Mountain Dew, Part Deux

  • by May 10, 2013

Last week, I wrote about a series of gag-inducing videos for Mountain Dew. Created by 22 -year old rapper Tyler the Entertainer, the spots were equal parts racism, misogyny, and WTF?

But the work remained unquestioned, and online, until Dr. Boyce Watkins, a prominent African American blogger, pronounced the third spot in the series  “arguably the most racist commercial in history.”

Watkins focused mostly on the stereotypical presentation of a police line-up of threatening young African American males, noting,  "Of course, in the world of Mountain Dew, every single suspect is black. Not just regular black people, but the kinds of ratchety Negroes you might find in the middle of any hip-hop minstrel show... Apparently, this is the kind of ad you put out if you want to appeal to the black male demographic."

When his words went viral, Pepsi pulled the project, and apologized in paid tweets and paid ads on Google and You Tube.



In setting up that part of the story last week, I unfortunately gave short shrift to the equally ugly and shocking misogyny of the work. Because the “story” involved a frightened, battered white woman on crutches, looking at the lineup, and getting threatened by a “demonic negro goat” (as Watkins described the animal) voiced by Tyler. He tells her “Snitches get stitches, fool!” and that he “shoulda took more o’ that,” implying a past sexual assault. She feels so unsafe that she runs away, screaming.

I delegated the inherent misogyny to a parenthetical paragraph. So I’m grateful to such commenters as Mary Bourke, Janette Nole, Marla Goldstein, and Dyann Espinoza for calling me out on that. “It was scary to realize that this attitude toward a woman was not only condoned, it was lauded as a statement (of what?) …That Mountain Dew/Pepsico found appealing and... represented the company's viewpoint?” wrote Espinoza.

Deep down, I find the subject of misogyny in rap music really hard to talk about because there is so much of it, and it is so abjectly shocking and disgusting once you get into it.

Rap is about bragging and lying, in general. It glorifies perverse notions about masculinity, which include objectifying, marginalizing, sexually dominating and punishing women.

The Onion  recently ran a piece about the Rihanna and Chris Brown break-up with the headline “Heartbroken Chris Brown Always Thought Rihanna Was Woman He’d Beat To Death.”  It was satire, but made the point about rage-aholic men and the self-hating women who love them:”[A] heartbroken Chris Brown tearfully told reporters, ‘Despite all the ups and downs, I was so sure Rihanna was the one I’d take by the throat one day and fatally assault, and even toward the end I continued to hold out hope that we’d be together until the day she died at my hands from blunt-force trauma.’”

It’s dead-on. Here’s something horrific from Jasper Dolphin, “Bitch Suck Dick by  Tyler, The Creator “Punch your bitch in her mouth just for talkin' shit / You lurkin' bitch? Well, I see that shit / Once again I gotta punch a bitch in her shit / I'm icy bitch, don't look at my wrist / Because if you do, I might blind you bitch.”

These horrifying lyrics and attitudes no doubt have an effect on the culture. Men learn to laugh at the language, and women internalize the ugliness.

Modern brands that appropriate rap culture as a beacon of cool in their marketing have to start acting less tin-eared about what they're doing.  Hiring rappers as brand endorsers is a way of reaching a young black demographic, yes, but it’s mostly about reaching an enormous white suburban crossover audience, and has been for more than 20 years.  

Recently, Reebok enjoyed building “street cred” via a multimillion-dollar endorsement deal with oversized MC Rick Ross. Then it came to light that one of his songs.   “U.O.E.N.O.,” includes a lyric about fantasizing about date rape: "Put Molly [Ecstasy] all in the champagne. She ain't even know it. I took her home and I enjoy that. She ain't even know it."

Reebok had to be pressured into dropping Ross by UltraViolet -- a women's rights group 400,000 strong -- along with another group of rape survivors, who picketed the company.

Ross issued a tepid apology that only did more damage: something about how much he loved the ladies. Then he started talking publicly about being entitled to corporate forgiveness because he did so much for reintroducing the brand into the hip-hop community.

Reebok responded with "We are very disappointed he has yet to display an understanding of the seriousness of this issue or an appropriate level of remorse."

That’s a statement rich with irony, since Reebok dropped Ross only after petition-filled public shaming.

Similarly, Tyler the Comedian complained bitterly after losing his lucrative Pepsi deal because of Watkins’ outspokenness. He describes himself as the victim: “It's a young black man who got out of the 'hood and made something of himself, who's now working with big, white-owned corporations. Not even in front of the camera acting silly, but directing it…. But instead of looking at the positivity from that, he's trying to boycott Mountain Dew…”

These performers will not tone down the violence toward women inherent in their work until it affects them directly -- in their wallets.  That’s starting to happen,with rappers getting less overtly homophobic (if by less homophobic we mean using the word “faggot” more sparingly.)

In turn, we have to answer back every time a cynical, tone-deaf corporation hopes to profit from images about female sexual abuse.

Because, so far these companies have “yet to display an understanding of the seriousness of this issue or an appropriate level of remorse," to quote Reebok.

4 comments about "Mountain Dew, Part Deux".
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  1. Michael Porte from The Field (social), WheresSpot, May 10, 2013 at 4:18 p.m.

    Very nicely put. Glad you updated this!

  2. Barbara Lippert from, May 10, 2013 at 4:41 p.m.

    Thanks, Michael. Tough subject, especially when thinking about our daughters!

  3. Dyann Espinosa from IntraStasis, May 10, 2013 at 6:29 p.m.

    Thank you Barbara.

  4. David Vawter from Doe-Anderson, May 13, 2013 at 8:09 a.m.

    " ... to quote Reebok." Haha, that's funny.

    Was there an ad agency involved in this epic misadventure, or did the geniuses at Pepsico dial Tyler direct?

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