Public health advocates—the same lifespan-obsessed sticks in the mud that are always telling us not to consume our weight in red meat or do something cool, like die of cancer—are mad at the producers of Fox’s smash hit hip-hop drama Empire for hopping into bed with Pepsi, purveyors of fine caramel-colored sugar waters. The Terrence Howard-starring series is currently two episodes into a three-show promotional arc for the soft drink giant, in which middle son Jamal Lyon puts together a Pepsi commercial that will ultimately air during the show’s own ad time. (A development that presumably gave a clever Fox executive somewhere the warmest of ugly, fuzzy feelings when he or she came up with it.)
The problem, according to representatives from groups like The California Center for Public Health Advocacy, is that soda is bad for you, and it’ll rot your teeth, and you’ll get diabetes, and then you’ll be a sad old toothless diabetic, and you’ll only have yourself (and Lee Daniels) to blame. “In the midst of a skyrocketing diabetes epidemic that affects African-Americans as much or more than any other ethnic group, to be advertising Pepsi cola on Empire is a public health tragedy,” the group’s director, Harold Goldstein, told The Wrap, presumably while sitting in front a bunch of posters of nutrition pyramids and instructions on good foot-health maintenance. “Black lives matter,” he added, referencing statistics that show that African Americans are 50 times more likely to go blind from diabetes.
Goldstein and his fellow advocates make strong points about the invasiveness of dangerous, health-threatening products into our everyday lives. On the other hand, though, Pepsi apparently paid Fox something like $20 million for this promotional push (which also features regular ads, and online stunts like Jamal Lyon—or actor Jussie Smollett’s social media intern, or whoever—taking over the official Pepsi Twitter account), so if you think this campaign is going to stay exactly where it is, regardless of what some boring public health people who are making a big stink just because they don’t want the world to go footless and blind say, you’ve probably got the right one, baby. (Uh-huh.)