The NYT has an excellent summary of the social media uproar — "Pepsi Pulls Ad Accused of Trivializing Black Lives Matter":
Pepsi has apologized for a controversial advertisement that borrowed imagery from the Black Lives Matter movement, after a day of intense criticism from people who said it trivialized the widespread protests against the killings of black people by the police....The ad looks very beautiful and expensive, and it seems to be part of a recent trend in ads (for example during the Super Bowl) that associate the product with a deep-but-shallow angsty-but-feel-good political message. And it reminds me of the old I'd-like-to-buy-the-world-a-Coke prettiness:
Coke told us "It's the real thing," so maybe Pepsi's the fake thing, and in that light, I suspect Pepsi made a beautiful and intentionally flawed commercial that would stir up social media and get everyone to watch the commercial and talk about it. Pepsi would apologize, but it wouldn't really be sorry. It made you look.
And I'm saying that because if that wasn't the idea, Pepsi is just so dumb. That commercial took a lot of work and a lot of money to make. So many people were involved. They had to know some segment of social media would trash them for appropriating the seriousness and pain of others. Unless they are flat-out idiots with too much money to throw around, perhaps enough to buy the world a Coke.
But if they were indeed idiots, it gives me hope. Hope that advertisers will henceforth eschew politics in ads for commercial products. Maintain the separation of commerce and politics.
AND: Much of the social-media trashing uses images from recent protests, such as the lovely black woman in a long dress who stood elegantly in front of riot-geared police. They're aghast at the idea that a woman giving a Pepsi to a cop would solve the problems that the protests are about. But maybe the commercial was made by old fools who remember the idea of protesting the Vietnam war by sticking flowers into the barrels of the rifles of guardsmen — as seen in the famous photograph "Flower Power" (by Bernie Boston):
BUT: Only a desire for virality can explain why, when Kendall Jenner rips off her blonde wig (at 1:48), she hands it to a black woman. Here, hold my wig. I gotta protest. I mean, it's one thing to say stop being blonde if you're going to join a protest, but it's aggravating to fling that thing at the nearest black woman.
But let's talk about the gender question — why does Jenner take off her wig and, also, wipe off her lipstick? That seems to say women who fix up their hair and put on makeup are somehow unfit for the political uprising — even an uprising consisting of not much more than a search for love and a display of graceful loveliness. That rejects a lot of women.
And what about the association with that other Jenner, Caitlyn? There's quite a bit of wiggage and makeup on that one.
ADDED: Now, I'm getting interested in the question of how much makeup to wear to a protest. I found this at reddit:
I'm going to DC for the Women's March on Washington on January 21 (the day after the inauguration) and I'm thinking about how I want to do my makeup for the day. Factors I'm considering:ALSO: Meade sends me this video...
- for everyday makeup I just do my brows, cream blush, and whatever lipstick I'm in the mood for at the moment
- it's gonna be cold and I'll be sleep deprived and tired from travel, so I want to go with something that won't require touch-up
- do I want to go for something sharp/severe and angry, or go for something overtly feminine [i have a thing about how society praises women when we act more masculine/ aggressive, and that femininity and softness are seen as signals of weakness rather than a certain kind of strength)
... and I'm all: "Is that the music? I was trying to figure out who it was. I thought it might be Sting." I see it's Skip Marley — Bob Marley's grandson — and I feel sorry for him. Such a nice song and now it's getting dragged down by this controversy. Or is it getting a boost through this virality? We're all listening to it, noticing him.
In the comments, Meade, signing on to the virality theory, writes:
The entire thing is very Trump-y. Skip Marley, Jenner, Pepsi... even Trump will win from this.AND: Rewatching the commercial, I'm struck by the complete lack of any racial message in the protest. The signs say "Join the conversation" or "Love" or show peace signs. Why are people saying Pepsi is using Black Lives Matter rather than a completely nonspecific anodyne generic protest? Is it just that there are many black people (along with a lot of other people) in the commercial?! Isn't it racist to look at black individuals and understand them as an embodiment of their race.
I didn't fix on the lyrics to the song, other than to notice the word "generation," long associated with Pepsi. You can read the lyrics here, along this response from Skip Marley to the question whether it's about the Trump election:
It didn’t stem from [the election], but it just happened to fall around that time. The song can be used in that way. It can [be used like that] because it’s up to people and their interpretation of a song. You can say it, but it’s not really a political song. I don’t want it to be viewed as a political song because it’s not really that kind of song. But I’m happy that people take it as strength in these times. It’s for the people in the United States to reassure that there’s a feeling inside that we're lions.PLUS: I don't know if Skip Marley is, like his grandfather, a Rastafarian, but the lion is an important symbol in that religion. And the song does warn about losing religious freedom ("Yeah, if ya took all my rights away/Yeah, if ya tellin' me how to pray/Yeah, if ya won't let us demonstrate/Yeah, you're wrong...").
IN THE COMMENTS: Sean Gleeson said...
I didn't see a protest in the ad. More of a parade. The signs were wordless peace, love, and smiley face symbols. Everyone is smiling ear to ear. Even the police, who are not bothering anyone or barking orders, just standing by, like they are on a parade route. It's got kind of a flash-mob street party vibe.Thanks for making me see the lineage back to "I'm a Pepper"!