” and cops are proven to treat groups where the majority of people are white women (i.e. the Women’s March) much differently than groups where the majority is people of color (i.e. a Black Lives Matter demonstration).
To add insult to injury, Pepsi’s ad was released on the 49th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. His daughter Bernice King responded to the video by tweeting a photo of her dad being held back by cops, with the caption “If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.”
So not only is this ad shitty because it has an awful name — “Live For Now Moments Anthem,” um, what? — and because it depicts an uber-privileged famous white model solving the world’s problems with a Pepsi; and because of its completely unrealistic portrayal of police presence at protests (where are the riot helmets?); and because it was released on the anniversary of a civil rights icon’s murder; but also because it’s making protesters look like the aggressors who need to just find peace already (open a Pepsi!). Not to mention it’s three minutes long and there’s no valuable message at all and none of us can get that time back now.