Kendall Jenner just unveiled a new Pepsi ad with protest-themed imagery, and Twitter’s leftists are dragging the hell out of it.
Update: Pepsi has decided to pull its ad. The company’s statement is at the bottom of this story.
The ad features Kendall Jenner leaving a photoshoot, exchanging her shiny designer dress for a (probably equally-expensive) designer denim outfit (her activism uniform we guess?) and handing a police officer a can of soda:
The ad draws heavily from the recent surge in political protests against Trump, against the Dakota Pipeline, and especially against police brutality. In particular, as Elle points out, the ad seems to invoke that famous photograph of Ieshia Evans being arrested at a Black Lives Matter protest in Baton Rouge.
Critics have accused Pepsi of appropriating anti-Trump protests for commercial gain, which particularly stings, as much of the Resistance is made of anti-capitalist movements. And the scene in which Jenner hands a cute policeman a can of soda seemed particularly inappropriate, considering so many of the recent protests have been against police brutality.
This is, of course, nothing new. Brands have exploited political movements for ages. Coke’s famous “Hilltop” ad used the 1960s/1970s drive for peace and multiculturalism to sell soda:
And cigarette brands like Virginia Slims used feminism to sell tobacco products to women.
Twitter users responded to the ad with their own protest-themed imagery.
— Stephen Paton ❄️ (@stephenpaton134) April 5, 2017
This one references the UC Davis pepper spray incident.
— Gay Hobbes (@refurbsexbot) April 5, 2017
This one refers to the Buddhist Monk Thích Quang Duc’s 1963 self-immolation to protest South Vietnam’s discriminatory religious laws.
Pepsi comin to appropriate ur resistance like pic.twitter.com/WiZUvedRlL
— Steve Kim (@Fobwashed) April 4, 2017
This one calls out Pepsi’s appropriation of the Ieshia Evans photograph.
— WORLD IS A FUCK (@RIPMarkusJ) April 4, 2017
This one is a reference to the Tiananmen Square “Tank Man” image.
— FanSince09 (@FanSince09) April 4, 2017
And this one recalls the 1970 incident in which the National Guard gunned down anti-war protesters at Kent State.
These images aren’t just jokes. They’re pointing out that activism is actually about something, and unfortunately it often has an ugly side to it. It’s not all cute casual outfits and friendly policemen: it’s pain and oppression and, quite often, death.
UPDATE, April 5, 3 p.m.: Following the commercial’s backlash, Pepsi has pulled the ad and apologized to Kendall Jenner (but not those in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, interestingly). In its statement, Pepsi says it “was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding” but “missed the mark.” Below is Pepsi’s full statement, released via Twitter.
— Pepsi™ (@pepsi) April 5, 2017