An opinion piece by Elisha Brown
In case you’ve been living under a rock, let me bring you up to speed: Last week Pepsi released a commercial starring supermodel Kendall Jenner at the center of a protest that appears to satisfy tensions by sharing Pepsi. We’re not stupid, we know they aren’t literally trying to solve the world’s problems with soda. They’re merely trying to appeal to a specific demographic by using current events to sell soda. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get to the backlash.
Pepsi had good intentions but they get a “C” for effort. They probably need a more diverse team because someone should’ve told them this commercial would be taken seriously and not as lightly as they intended. They’re hinting around some emotionally intense problems. Had they left the cop scene out, this commercial may have been more widely accepted.
Some people are saying that it’s not Kendall Jenner’s fault because she didn’t create the commercial. Pepsi issued an apology to their viewers and Kendall Jenner, but I don’t think it was Kendall who needed that apology. Kendall is twenty-one years old, she is an adult who accepted the role and was paid for it
If you watch KUWTK, you know she wants to stand for something so I understood why she accepted this role and wasn’t surprised to see her staring in this commercial. During season twelve of KUWTK, Kendall is shown contemplating how she wanted to go about voicing her concerns for the current social climate in our country. Her brother, Rob, proceeds to tell her that if she goes forward with any specific stance, she’ll receive backlash. So, she goes for something safer and less controversial like gun control. In the commercial, we see posters with peace signs and slogans such as “join the conversation.” Okay, which conversation would that be? The image of Kendall handing a Pepsi to a tense cop who then appears to relax after the crowd cheers, signifies to the viewers that they’re hinting towards the BlackLivesMatter or police brutality conversations. There are also images of a Muslim woman in her hijab, so perhaps they’re also hinting towards the islamophobia climate and conversation. Pepsi’s message is clearly trying to promote unity on a divisive subject such as police brutality but they’re falling short here.
I think many would agree we became confused once she walked towards the cop… exactly what message are we supposed to interpret by this image? This small part of the commercial trivializes the entire BlackLivesMatter movement and the seriousness of police brutality in this country. People risk their lives when protesting. Kendall walking towards to cop to hand him a soda is reminiscent of the iconic photo of Ieshia Evans who was detained while protesting in Baton Rouge, following Alton Sterling’s death. Let’s also touch upon the fact that there is a lack of black female representation in this commercial. The founder of BlackLivesMatter is a black woman and black women are the backbone and at the front of every protest involving police brutality. Again, Pepsi, try making your advertising team as diverse as you tried to make this commercial.
Kendall is dancing around what it is she wants to stand for and this is not how she should have made her debut as a “supporter” of whatever cause. They love black people and are obviously influenced by black culture; yet, we never see what the manifestation of that love looks like. We don’t hear a peep from the Kardashian/Jenner family about police brutality and suddenly we see Kendall handing Pepsi to a police officer during a unity protest? I would have been more impressed with a black lives matter shirt. As influential as the Kardashian/Jenner family is, Kendall Jenner can change people’s minds and understanding of some very real issues going on in America. The fact that she, yet again, decided to play it safe was disappointing, to say the least. Try again, Miss Jenner.
Those generic posters of peace signs and “join the conversation” posters were a put off. Join WHICH conversation? Black lives matter? Muslims? Mexicans? All of them? A white woman handing a Pepsi to a cop promotes nothing, says nothing, fixes nothing! If she’s going to stand for something, she better come correct!