Kendall Jenner and Pepsi are under fire for doing what most companies have been doing recently—pretending to be conscious about social issues for profit. After a commercial featuring the model aired, the Internet reacted with resounding disapproval since they believe it is exploiting the country's climate and the protests that have been taking place all over the nation for the past few years to combat police brutality and inequality.
In the video, Kendall looks out into the street from a window while she is doing a photo shoot and sees that a protest is happening outside. She makes eye contact with one of the protestors who gives her a head nod and that's when she takes off her lipstick, removes her blonde wig, grabs a can of soda and goes outside to give it to one of the police officers who was blocking the march.
The cop eventually goes from being serious to smiling, signifying that one can of Pepsi can "make things better." While this might seem innocent to some, it is facing backlash for making light of a relationship between police officers and citizens that is often violent, especially when people are protesting brutality. Others believe it is appropriating the resistance movement and glamorizing protests when in reality they are nowhere near as friendly as the ones the ad depicted.
People took to Twitter and social media to express their disappointment in both the brand and the model for using such a touchy subject as the backdrop to an ad whose goal it is to increase sales. Some users are comparing the moment shared between Kendall and the cop to a now iconic image of one young black woman, Ieshia Evans, in Baton Rouge approaching a line of cops peacefully while they are dressed in full riot gear, which has since become a symbolic image in the Black Lives Matter movement.
People took to Twitter to voice their opinion about how this would be making protests seem like the "cool" thing to do instead of a necessity and pointed out that a soda will not erase centuries of damage done by people in uniform to citizens.
*kendall jenner hands cop a pepsi*— BRANDON WARDELL (@BRANDONWARDELL) April 4, 2017
cop: im not racist anymore
Another demanded that the company used its profits to donate to organizations who work to end oppression.
They're using our resistance to sell soda. Is soda gonna stop cops from killing us? Will it end police brutality? pic.twitter.com/bjPaKuJr2k— nañi (@pettyblackgirI) April 4, 2017
Kendall Jenner's Pepsi ad seems to be the first time people have realized companies exploit social issues for money. Where have you been?— Saint Michael 👑 (@stzrdom) April 5, 2017
Pepsi released a statement about their commercial saying: “The creative showcases a moment of unity, and a point where multiple storylines converge in the final advert. It depicts various groups of people embracing a spontaneous moment, and showcasing Pepsi’s brand rallying cry to ‘Live For Now,’ in an exploration of what that truly means to live life unbounded, unfiltered and uninhibited.”
Kendall has yet to release any statement in regards to the public's reaction, but according to her Twitter the model was super excited to star in the commercial as she was said to be the first model to have a global campaign with the Pepsi brand since Cindy Crawford, but seem to have no idea she would face this much backlash.
honored ☺️ https://t.co/svJsK7PSWy— Kendall (@KendallJenner) April 4, 2017
While this is an unfortunate use of such a heavy topic, it is not the first time a brand chooses to capitalize on social issues in order to promote their brand. At a time like this, it is important for companies and celebrities to be more aware of the content they are putting out into the world and though they may have had good intentions, it comes off insensitive to those that have been affected during what are supposed to be "peaceful" protests.
Pepsi later announced that it was pulling the ad altogether admitting that they "missed the mark" and even apologized to Kendall for the situation. They released a statement via Wall Street Journal saying:
"Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position."
All fans can do is continue voicing their opposition so that like Pepsi, other celebrities and brands learn that appropriating someone's struggle for business is super unnecessary.