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.Within 48 hours,
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: