Perhaps this article could be cut short by saying that my problem with the Peloton bike commercial controversy is the fact that it exists in the first place.
But I feel really fired up after reading more and more on it, and at this point I find it nearly impossible not to give my two cents.
I’m not a Peloton customer, and I don’t think I’ll afford to be one at anytime in the near future. I’ve seen the 30 second ad roll on YouTube numerous times and never thought anything of it. After all, it’s the gift-giving season, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals on top of that. Brands target their audiences more than ever, with ads for products that promise to better your life. We know the gist by now, and what Peloton did was nothing new. Perhaps if this ad came out just a few years ago, people wouldn’t have batted an eye.
But what did Peloton do? You can watch the ad by running a quick YouTube search and decide for yourself. I don’t blame you if you don’t see anything wrong with it.
The narrative goes a little bit like this: a husband gifts his wife a Peloton stationary bike for Christmas, and her excitement implies she’d been wanting it for a while. The wife then embarks on her fitness journey, and documents it in vlog-style videos, which she then compiles and watches at the end of the year. Seeing her journey unfold, she then says that she would’ve never believed how much a year of consistent spin classes on the bike could change her life.
The fact that the internet collectively decided that this ad promotes sexism, classism and body shaming is beyond laughable. But let’s see what people have to say:
“THE 116 LB WOMAN’S YEARLONG JOURNEY TO BECOMING A 112 LB WOMAN IS JUST RIDICULOUS. COME ON”
I’ll start with this one because it’s this unanimous sentiment that irritates me the most.
Most articles discussing the ad are quick to emphasize how the wife is “thin” and “attractive” and of course, as we all know, thin and attractive people should have no desire to exercise or, God forbid, benefit from it. Some articles even go as far as to call her “rail-thin”. It’s not only the fact that she’s not, but also the idea that all these “body positive” advocates pejoratively refer to someone’s appearance, when weight was never the focus of the commercial to begin with.
Let’s start with the technical aspect: the ad was probably shot over the span of three days. Of course you’d see no difference in the actress playing the wife. Or has the state of projection reached such levels as to divorce the audience from the reality of the matter? It’s a fictional scenario, with fictional characters.
Secondly, I’m pretty sure the brand’s market researchers are well aware of the criticisms that might’ve stemmed from the body positive community were they to expose a “before and after” kind of progress, that shows the woman’s weight loss. From what I’ve gathered, it’s transformation videos and pictures that are considered offensive within the community. Instead, they chose to approach it from a different perspective, one that I consider way smarter: the impact exercise has on the mind and soul, not on the body. They never once mentioned weight, or spinning as a tool of physical transformation, but rather focused on the woman’s overall mood and confidence. But, alas, nothing seems to please anyone anymore.
So let’s move on to the actual context of the ad. Yes, it’s fictional. But let’s put that aside for a moment and consider it was not.
Do you really think that all exercise has to offer is the promise of a “skinny” body? Does everything have to stop at appearance? Do you actually think this should be one’s ultimate goal and, if a person is “skinny” to begin with, there’s nothing else exercise can bring to the table?
I encourage anyone who thinks this to take up an activity of their choice, nothing they see torturous or out of their reach, even going on constant daily walks works. The first changes they’d notice have nothing to do with body composition, but rather with a shift in mood, confidence and attitude. Yes, people, endorphins are, in fact, not propaganda!
I’ll tel you from experience. I love spin classes and I attended them on the regular for months. Not just that, but I have had a consistent exercise routine for almost a year now. So what has changed over the year? I’m more diligent and persistent. I have a more goal-oriented mindset (not related to body-image, but performance). My endurance is better, my posture as well. I have a more positive outlook and a back-bone to my daily schedule. And most of all, I am happy. Weight-wise? I look the same as I did 3 or 4 or even 5 months ago, but that has nothing to do with my performance as a runner or cyclist.
So given the two factors, and taking into consideration their previous complaints of only showing athlete-looking actors in their earlier ads, Peloton probably thought they were going the safer route by casting an average-looking woman. Especially as the clip focuses more on her face through the front camera perspective,not her body.
“MESSAGE RECEIVED: LADIES, EXERCISE HARDER/ BE THINNER FOR YOUR MAN AND THEN THANK HIM FOR IT”
So the only 2 instances in which “the man” is shown in the ad is in the beginning, when he delivers the gift, and in the end, as he watches his wife’s process video on tape, alongside her. The fact that some people chose to see it as a way in which she was doing it for her husband or, as others put it, a way in which the husband alluded to the fact that the wife should lose a couple pounds is absurd. If anything, the ad gives the sense that she is doing it for herself, that her life changed for the better.
We have to consider that this commercial takes into consideration two factors: their general audience, and the Christmas season. Peloton is mostly used by upper-middle class people, mostly women, who want to pursue their fitness goals from the comfort of their own home. The ad seems to portray just that. The fact that the husband gifts it to his wife is just a way for the ad to deliver its main message: buy this for your loved one, ’tis the season!
And the ludicrous idea that the man bought it to her as a not-so-subtle suggestion to drop off some wight is rebutted within the first few seconds: the wife is pleasantly surprised by it, and seems to know exactly what the product is, clearly denoting she wished for it in the first place.
Oh, but I forgot, how could skinny people ever wish to exercise?
People taking issue with this aspect of the ad are either projecting their own insecurities, or trying really hard to make it fit their agenda.
And let’s not forget about all the parodies and tweets saying how if your husband gets you fitness equipment that you wished for in the first place, you should divorce him ASAP. Because this is what marriage and the relationship between two people ultimately comes to. Interesting.
A LOT OF TWEETS MOCK THE AD FOR PORTRAYING A PRIVILEGED RICH FAMILY
Peloton is a luxury product. It costs over 2000$. What other scenario could it have been placed in? And I’m going to say this again: it’s fictional, they present an idealized life. They sell an idea. They plant it in the viewer’s mind showing large spotless mansions – maybe, just maybe, that could be you! That’s what commercials have always been doing, and it seems more appropriate for such an expensive product.
Anyway, I won’t go at length with this, as it’s obviously just a meme. And I actually found some of the tweets funny, so I’ll give them that.
Look at me, becoming a defender of consumerism! Never thought I’d get here, but, hey, ’tis the season!
Ads like this have been made time and time again, but it always seems like people take special offense with the ones promoting health and fitness, even when they deliberately stay away from any weight loss related content. This commercial has been given more attention than it deserves. There are more important issues in this world, the fact that some people chose to prioritize a 30 second bike ad over everything else is woke culture at its peak. To be fair, I’m not even surprised.
What do you think? Do you believe the accusations to be fair? Comment below, let me know, and don’t forget to join the community if you’re into this type of content.