I’m trying to imagine what might happen if, on Christmas morning, I led my wife to the tree, her eyes covered, and then revealed an exercise bike.
I’m not saying she’d slap me across the face. But I wouldn’t rule it out. At the very least, there’d be a good chance I’d soon find myself Gorilla Glued to that stationary cycle, entombed inside a shipping crate, as she returned the gift and the gift-giver.
This premise — husband gives wife an exercise bike for Christmas — is the creative behind a new Peloton ad that achieved the impossible this week: uniting the internet. Old, young, rich, poor, Black, white and everyone in between, the reaction to this ad is a very merry WTF.
Here it is, people: your most baffling Christmas commercial of 2019.
Just look at some of the headlines on Wednesday.
CNN: “Peloton’s Perplexing New Holiday Ad Has Incensed The Internet.” BBC: “Peloton Exercise Bike Ad Mocked As Being ‘Sexist’ and ‘Dystopian.’” CBS: “Peloton Holiday Commercial Sparks Social Media Uproar.” Even Fox News: “Thanks, Peloton! Nothing Says Merry Christmas Like Body-Shaming Your Wife.”
Now, look. I go into everything with an open mind. If I’ve learned anything in this racket — beyond the Leafs will never win a Stanley Cup in my lifetime — it is to distrust outrage mobs. These delusional malcontents, with their scolding fingers and myopic perspective, are hard-wired to whine about everything. Show me a social justice warrior and I will show you someone you’d never invite to brunch. Who wants to be hectored over scrambled eggs?
The far-left and the far-right are equally insane.
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So even before I clicked on the ad — which by Wednesday had surpassed two million views on YouTube and stormed the Trending List — I was skeptical: “Incensed? Sexist? Dystopian? Uproar? Body-shaming? Really?”
Then I watched the 30-second spot and, yeah, the outrage mobs are bang on.
Well done, outrage mobs! This commercial is all kinds of problematic!
When it begins, we hear Tal Bachman’s “She’s So High” and see the wife descending the stairs in her PJs, holding the hand of her young daughter. Instead of Christmas morning, this child looks morose, like she’s going to Day 1 of kindergarten.
As mom hits the landing, the husband chimes up: “OK, are you ready?”
“Yes!” his already rail-thin wife replies, still covering her eyes with one arm.
“Now!” instructs her demanding husband.
The wife, upon beholding the luxury bike near the tree, exclaims, “A Peloton?!?”
But given the quivering tone in her voice, it sounds like, “A Guillotine?!?”
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Next scene. There is snow outside the floor-to-ceiling windows in the ultramodern home where this pricey Peloton, with its flat-screen connectivity to NYC exercise classes, is perched like an electric chair. The wife holds her smartphone in selfie position and records her inaugural foray into this relationship-imposed cardio.
“First ride,” she says, looking like a Black Friday shopper hiding in a storage room as a stampede rages outside and throats are slashed over toy Baby Yodas.
“I’m a little nervous, but excited,” she says. “Let’s do this.”
But if you pause the video right there, at 9 seconds, you don’t see excitement.
You see a tormented woman, about to embark upon a new fitness regimen, who looks lost. In those big brown eyes, you see hesitation and terror. You see learned helplessness and subordination. You see a wife who is about to cycle her ass off, across multiple seasons, to impress a husband who is not exactly a shoo-in for Mr. Universe.
Honestly, I wanted to climb through my laptop screen, abduct this poor woman at gunpoint and take her to Burger King. Woman, eat! Live your life! Stop this madness!
“Five days in a row,” the despondent wife says, again filming herself, as she walks in the front door in the next scene.
“Six a.m.,” she says in the next, her head resting on a spindly arm in bed.
This is the ad’s weirdest narrative conceit. The wife — identified as “Grace from Boston” — clearly does not enjoy this wellness odyssey. She’s doing it because she thinks she should be doing it … for him. We can deduce she never asked for a Peloton after she says, “A year ago, I didn’t realize how much this would change me.”
You know? It’s as if my wife bought me a skin bleaching kit and then next Christmas I was like, “Baby, I had no idea I could be this Caucasian!”
So the Peloton wife spends a year pedalling her ass off like an elevator dinosaur in the Flintstones, all to record a vlog of her transformation, even though she looks exactly the same at the end?
Right. This isn’t about health and fitness; it’s about treacherous sexism.
What’s the husband going to buy her for Valentine’s Day? A panini press with a card from Cupid that reads, “Bitch, make me a sandwich”? What’s on the docket for her birthday? A Swiffer? What about their anniversary? Botox? Breast implants?
Health and fitness are guiding stars we should all observe.
But, Peloton, my God, get off the bike and give your muscled heads a shake.
You’ve created a character that, more than getting in shape, is crying out for help.
In 30 seconds, this ad is a master class in dystopian sexism.