Picture a grim police line-up with five young African American men in stereotypical "thug" garb, and a goat. That's just the opening shot.
PepsiCo has announced it is pulling its new ad for Moutain Dew after a storm of criticism this week. Social commentator Dr. Boyce Watkins wrote on his blog that the spot was "arguably the most racist commercial in history." He continues, "Mountain Dew has set a new low for corporate racism. Their decision to lean on well-known racial stereotypes is beyond disgusting. This doesn't even include the fact that the company has put black men on par with animals."
The one-minute ad (the link is gone in most places but you can still see it by clicking here) shows a badly beaten blonde Caucasian woman approaching the line-up on crutches. A white male warden says, "We got 'em all lined up, nail the little sucker." The goat, in a raspy male voice bullies her with phrases, "keep your mouth shut, I'm going to do ya when I get out," "ya better not snitch on a playa'," and "snitches, get stitches, fool." The woman becomes hysterical and runs from the room. As the ad ends, you can hear her screaming off-screen.
The spot is one of a series featuring an intoxicated goat called Felicia created by Tyler, The Creator — leader of the hip-hop collective Odd Future. Ironically, AdWeek called an earlier video in the series the "Best Ad Ever."
"We apologize for this video and take full responsibility. We have removed the video from all Mountain Dew channels and have been informed that Tyler is removing it from his channels as well." Jen Ryan, a spokeswoman for PepsiCo told Yahoo! Shine in a statement. The ad was not slated to run on television.
This isn't the first time PepsiCo has been at the center of a controversy about racial insensitivity: The Emmet Till Foundation recently campaigned to have the corporation back out of its sponsorship of rapper Lil Wayne for what they said were his offensive lyrics on the song "Karate Chop." Back in 2002, they dropped Ludacris after being pressured by Bill O'Reilly, who called him a "thug rapper…who espouses violence, intoxication, and degrading conduct toward women."
Mountain Dew is also being called out for its off-handed depiction of a battered woman. A Twitter user, Danica, tweeted, "that Mountain Dew advert is so racist and offensive to women who have been abused/assaulted how was this even approved in the first place?" Felsull added, "racist+sexist. There are no words. Oh wait, there are words. They're all expletives." In 2009, PepsiCo apologized for promoting an app that gave men pick-up lines targeting certain "types" of women.
It is somewhat mind-boggling that — in this age of social media where things spread quickly and are under intense scrutiny — corporations are still releasing ads as, or more-offensive than, those from the "Mad Men" days. But the list goes on.
Recently, General Motors announced it was killing a commercial that has been airing since early April on Canadian TV and on European websites for its Chevrolet Trax SUV. Critics say it promotes a negative stereotype of East Asians. The jingle includes the lyrics, "Now in the land of Fu Manchu/the Girls all do the Suzie-Q/Clap their hands in the center of the floor/Saying 'ching-ching, chop suey, swing some more.'" The South China Morning Post explains, "Fu Manchu is a stereotypical Chinese villain, the embodiment of the 'yellow peril,' who has been described as one of the most racist characters in literature and cinema." The sing-songy nonsense of "ching-ching, chop suey" conjures up stereotypes of crafty-yet-childlike Asian bargirls.
Last week, Hyundai pulled an ad depicting a man trying to commit suicide in his car by running it in a closed garage. Ford apologized in late March for picturing the Kardashian sisters bound and gagged in the trunk of an SUV.
There is an old quote, "any publicity is good publicity," which may be what some of these corporations are going for. However, if companies continue to be tone deaf to allegations of racism and sexism, they may be faced with the underlying reality of another saying: "money talks." Regarding the Chevy Trax controversy, the South China Post points out that China is a key market. As are people of color, as are women.
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