First of all, I didn’t know Mountain Dew was still around. Wasn’t particularly certain about Odd Future, either. But both entities have come soaring back to the public conscious at lightning speed, and for all the wrong reasons. Long criticized for a hypocrisy surrounding their anti-coporate brand, the hip-hop group Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All has teamed with the PepsiCo subsidiary for a new three-part soda commercial (crafted by Odd Future’s own Tyler, the Creator), one that will spark condemnation not only for the obvious “sell out factor” (you can’t have your cake and spout propaganda against the materialistic evils of the cake industry, too), but for three other highly specific, highly offensive reasons.
Let’s start here, where the first problem is introduced. This commercial — an ad aiming to perpetuate the bounties of a refreshing soft drink — is a joke about physical abuse. Here, we see a goat raining blows upon a well-meaning waitress after becoming instantly addicted to her bequeathment of Mountain Dew. The woman’s shrieks of pain and horror are not particularly over the top or sensationalized (not that this would forgive the material), but delivered straight, suggesting that comedy is inherent, or excusable, in a woman getting beaten up by a violent maniac.
The most innocuous of the chapters sees the goat fleeing from the scene of the crime, hopped up on Mountain Dew and packing a ton of the stuff in his trunk, when he gets pulled over by a police officer. There isn’t really anything particularly horrendous about this one — yes, you can find fault with the levity afforded to drug abuse and intoxicated driving, but in comparison to the rest of the transgressions committed by this travesty, this doesn’t seem all too severe. Moving on…
The motherload. By far, the most viciously disgraceful faction of the ad, and for three independent reasons:
1) Again, this installment is a minute-long joke about physical abuse. Here, we see the battered waitress, now called upon to pick the criminal who attacked her earlier out of a line-up.
Covered in scars, bruises, and casts, the actress is made to look like a helpless victim, succumbing to sobs as she folds into a pit of fear. Tugging her into the catastrophic spiral are voiceover threats from the goat — really nasty one-liners like, “Keep your mouth shut,” and the champ of the lot, “I’m gonna get out of here, and I’m gonna do you up,” (it is alarming that a major corporation would agree to having the very name of its product associated with a violent threat).
And when the woman, stricken with grief and horror over the ordeal, runs off the scene screaming, what follows isn’t an acknowledgement of the morbidity in this episode, but a punchline. At her expense. Via the police officer whose very job it is to protect her.
As such, it appears that Mountain Dew is not only okay with using physical abuse to bolster a joke, it seems to think that physical abuse itself is a joke.
2) It almost feels too obvious to tread into the racial offenses committed by the commercial, but here goes: racist. Racist, racist, racist. Not accidental racist or reverse racist or Harry Crane racist or any of those idiotic qualifiers invented by people who consider progressive thinking to be the downfall of man, but racist.
The amoral, substance-addicted, hauntingly violent goat (whose unmistakably accented dialogue consists of phrases like “Betta not snitch on a playa!”) joins a line-up consisting entirely of, as Dr. Boyce Watkins of Your Black World states in his criticism of the ad, “Not just regular black people, but the kinds of ratchety negroes you might find in the middle of any hip-hop minstrel show.” It doesn’t help matters that one of the men in the line-up is named “Beyonte.”
Of course, an issue presents itself in the very declaration of the goat character as “racist,” or that there exists any necessary link between the race of the other men and their appearance in the lineup. These claims are likely to garner accusations of racism themselves — isn’t it just as judgmental to assume that these men are looked at specifically as black criminals? That the terminology “snitch on a playa” has an association with any specific race?
And to those who do find fault with these things, I agree. It is a problem, and a testament to cultural idiocy, that these associations exist and are fluidly propagated. But what’s worse: the commercial knew exactly what it was doing in the use of these elements. It wanted to paint this goat, and its fellow line-up constituents, in a certain light that is associated, wrongly and harmfully, with race. And it succeeded. Therein lies its crime.
3) Finally, the third “issue” with the commercial. Now, many a great comedian has gotten away with, and been celebrated for, offensive humor. In these instances, such jokes are done tastefully. They have merit. They are used to prove a valuable point. And, of course, they’re funny. This commercial is not.
Setting aside all of the detrimental points in its message, the final chapter of this commercial alone is a meandering, redundant, disjointed disgrace to the mathematics of humor. It disregards everything that goes into building a piece of comedy: It’s quick cuts are more reminiscent of a horror movie (which, hell, this commercial should be) than of anything comic. It’s mental back and forth between the woman and her assailant is overcooked and negligent of the all-powerful Rule of Threes, with seven lines of dialogue afforded to each… seven long, drawn-out, arhythmic, meaningless lines of dialogue that do not build upon one another in the slightest. When the punchline does hit, following a cut of the woman’s extensive wailing and hobbling, the only achievement is relief. The minute-long travesty is over.
And while PepsiCo has pulled, and apologized for, the commercial, as reported by Adweek, we have to wonder what exactly was going through the advertising team’s mind in the first place when accepting Tyler, the Creator’s final product. How did they think physical abuse was something to joke about? How did they think racism was excusable? How did they think this was, in any way, funny? We don’t get it.