Noise An Arts Blog

Pepsi's ridiculous BLM-appropriating ad should mark the end of flower/protester imagery

Back in February, in a piece titled "On the tradition of flowers as peaceful resistance," I suggested we put an end to enacting and photographing the iconic and oft-repeated image of a protester handing a cop a flower.

Now it seems as though Pepsi has killed the gesture for good thanks to its bullshit ad wherein model Kendall Jenner suddenly becomes "woke" as a protest rolls by her hilariously boring fashion shoot. It ends with her scanning a line of weaponless, emasculated police and handing a hot, white cop a Pepsi.

Pepsi's new laughably bad ad cribs from the long flower/cop tradition but seems to specifically reference a photograph of Ieshia Evans standing in front of two riot gear-sporting cops in Baton Rouge, unimpressed. It seems to reduce this image to the idea of a rich, super famous white woman saving the world.

Elsewhere in the ad, people of color are reduced to props or supplements to Kendall's wokeness: Once Kendall hands the cop the Pepsi, a woman in a hijab hugs a black man; Jenner hands her blonde wig to a black assistant to join the protests; black people break dance; the hot Asian dude that catches Kendall's eye holds a stringed instrument.

About the only honest part of the ad is a moment when a bunch of white girls throw up the deuce toward the camera as the protest goes by, oblivious to what it means. And when the cop accepts the Pepsi, it's tough to imagine he's thinking, "Hey, this movement isn’t so bad."

The Jenner ad contributes to the fantasy that all rich, white people need is a nod from a person of color and then they will jump in and join the cause and fix everything.

In reality, most whites cower behind locked windows as protests pass, and if this moment happened in real life, Kendall's handlers would have totally shuffled her off inside and out of the way once she briefly posed with the protest.

This ad highlights something I witnessed at last year on the campaign trail: White people buying cops things to drink to show their support. This is a real thing. I saw it at the RNC and several Trump rallies. And it's a dog whistle, thanking the cops for protecting white people from dangerous POC protesters or those white race traitors down for the cause.

The ad was pulled earlier today and Pepsi put out a weak apology. Perhaps now, we can finally put to rest the trope of offering things like flowers and drinks to cops on the protest line.

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