Mountain Dew has aired its third installment of their Odd Future-helmed commercial campaign and it's causing a slight controversy, having been dubbed by many as racist for its portrayal of black people as criminals and seemingly placing them on the same level as farm animals.
The advertisement features Felicia the Goat, an actual goat who is currently on a crazed, Mountain Dew-soaked rampage across the American west. Finally apprehended, Felicia stands in a lineup with five African American suspects while, on the other side of the glass, a white cop attempts to help a battered, blonde white woman identify her assailant. Yeah, pretty bad, and the internet is not happy.
As collected by Huff Post's Black Voices:
"I really wish she would have said, "I can't do this" toward participating in this racist and awkwardly bizarre commercial."
"deeply disturbing. mountain dew, wtf is wrong with you?"
"...fools must exist among us. It’s a fact of life. But when corporate businesses give said fools corporate cash to continue racial stereotypes as a way to appeal to consumers, well, that kind of validation hurts all of us in the long run."
"Who the f**k co-signed this bullsh*t! I would be embarrassed for these men for participating in this! No amount of money is worth my dignity! 2013 and we still got bullsh*t like this not only going on but still being accepted and even praised. SMDH!! Its a good thing I don’t drink Mountain Dew!"
"One side of the glass is mostly criminal, 100% black. The other side of the glass consists of the “good guys,” nearly all of whom are white... Mountain Dew has set a new low for corporate racism. Their decision to lean on well-known racial stereotypes is beyond disgusting. This doesn’t even include the fact that the company has put black men on par with animals."
It's hard disagree with most of these comments until you realize that the five black suspects on the wrong side of the glass are the members of Odd Future (excluding two of the collective's most famous members Tyler, The Creator — who wrote the campaign — and Frank Ocean, who presumably had more important things to do). Of course, it's more than possible that they are being racist against themselves, but bear in mind that this commercial is a part of a series that includes Odd Future members as a variety of characters (most prominently as a cop and a diner out with his girlfriend at a fine restaurant).
You can watch the other ads below, but keep in mind that they are tasteless, primarily due to their depiction of a goat physically assaulting a waitress as disinterested restaurant patrons look on.
Odd Future is known for being controversial. Tyler, The Creator uses the word "faggot" possibly more than any other word in his vocabulary. His Twitter is riddled with it and his album Goblin, according to NME, used the word 213 times. When Teagan and Sara released a statement denouncing his consistent misogyny and homophobia, he responded via Twitter with a charming "If Teagan And Sara Need Some Hard Dick, Hit Me Up!"
The Mountain Dew ads aired during Loiter Squad, Odd Future's sketch show on Adult Swim, and they were created in Odd Future's very specific voice for their very specific fan base. It becomes increasingly problematic and troublesome when you take it out of context. Then again, it's hard not to find something problematic with Odd Future.
But back to context. On its own, if the viewer has no knowledge of Odd Future/Loiter Squad (and we can safely say that the majority of American audiences do not), the ad certainly seems racially problematic, and you can't blame someone for responding negatively to it. Hell, even with all of the information, it's almost impossible not to respond negatively. It bears repeating that these are artists, known for controversy. Maybe they're consciously playing with racial stereotypes. Or maybe they just all wanted to goof around and play these parts in a commercial they produced; Odd Future's version of goofing around is going to be somewhat offensive and ugly by virtue of Odd Future being Odd Future.
Truth is, we don't fully know the intent with this commercial (other than to get paid). But we do know the context, and the racist outcry might be off-base.
That said, this had to have been something that Mountain Dew was aware of as the chances of the campaign being contained only to Adult Swim viewers who are in on the joke were nonexistent. Either they expected a backlash (and the publicity that comes with it) or their advertising department is run by absolute idiots. My money's on the former.
UPDATE: PepsiCo has pulled officially pulled the ad.
From the AP:
Jen Ryan, a spokeswoman for PepsiCo, said the company learned from its consumer relations team on Tuesday that people found the ad offensive. She said the company was told by Tyler that he would remove it from his YouTube channel as well.
Ryan said that Tyler had "final approval" over the ad but did not know the details of PepsiCo's involvement. The ad was never intended to run on TV, she said.