Photo by Emma McIntyre via Getty Images

Is there a… Mr. Pepper?

Tim Nelson
August 10, 2018

It’s 2018. Queer Eye is a smash hit on Netflix. Proud lesbian Cynthia Nixon is staging a popular insurgent candidacy to become the next governor of New York. In short, the LGBTQ community is arguably more woven into the fabric of society and culture than it’s ever been. With that, of course, comes the notion that LGBTQ individuals are a specific marketing demographic that can be sold things through messaging that resonates with their identities.

That’s exactly what Dr. Pepper—or at least some entity pretending to be Dr. Pepper—recently did in the pages of an unspecified print magazine, and, uh, yeah.

There’s no word on where exactly this ran, or if it’s even an official Dr. Pepper advertisement. As of Friday, August 10th, the Texas-based soft drink company has provided no comment one way or another. Some Reddit sleuths traced it back to Dr. Pepper’s Swedish Facebook page, but the linked post has since disappeared.

For our more sheltered readers, Dr. Pepper isn’t trying to invent “vers” as a term for the front of a soda can. Instead, it refers to an individual within the gay community whose sexual practices fall somewhere on the spectrum between “top” and “bottom.” If you still need help figuring it out, do some Googling once you’re not at work.

The ad (which, again, might not have come from Dr. Pepper itself) is an attempt to position the hard-to-pin-down soda as “a queer drink for diverse drinkers.” Given that the soda is famously comprised of 23 flavors, one could argue that it represents a “versatile” drinking experience.

There’s nothing inherently objectionable about trying to reach the gay community on their terms, but there is something a little odd about sexualizing a soft drink in this way. Even if the ad seems to be in the spirit of good fun, conceiving of the LGTBQ experience only in terms of what goes on in the bedroom will rightly rub some the wrong way. After all, it’d be pretty weird if Dr. Pepper was saying “hey, our soda does sex” in a straight context, too.

It’s not the first time a food or beverage brand has pandeed to a gay audience, and it most definitely won’t be the last. For now, though, whether or not we’ll see Antoni drinking Dr. Pepper at his pride brunch with Justin Trudeau remains to be seen.

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