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While socialite and reality TV star Kendall Jenner is no stranger to being at the center of attention, even when it's negative attention, she definitely wasn't prepared for this week's nearly universal backlash to her teaming with Pepsi for an extended commercial that promoted the idea that the company's soda is all this country needs to inspire peace between cops and protesters. Many critics figured the ad, especially Jenner's exchange with the soda-drinking policemen, was inspired by the famed Black Lives Matter protest photo taken last year in Baton Rouge, but the origins lie with a much older photograph.
According to the director of photography for the Pepsi commercial, Bjorn Charpentier, the big climax in the ad between Kendall Jenner and the cop does indeed hearken back to a protest picture, but definitely not one from recent years. No, as Charpentier told TMZ, it was actually a callback to the 1967 image titled The Ultimate Confrontation: The Flower and the Bayonet, the iconic photograph taken by photographer Marc Riboud. Taken during an organized march at the Pentagon to protest the United States' role in the Vietnam War, the pic shows then 17-year-old Jan Rose Kasmir calmly holding a chrysanthemum while standing before a line of soldiers armed with bayonets.
There are definitely similarities between this historically significant shot and Jonathan Bachman's Baton Rouge photo of a serene Ieshia Evans standing before officers in her sunflower dress, and that likely bled into people linking the latter to the Pepsi ad. Of course, regardless of what inspired the visuals of Kendall Jenner's Pepsi commercial, it doesn't quite explain why it actually made it from concept to completion without anyone involved realizing that tons of ad-watching Americans would crap all over it for being so blasé about the concept of protesting and the integrity of the police force.
For anyone who might be thinking that this explanation is a little too timely, take note that it wasn't even the first time that D.P. Bjorn Charpentier has referenced The Flower and the Bayonet in his worklife. For a 2014 commercial created for Leica Camera AG long before Baton Rouge was smacked with tragedy, a series of 100 notable photographs were recreated, and the Vietnam protest shot was used.
Pepsi, who has had some commercial issues elsewhere due to a completely different reason, did not leave the Kendall Jenner ad in the public-sphere for very long, as the company eventually pulled the ad from rotation altogether. A smart move, certainly, but not one that can reverse the massive outpouring of negativity that came before it. In any case, we can't help but thinking the multi-billion dollar corporation will be okay after all is said and done.