Slavoj Žižek Analyzes the New Pepsi Commercial
Posted on April 8, 2017
[I was enjoying my morning coffee at my escritoire from a second-hand store, when a loud bang from a model T startled my reverie, and in a paroxysm of terror I spilled coffee everywhere. In cleaning up the mess, I happened upon a small button on the underside of a cubbyhole, ingeniously sanded and painted to blend in with the surrounding material of the desk. Upon pressing the button, a secret compartment at the back opened up, containing an old cassette tape. The voice on the tape seems to me to be that of Slavoj Žižek, though the message and word choices seem totally different from his vernacular. Nor does it seem likely that PepsiCo would create a commercial as absurd as the one described. I nonetheless have transcribed it here for posterity. –Ed.]
You see, what I want to ask is not whether the Pepsi is the, so-called, ‘true’ goal of the commercial, we are all blinded by ideology, capitalism cannot be overcome, all these trite, disgusting formulations that are now the ordinary message. I mean, my God, you have Clinton in her, you know what I am talking about, the speech with the blue suit, where she snaps her fingers like she is a turtle or some robot. Even Clinton now is saying we must move past capitalism. But it is a prohibition that secretly teaches you that you must desire the Pepsi. Yet is fighting this desire, you put up a big “RESIST” banner and so on, I would argue, is this not exactly the real consumption of the fetishized commodity, the objet petit d’art sacre bleu?
But this is where I want to begin, with a joke, a bit perverted perhaps, but nonetheless, I think it shows us what we, all the time, cannot see. It is an old Armenian Radio joke, you know, from the days of the Soviet Union. It goes, “What is the difference between capitalism and socialism?” and the answer is, “Under capitalism, man exploits man, but under socialism, it is the other way around.” And is this not precisely the situation today, under the ideology of the, supposedly, “radical” Left? Under neoliberalism, we have economic devastation, big banks, repressivity, and so on, but under leftist organization, it is radically different by being radically the same. So you have devastation—yes, but of, so-called, “downshouting.” Big banks—yes, but supporting our causes. Repressivity—yes, but of safe zones, you must be politically correct, actually read something written by Kids These Days, and so on and so on. So it is identically the same ideology, but from our side, so it is different.
Take, for example, this idea, it is quite appropriate, I like it very much, even though I have my stupid debate from a few years ago, a scandal or whatever, Noam Chomsky’s “manufactured consent.” I was telling my Uber driver from the airport today, the idea is too smart not to have come from me, I produce all the best concepts, and so on and so on. But this is the point I wanted to bring up: we have on the one hand, this leftist analysis, of “manufactured consent.” But is there not also, I want to posit, a dialectically equivalent concept of “manufactured dissent”? We shouldn’t forget, is there not this so-called outrage, Cecil the Lion is murdered horribly, we are all sad, justice for Harambe or whatever, and so on and so on. But it is dissent that functions, in a secret way, to support the idea that by clicking the “sad” emoji on Facebook and so on, you are, you know, this great revolutionary, you have all the Che Guevara merchandise from Hot Topic, and so on and so on. In this respect, I find—he had it right, and I mean this in a very precise way—Bill O’Reilly was right when he said there are these, you know, paid protestors.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am not a right-winger, my God, Trump is horrible, and everything a good, generic, liberal progressivity expects. And you are supposed to go to the Women’s March, you must wear a pink hat, all these ridiculous exercises in bourgeois expression of the self, you have free speech, we are so tolerant, and so on and so on. So if we were to, you know, approach this dialectically, to say when they all come to you–we’re all going, join us, it will be so much fun, we have a cheap sign for you to hold–when they come to you, perhaps the actual freedom is in saying, “I would prefer not to.” And this is what Kylie Jenner or whatever her name is, one of however many K names they have, it doesn’t matter, the point is, this is what she is doing by giving her Pepsi to the cop at the protest. The true police state is one where you are not free to say you would prefer not to lack a police state. It all makes sense if you read all my books, a goal I would like to do myself someday.
And it is this, I want to argue, is the mechanism that the new Pepsi commercial reveals. There are all the people, they are wearing blue, the signs are blue, and so on and so on, there is a Muslim woman who has some kind of trendy, brick wall apartment or whatever, you know, the kind people only have in romantic comedies. All this blue is to say, if I can try a subversive thought here: Blue Lives Matter, the young, good, leftist millennials with their socially conscious vertical gardens or whatever, they are blue, and so are the police officers. In this we turn the Right’s propaganda on its head: if Blue Lives Matter, and we are all blue, then it is Schelling’s indifference point, we are all united in harmony, and so on. Muslim, gay, Slovenian, Instagramian, whatever. We live in the night in which all sacred cows are blue, and so on. And it is precisely this transgressive thought, that Blue Lives Matter, that we need for today’s neoliberalism. At the precise moment of the, as I was saying, you know, the manufactured dissent, the moment where the model Krystal Jeggings hands the Pepsi to the cop, it dissolves into the universality of blue lives mattering. And so on and so on.