Last week Pepsi released a controversial commercial that was intended to show political movements and engagement through a protest while also selling their product. It was pulled by the company, who also released an apology, stating “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding,” as well as apologizing to Kendall Jenner, one of the well-known younger members of the famous Kardashian family.
There are many issues with this commercial, most of which have already been written about and discussed such as the appropriation of Black Lives Matter or other civil rights movements. The culmination of the ad is when Jenner leaves a photoshoot to join the protest after wiping off her lipstick and taking off her wig, and takes a Pepsi and hands it to a police officer standing in a line, who gladly accepts it and cracks it open causing the crowd to erupt in joyous cheers.
Everyone is happy and celebrating, despite the fact they are supposed to be protesting something. The insensitive nature of this scene, of Jenner solving the issue of police relations with oppressed populations as a white woman simply, by handing an officer a can of Pepsi is absurd, and it is hard to believe it even was produced and green-lit by so many people.
In its apology, Pepsi also admitted that they missed the mark on this commercial. They also attempted to make up for Jenner’s involvement and apologized for putting her in this position, but this is not something I think that they should be apologizing for.
Perhaps Jenner could be excused if she were a child, and was not fully informed about the world or able to comprehend how offensive this scene might be. But she is a twenty-one-year-old woman who has the ability to vote, and has the agency to be informed about all of these issues. Just because she is an “A-List” celebrity who has grown up with privilege does not excuse her from being ignorant of race issues and how this commercial was clearly wrong.
In fact, it seems that Jenner should be more sensitive to these kinds of roles, and should have turned it down when she realized what the role would be. Had the ad’s plot developed after she signed on, changes could have been made.
But, due to the influence and power that she has as such a well-known celebrity in American culture, I think that she could have used this to point out how wrong this was before it even got made. She should have considered how insensitive the imagery would be of her as a white woman handing a police officer a cola, seemingly solving the issues of police brutality and racism with just a can of pop.
The apology from Pepsi on her behalf does not excuse Jenner or her agents and representatives from engaging in this tone-deaf commercial. I do not feel bad for her in the midst of this controversy, like it seems Pepsi does. She is an adult that can make her own decisions, and has a responsibility to be informed about the world just like every other American citizen. Celebrity status and attractiveness does not excuse ignorance, especially from someone who at times claims to be engaged with society—like when she tweeted “her her her” with a picture of herself in patriotic clothing this past election day.
Although people argue that celebrities have no place in voicing political opinions, they are people who live in the same climate as the rest of the world, and need to be held to the same standards that we aspire to hold each other to in civic responsibility and duties. If we are to change the system, we need more people in power to stand up against ads like this Pepsi commercial instead of excusing their behavior and involvement.