In post-racial America, anyone can be called out as a producer of racist messaging, even cutting-edge African-American spoken-word artists such as Tyler the Creator of Odd Future.
The advertising brain trust at Mountain Dew is not blind to the potential cross-demographic appeal of transgression-talking rappers, but PepsiCo’s marketers were—in retrospect—entirely tone deaf to a pitch that would incite a multicultural, cross-gender backlash.
“Arguably the most racist commercial in history,” proclaimed Dr. Boyce Watkins, a finance professor at Syracuse University and founder of Your Black World Coalition.
“Such misguided attempts to make fun out of violence against women really have no place in commercials, as should be entirely obvious,” states Aisha Harris at Slate, under the headline: “Mountain Dew Pulls Terrible Racist Ad.”
The promotional spot under attack is the final 60 seconds in three video collages of crass clichés created and directed by Odd Future’s Tyler the Creator.
In the first clip, Felecia the Goat hoof-stomps a waitress who is slow on supplying a second Mountain Dew. Clip number two centers on a Highway Patrolman pulling over Felecia the Goat for driving under the influence of Dew.
The third clip, the one PepsiCo has disappeared from the Internet, focuses on a police lineup of what Dr. Watkins terms “the kinds of ratchety negroes you might find in the middle of any hip-hop minstrel show.” The actors, summed up by Aisha Harris as “several black ‘thugs,’ ” are joined by Felecia the Goat.
Meanwhile, a white police detective, clutching a serving of Mountain Dew, urges a bruised and battered white woman supporting herself on crutches (recognizable as the waitress from the first clip) to pick out her assailant from among the lineup.
The goat intimidates the woman through a series of voiced-over catchphrase rap threats (“snitches get stitches”), and the victim hobbles off, screaming, “I can’t Dew it!”
The wonder, as expressed by Slate’s Harris, is that PepsiCo did do it.
Maybe they assumed that because Tyler himself is black, the ad itself wouldn’t be deemed racially offensive. (If so, that was a terrible and wrongheaded assumption to make.)
Tyler, Felecia the Goat’s creator, was defended in a statement from Odd Future’s manager, Christian Clancey:
It was never Tyler’s intention to offend, however offense is personal and valid to anyone who is offended. Out of respect to those that were offended the ad was taken down. Tyler is known for pushing boundaries and challenging stereotypes thru humor. This situation is layered with context and is a discussion that Tyler would love to address in the right forum as he does have a point of view.
What is your point of view? Was the Mountain Dew commercial perpetuating or challenging racist stereotypes? Talk it through in COMMENTS.
UPDATE: As anyone able to glance at Twitter’s current top-sponsored post can see, Mountain Dew is now funneling promotional dollars into the perfunctory apology that corporate flacks routinely issue following instances of ethnic appropriation, racism, misogyny, homophobia or cruel insensitivity toward disabled or other non-powerful people in commercial messaging:
That changes everything?