This commercial is a work of subtle deception. It appears to be a celebration of one thing, while it is actually a celebration of the exact opposite. Most Americans, if asked directly, would still agree with the idea that riches, fame, and influence should come not from blood lines, or political power, but from talent and virtue. They still retain some inarticulate grasp of the connection between this being the nation’s governing social principle and it’s meteoric rise from a colony on a wilderness continent to the most industrialized, technologically-advanced, wealthiest, and peaceful nation in history. However, because this isn’t America’s governing social principle anymore (precisely because it has always been left unarticulated as just a feeling or a tradition or the will of a god), those same Americans, if asked, would also agree with (or at least fear to disagree with) today’s prevailing idea: that riches, fame, and influence should be shared equally amongst “everyone.”
This commercial is poking fun at talent competition shows such as American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance?, and The X Factor. It is implying that such shows are not actually tests of talent and virtue, but rather arbitrary displays of power by those who judge them (as if the “power” that a private entity has to not associate with someone is at all the same as the power a government – such as a monarchy – has to compel that same person to do something).
Accomplished entertainer Elton John plays the role of a judge slash monarch, who “unfairly” withholds rewards from the untalented and only begrudgingly gives them to the talented. The insinuation, of course, is that if you lack the virtue and talent to remain in contests such as talent searches, you should be just as entitled to the rewards of such competitions as those who do not lack. The X Factor winner Melanie Amaro addresses this “injustice” by “setting things straight.” She “virtuously” devalues her own accomplishments by making the rewards of such accomplishments available to “all.” The insinuation of this is that at some point in their past, accomplished people like John and Amaro must have just been “lucky” (ie: that they did not earn their values, but were rather just the beneficiaries of an ultimately arbitrary, monarch-like “rule” of the entertainment industry by other accomplished people). In other words: Amaro “gets it” – self-sacrifice to the weaker is the hallmark of virtue – while John does not (ie: he doesn’t realize that the rewards he so begrudgingly gives to the talented are not his to give, since the very act of possessing them – despite having earned them – makes him immoral).
What this commercial does is present itself as a condemnation of the truly immoral state of affairs whereby truly untalented and non-virtuous people decide the fates of everyone else simply because their blood lines or ruthlessness empowers them to, but what it actually does is celebrate such an arrangement by implying that talent and virtue should be irrelevant to one’s fate, and all that should matter is that one exist (ie: that you were born). In other words: even if you don’t have what it takes to deserve increased wealth, fame, or influence, the fact that you are a member of “the country” entitles you take from those who do have it. How, in practice, is this any different than the tactics of some parasite who calls himself a king? Furthermore, how, in principle, is a state of affairs where what’s yours isn’t yours, but “the community’s” to dispose of as it sees fit, any different than being preyed upon by a king?
Pepsi is attempting to cast it’s net as widely as possible with this commercial. They wish to offend as few people as possible. Whoever still agrees with the original American social principle, unless they think about it too closely, will perceive it to be a celebration of that – while at the same time whoever disagrees with that principle and embraces the one which dominates contemporary culture will subconsciously sense that it is praising that and thus find it appealing. It is a cynical, pragmatic move by a large, highly-leveraged company stuck in a precarious, unpredictable political-economic environment where their only interest can be the short-term, and where their immediate survival depends upon a willingness to do whatever it takes – no matter how twisted and perverse – to survive the moment.