The Pepsi Ad As Right Wing Critique

The Pepsi ad is a high-concept reactionary critique of social justice politics as ephemeral virtue-signalling, easily co-opted by the interests of capital and neoliberal power. Nothing could be more clear.

From the sanitized, glossy, glamorous aesthetic, stuffed to the brim with thin, attractive models, to the peaceful conclusion where the violent oppressor is pacified by a cool, refreshing can of high-fructose corn syrup swill—brought to you by an international corporate giant—to the glee of the crowd, the ad is rife with cynicism. It's not possible to read this as a simple paean to the Resistance, which consists mostly of ugly and bitter people driven by resentment and who are more eager to give a cop a bullet than a cola.

The Resistance is driven by a putative, um, resistance to those in power in the Trump era, including those violent purveyors of white privilege and patriarchy: the police. Here the police appear as merely another one of the crowd of fresh-faced youths, only in uniform, but who shares their enthusiasm for corporate ZOG-juice and its magical peacemaking potential. Is Pepsi oblivious to how contradictory this is to the prevailing antipathy of the movement aimed towards those in power? How could they be? Do they realize how subversive it is to that movement to portray that tension being resolved so cheaply and superficially? Again, it's hard to see how that's possible.

Further, the cynical, ironic edge is difficult to deny when you compare shots of crowds in the ad, full of racially diverse, young, smiling people with peaceful signs talking about 'love' and 'conversation' (in Pepsi-blue color palette):

.. to actual Resistance protests. Which are characterized by vulgarity, anger, and hideous faces, and are at least as populated by boomers as millennials. From the obese blue-haired tumblrista to the aging cat-lady sporting genitalia headwear, from the soy-fed bugman with a 'this is what a feminist looks like' t-shirt to the masked antifa tankie assaulting Trump supporters: the aesthetic of the revolution is a far cry from the antiseptic wonderland of the ad.

Further, the fact that Kendall Jenner leaves her glamor shoot, removing her wig and makeup, only to join a crowd of thin models while still wearing tons of makeup and being photographed for a commercial is quite meta, indicating self-awareness. It would be difficult to simply be oblivious to this irony, which reinforces the suspicion that the ad evinces a reactionary sensibility.

Much of the Left actually realized this and responded with perhaps even more rage to the ad than conservatives. The critique resounding throughout the leftosphere is that the ad is "tone deaf." The implication being that, while Pepsi was attempting to appeal to a hip, young generation, currently hitting the streets in protest of injustice while being sexy, making music, and doing the world-changing things that empowered youths are capable of in our world of possibilities, the movement ends up looking like shallow SWPL idiocy coopted by corporate interests. The Left, in other words, is angry that Pepsi held up a mirror.

Another problem is that the young just aren't who the Left think they are. The young are increasingly anti-abortion, increasingly in favor of women being stay-at-home mothers, and they think Chick Fil-A is cooler than Vice (to Vice's comical consternation.) The depiction of the younger generation as straightforward, gung-ho social progressives has some empirical problems and the aloof, happy-go-lucky protesters of the ad bring this reality into focus.

Between failing to connect with young people generally, many of whom have no interest in leftist politics, and enraging those who do, the ad has to be seen as a failure in terms of public relations and, well, advertisement. Surely this is not what Pepsi as a product and brand intended. But as a piece of reactionary social commentary exposing the pieties of leftist protest politics as superficial posturing and a venue for signalling your Woke status, which can easily be translated into another avenue for material consumption and corporate exploitation, the ad is a work of art.