Pepsi recently released a commercial featuring the young model Kendall Jenner that caused an uproar due to its ignorant nature and failure to address the true problems Americans are currently facing. It went so far that the company was forced to pull the ad. It seems a little extreme, but if you’ve seen the ad you would understand the discontentment the viewers felt.
The ad seemed to be making light of the many concerning issues that Americans are currently facing. Their attempt at protest imagery was a sad attempt at trying to sell their brand. There was a blatant disregard for the Black Lives Matter movement as Kendall Jenner offered a can of pepsi to a police officer as a peace offering that ended police brutality, making it seem like a revolutionary action. The issue was reduced as the protest was displayed just as a gathering of people, almost making it seem like a party. The presence of the famous and privileged Kendall Jenner only seemed to further fuel the idea of the protest being a party and really took away from the meaning and motivation behind true protests, especially by making her the face of a movement that affects people who reflect the exact opposite of her social position.
Moreover, the ad completely disregarded recent religious-based discrimination that American Muslims have been facing. The ad showed a Muslim woman in hijab struggling with an art piece and hearing a demonstration taking place outside of her window. As she runs outside she just happens to see Kendall Jenner handing a Pepsi can to a police officer. The Muslim woman begins to quickly take pictures with her camera as if she’s finally found “inspiration.”
This inaccurate display of what Muslim women have been facing in the United States, fails to acknowledge Trump’s very recent Muslim ban, the attacks on Masjids, and the general Islamophobic air that American Muslims have been struggling with. The ad seemed to simply be using the idea of a Muslim woman in hijab to appeal to its audience. However, a more effective way of truly appealing to the audience is to address the REAL problems the citizens have been facing. More so, it would have better if they had tailored the demonstration to represent what the marginalized groups in the country have really been facing. Moreover, the ad seemed to simply be using a Muslim woman in hijab to display diversity and perhaps insinuating some form of discrimination without truly acknowledging the issues she is facing as a Muslim woman.
As Muslims, it is important for us to be able to identify and understand when Muslims are being used in media to solely sell a message or, in this case, a product. It’s easy to get excited when you see a fellow Muslim on TV, social media, or other platforms where we are not normally represented. However, we must consider the message being conveyed before being completely on board. For instance, it would have been easy to get excited to see a fellow hijabi in a Pepsi commercial. Yet, once the whole video and implications behind it are considered, it becomes clear that the representation of Muslims was distorted and ignorant of the current issues.