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The ‘tone-deaf’ undertones of Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad

The ‘tone-deaf’ undertones of Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad

The ‘tone-deaf’ undertones of Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad
April 11
00:06 2017

At a Portland city council meeting last week, a protester named Carlos Enrique tried to mend tensions between Mayor Ted Wheeler and the town. Enrique told Wheeler that meeting after meeting, people come in yelling at the mayor, yet he endures the anger and signs ordinances anyway.

“The language of the resistance has not been properly translated to you,” Enrique said. “So, this is for you.”

Enrique handed the mayor a can of Pepsi. Wheeler told him not to do that as others in the room tried to halt his approach. Eventually, both men and others in the room laughed it off. Wheeler thanked the man, but said not to do that “for [his] own safety” and “if this were the Boston city council, that would have ended differently.”

The encounter was mocking the controversial Pepsi ad, starring Kendall Jenner, which was released last Tuesday. The ad was quickly pulled on Wednesday, but not before reaching the entire internet and receiving massive backlash.

If you didn’t see the ad before it was pulled, let’s break it down really fast. Kendall Jenner is doing a photoshoot, but a protest catches her eye. It’s not clear of what the protest is for, so just take your pick from any of the issues under the resistance umbrella. The protest signs say things like, “Join the conversation.” The protesters approach some police during what looks to be a standoff. Jenner springs into action, fleeing her shoot to participate. Jenner hands a Pepsi to an officer and everyone cheers, comes together, the officer nods at another and all is right in the world. By “joining the conversation,” Jenner and Pepsi have started one of their own.

The ad has constantly been accused of being “tone-deaf.” When Pepsi pulled the ad, their accompanying statement outlined their goal before mentioning, “Clearly, we missed the mark.” By a long shot, Pepsi. If this were a game of darts, Pepsi missed the board altogether. It’s like that video of Kemba Walker where he shoots a basket and thinks he’s going to make it, so he turns around to dance, but in reality, the ball never went through and the team is left in chaos.

Not to completely rip apart Pepsi, the ad did have good intentions. It tried to unite people and show how important it is to, once again, “join the conversation.” But it could have been more thoughtful.

This may be due to the issue of ensuring that diverse voices from these movements are included in the commercial process. It may have been different if movement leaders were featured in the ad or consulting it.

First off, the commercial was shot in Thailand – not even in the nation it was supposed to be reminiscent of – and most of the extras were from Thailand or foreign nations not entirely applicable to American tensions. Moreover, the appropriation of these culturally diverse people shows Pepsi missing the point. Black hip-hop dancers? An Asian playing the cello? Come on now.

In the age of the internet, this ad spread like wildfire – being called out by numerous people, such as civil rights leaders DeRay McKessan and Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr.

It misses the mark because it trivializes so many of the issues our society has tried to find the right answers to. If it were that easy, Black Lives Matter, feminists and LGBTQ+ reformists wouldn’t have worked so hard for so many decades. The activists have tried to communicate that their rights and liberties matter and so many times compromises have fallen short.

Each of these groups have worked tirelessly to prove their worth, seemingly never having the right answer or method to attain what they deserve. It’s not an easy subject, so to make it seem like it could be is a spit in the face to all those who are fighting. There had to have been a better way.

Featured Illustration: Samuel Wiggins

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Tori Falcon

Tori Falcon

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