Mountain Dew Pulls Ad After Complaints It’s “Arguably Most Racist Commercial in History”

the goat did itPepsiCoWithin 48 hours, this ad (also below) was released and then pulled by Mountain Dew after an outcry about its allegedly racist content that may have started (or at least was amplified) by Dr. Boyce Watkins at YourBlackWorld.net, who labeled it “arguably the most racist commercial in history,” and credited one of his readers for getting it pulled.  The ad was created by the leader of Odd Future, a hip-hop group that’s also behind the sketch comedy show Loiter Squad on Comedy Central (and whose most famous member is probably Frank Ocean, who appears in neither the ad nor the sketch show). All the members are black.

The Mountain Dew ad consists of a line up of several members of Odd Future as well as a goat that assaulted a woman (because she wouldn’t give him more Mountain Dew; the goat is a recurring character). If the woman described a goat and the cops brought in a line up full of black men, that seems to me more a commentary on the stereotypes by which cops operate (“oh it’s a goat? Surely you must mean it’s a black man”) than any kind of racist messaging. But that’s how art works; the interpretation is up to the viewer.

Of course, anyone has the right to speak out against other speech they don’t like, and PepsiCo, which owns Mountain Dew, has the right to pull any ad it wants that it commissioned. Free expression, of course, doesn’t preclude censorship by those who might hire others to create speech for them. Nevertheless, Watkins’ immediate labeling of this as “racist” and his mobilization of people to complain about it to Mountain Dew amounts to little more than bullying. Art can be uncomfortable (and there’s no reason commercial speech can’t be art, or uncomfortable) but it’s a subjective thing, open to interpretation by the viewer. And firing up the outrage machine against art in order to stifle it closes it to interpretation and imposes one person’s discomfort as the overriding take-away.

Because of the internet the video will likely be available for a long time even though PepsiCo's pulled it from its online channels (update: and apparently asked YouTube to take some of the ads down too, as a copyright claim). Watch the video and take away your own conclusions below:

 

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  • sarcasmic||

    Dang it! I was going to put that onto the morning links.

  • ||

    so more racist than these?

  • SIV||

    Is it racist to suggest Black women are better cooks?

  • Brandybuck||

    Call me racist, but I can't figure out what's wrong the the Aunt Jemima ads. Is there some sort of stereotype of blacks with pancakes I've never heard of?

    And I think the Norman Rockwell ad is great.

    p.s. Of course most on that page are pretty bad.

  • UnCivilServant||

    I don't see it.

    While not terribly funny or compelling (in terms of selling product) I don't see what's riling people up. Someone care to elaborate?

  • Live Free or Diet||

    I'm with you. Then again, there are several in IFH's examples I don't see the racism in. For instance #10: What's the racism in an Indian being happy with his car's acceleration?

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    All the humans in the lineup are black. Therefore it is racist in perpetuating the stereotype that all criminals are black.

    Personally I find the ad not the least offensive.

  • db||

    Same here. It is the reality of young black men being immediate suspects in street crime regardless of the circumstances that is racist, not this ad, which seems to be commenting on that reality.

  • robc||

    See my comment below.

    Apparently commenting on reality using the wrong images is racist.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    So, I take it you support the stopping and frisking of poor, innocent, goats?

  • Ska||

    Will someone tell me how to be offended by this so I can respond appropriately?

  • db||

    Clearly, you lack the vocabulary to define your own oppression.

  • Ska||

    It was at the intersection of victimhood and legal plunder where I finally found my call to life action.

  • wareagle||

    wait a minute....the ad was created by black people but is deemed racist by another black person? We have lost our minds. It was already clear we had lost any sense of humor; now, we've also lost any sense of perspective.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    They were brainwashed by whitie in the whitie prison system, even if they never attended prison.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Is that the same goat that eats all of the Doritos?

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Ooooh, Doritos! that's why it's racist!

    (Makes as much sense as a lot of what else I'm told on the subject.)

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Mountain Dew goes great with Doritos.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Also, I guess I missed the racist part. Was this thing edited?

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    No mention of Obama and it is still racist? Just wait until they see this Reason article.

  • robc||

    So back when I lived in the Peoples Republic of Madison (1992-1994), one of the University newspaper "comics" had an ongoing theme criticized the racist nature of the Cleveland Indians mascot. One day, to "prove" his point, the mascot met the mascot of a rival team: Sambo.

    The obvious point being, to anyone with a brain, that Sambo is an obvious racist caricature and when viewed side-by-side it makes it clear that the Indians mascot is too. You can agree or disagree with the point, IMO, but the point was obvious. Or so I thought.

    Nope, a campus black org got pissed off, stole all the newspapers from the racks and burned them. The artist, the editor, etc were all befuddled, as they thought they were allies.

    I hope a lesson was learned, but I doubt it.

  • wareagle||

    the lesson learned was by the campus org - it learned that it could feign outrage and get away with anything because of that, and that liberal whites would wet the bed.

  • JW||

    Never underestimate the seemingly super-powered ability for perpetually aggrieved agitators of a group to completely miss the patently-obvious-to-anyone-with (FUCK YOU SPAM FILTER) half-a-working-brain fucking point.

    You'd think that exposing their own imbecility and the subsequent public ridicule and humiliation would bring them to their senses and sully their reputation, but no, it only makes them stronger and more convicted.

  • l0b0t||

    I've never understood why Sambo is offensive to African-Americans. Sambo is an Indian, turning tigers into butter in India. There is no African appearing anywhere in the story.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Racists kept using the term, not in a complimentary way.

    I imagine that the n-word comes from a river in Africa, but that's not how it has traditionally been used.

  • Brandybuck||

    Except he's called "Little Black Sambo".

    But I most agree with you. I used to eat all the time at Sambo's Restaurant as a kid. Best pancake house of history. Damn IHOP and their stinginess with the butter!

    Why is Sambo's considered racist, but Mammy Jangle's Soulfood not racist? Is it because the former had a more diverse clientele?

  • Eric Bana||

    Some of the goat's lines made me laugh. Come on, the way it said "Snitches get stitches"!!!!!

  • some guy||

    But that’s how art works; the interpretation is up to the viewer.

    OT: I focused on STEM classes in college, like any sane person, but of course I also had to take a couple of English Lit. classes to give the English graduate students something to do. So we read some dumb novella and the "teacher" (I use that term loosely) asked us to write down what we thought the novella meant. I ended up arguing with her that, to me, the novella could mean something that the author did not intend. That something complex, like a novella, can mean many different things to different people and that sometimes an artist can "accidentally" insert themes without really being aware of it. She told me, no, artists always know exactly what they are doing on all levels with their work. I'm sure you can imagine how pretentious she sounded throughout this whole argument.

    Fuck it. I got a B and never had to delve into that bullshit again.

  • ||

    literary theory ruined the teaching of English literature, but stories like these make me pine for it

  • robc||

    Robert Frost disagreed with her: "If I wanted you to know I'd had told you in the poem."

    He wouldnt discuss meanings of his works, letting the reader put their own into it.

    Which is why you can still get essays arguing whether Frost was pro-wall or anti-wall.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Sounds like English Lit. has done a 180 from my day. I had one instructor who would only argue what you argued, but took it to the point that the author is the last person who knows what his writings are about, or what he intended.

    After one essay on what a play meant to me got the red pen crucifixion, I was "converted" for the rest of the semester to remembering what things meant to him. Ended up with a good grade and an early lesson in "enlightened" thought.

  • some guy||

    It was probably just that the grad student leading my class was an idiot. I admit I only took 2 such classes, so I didn't get a statistically significant sampling.

  • $park¥||

    In answer to that, the teacher I had for my Eng Lit II class was pretty cool. His assignments asked students to pick a short section of a story and write their thoughts about it. Finished with an A- because I suck at writing.

  • Zeb||

    I think your teacher was an idiot. I have heard very few artists or people who study them claim that the only valid interpretation is the one that the author/artist intended.

  • ||

    For some reason, ever writing class I had to take they always forced us to real books by leftist authors.
    In one, we had to read short stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez which were supposed to be metaphors for American oppression of Latin America.
    In another, they made us read essays arguing that all technology is facist, or something to that effect. (Something about how technical writing helped the Nazis commit the holocaust).

    Leftists are apparently compelled to smuggle political indoctrination into everything they teach.

  • Jon Lester||

    As an artist myself, I don't just think you're right, I know it. I'm also reminded of a certain graduate assistant I had for ENG 102 at UGA.

  • ||

    Where is PETA to complain about the highly offensive treatment of the goat? They shouldn't be missing out on the fun

  • DJF||

    When will this anti-Goatism end!!!!

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    When the Cubs win the world series.

  • Anders||

    I agree. The oppression of Goat-Americans is a stain on the character of this nation. I don't think it's a stretch to label this goat one true son of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks.

    Fight The Power.

    BAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    When you put together a line-up for a witness, you put together people of similar look to make the identification credible for trial. This commercial is suggesting that these minorities might as well be goats. Shame on Mountain Dew and its parent company, Koch Industries.

  • JW||

    Wait, goats can do more than just scream like humans?

  • np||

    If the woman described a goat and the cops brought in a line up full of black men, that seems to me more a commentary on the stereotypes by which cops operate (“oh it’s a goat? Surely you must mean it’s a black man”) than any kind of racist messaging.

    That's my take as well. Maybe it was also an exercise in ironic trolling by Odd Future. But surely Pepsi's marketing department must have expected this kind of reaction.. or are they doing some kind of reverse psychology.. because 48 hrs seems a bit too fast too bend over just from public pressure (and they seem to let it freely circulate without DMCA takedowns)

  • Jerryskids||

    If I understand the story correctly, this wasn't a network television ad brought up by the Pepsi marketing department, it was an internet project wherein Odd Future was asked to make a Mountain Dew commercial.

    I suspect the audience for multi-million dollar network television ad campaigns and the audience for user-created content internet shorts are two very different audiences.

    The people getting outraged over this ad, I am sure, only saw the ad once it was brought to their attention - they don't frequent the sites where this ad might actually have popped up. I am also sure the sorts of people who frequent the sorts of sites where this ad might have popped up were not offended by it.

    I think Pepsi knows their audience and so too does Odd Future.

    IOW, to the people outraged by the perceived racism in an ad created by and aimed at a hipper audience than they'll ever be - "Niggah, please!"

  • sulphurbottom||

    Publicity stunt, maybe?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    No, impossible! They pulled the ad and everything after it got more attention than all their other...wait a minute...

  • ||

    There has to be some indignant hyphenated name type in here somewhere.

  • ||

    I can see why it could be considered racist.
    All of the criminals in the lineup aren't just black, they're stereotypes of black hoodlums.

    Also (I watched it with the sounds off so I'm not 100% sure), it appears as if the white woman can't tell them apart from the goat. Not just the cops. You might take that as a commentary on cops and white women, but given that the people in the lineup are stereotypes of blacks, I don't think viewers would be inclined to take it that way.

  • Ed||

    She can. The goat is threatening her while the cops are pushing her to finger one of the humans

  • Jerryskids||

    All of the criminals in the lineup aren't just black, they're stereotypes of black hoodlums.

    They are the ones who made the commercial.

    Oh, and I would strongly suggest you never do an image search for Flava Flav if you are offended by racist stereotypes.

  • PapayaSF||

    All of the criminals in the lineup aren't just black, they're stereotypes of black hoodlums.

    That's the way lineups work. If the woman said she'd been mugged by an elderly Asian or a pre-teen white girl, they'd have the lineup filled with elderly Asians or a pre-teen white girls.

  • Gweskoyen||

    The real problem of the ad seems to me that violence against women is part of the joke. I don't know if it's racist, but I'd say it's very misogynist.

  • Jon Lester||

    I would have expected that to get said before any racist charge. All I could think of is how many women in the real world fail to identify and prosecute their assailants. And I thought I heard a Mexican accent in the goat's voice, although the cooling fan on this laptop runs almost constantly, so I probably didn't hear it clearly.

    All the same, I personally have a very serious problem with anyone who ever tries to stifle anyone else's art. Maybe in another thread, I'll share my most recent story of defiance against just that.

  • LynchPin1477||

    So would you say that the humans were scapegoats?

  • MRDA||

    If this is "the most racist commercial in history", history and racism haven’t really been as bad as people say.

    Would he be complaining if the woman were black, or if the races were flipped?

    Moaning about silly stuff like this again and again induces a 'cry racist' effect over time.

  • sasob||

    Racist? Hmm. Perhaps they shouldn't let things get their goat so easily. :-)

  • Jon Lester||

    I don't know how many reasonoids contributed, but I'm guessing this is the most comments Dr. Watkins ever got for a single post. I didn't read them all, but I would have expected some word of agreement after the first three scroll-downs, yet I saw none.

  • ||

    Wrong post.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I suspect that when they commissioned this ad, the Pepsi guys were hoping at some level that it would be controversial and draw more attention to the product. Now, I can't prove this, but the alternative scenario is that they gave some rappers carte blanche to make an ad without pausing to consider that it might be a little...over the top.

    Also, they seem to be doing a long-running thing with this goat, and I'm guessing that the other ads are also "edgy."

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "Oh, no, our ad was controversial, let's officially withdraw it while leaving people free to see it on certain Web sites in articles about the controversy, thus generating more attention for our product and our edgy ad campaign!

    "Please don't throw me in the briar patch, br'er fox!" [racist!]

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