Have you ever been completely consumed by a Christmas gift? Have you ever come home from work determined to use that thing, woken up at 6 a.m. eager to use that thing, or recorded a year-long video blog to thank your partner for that thing?
Then maybe you’re like “Grace from Boston,” the super-fit, super-excited (and perhaps super-scared) star of Peloton‘s widely ridiculed new video ad.
Social media users have spent the last week dunking on the 30-second ad for its dystopian portrayal of an already fit-looking “mom” who is just a little too excited to use the stationary bike her husband gave her at Christmas.
The video shows Grace looking absolutely gobsmacked after her husband surprises her with the bike on Christmas morning. Then it cuts to Grace sitting on her Peloton, smiling nervously into the camera as she prepares to video blog her first workout on the bike.
“First ride! I’m a little nervous, but excited. Let’s do this.”
She looks decidedly more nervous than excited in the video.
The rest of the video shows Grace coming home and talking about the bike, waking up at 6 a.m. to get on the bike and running through a montage of exercises. The whole video is set to Tal Bachman’s song She’s so High, and the music swells through the montage.
Finally, the video closes on Grace sitting beside her husband at next year’s Christmas. They’ve both been watching her video blog about using the bike she got last year. She’s still super stoked about it.
“A year ago, I didn’t realize how much this would change me,” she says in the vlog. “Thank you.”
Peloton released the video on Twitter on Nov. 12, but it didn’t go viral until user @SamuelMoen shared it on Dec. 1. “This ad is making me lose my goddamn mind,” he wrote.
The re-shared video has received more than 2.5 million views on Twitter since it was posted. It’s also generated thousands of responses and snarky retweets.
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“Nothing says ‘maybe you should lose a few pounds’ like gifting your already rail-thin life partner a Peloton,'” journalist Siraj Hashmi wrote.
“Every Peloton commercial feels like a glimpse into a very fancy dystopia,” wrote @SatchelPrice.
Critics have accused Peloton of sexism for presenting “Grace” as a wellness-obsessed woman who seems completely dedicated to exercise after receiving a gift that some might see as insulting.
“You have a 100 lb woman in a commercial looking like a deer in the headlights, exercising on a bike to be a 90 lb woman and that’s to be applauded?” Twitter user Sydney Chandler wrote on Wednesday. “This crap is dangerous (anorexia), sexist and just plain stupid and out-of-touch.”
“My husband would be getting divorce papers,” wrote @dory_derry.
“Vlogging the whole thing and then having him watch as confirmation she did work out is super cringey!”
Others have taken a darker interpretation of the video, casting the husband as an abusive partner who forces his already-thin wife to exercise obsessively in order to shed a few more pounds.
“I don’t understand why she is so frightened the whole time,” @David_Hahn tweeted.
“I thought this ad was a frightening statement of where our society is,” Martha Edwards wrote.
“You need an overpriced bike for an already perfect woman to keep a husband who thinks this woman would be better if she were in better shape.”
Comedian Eva Victor mocked the ad with a parody video that has picked up more than 3.5 million views on Twitter since Monday. Victor recreates several scenes from the ad, but she eventually snaps under the pressure of her workout.
“My husband got me a Peloton for Christmas. Nothing weird about that,” she says. She later points out that it’s “rude” for a husband to buy his wife a stationary bike, and suggests that her marriage is holding on by a thread.
“Six days in a row! Are you surprised? I am,” she says. “But my marriage is still intact! Heh heh.”
The video ends with her demanding a divorce.
WARNING: The following video contains harsh language. Viewer discretion is advised.
A few have argued that critics are reading too much into the ad. “The collective freak out over it is way weirder and creepier than the ad itself,” user Matt Walsh tweeted.
“If you really think the ‘creepy’ Peloton commercial is going to hurt their brand, you probably shouldn’t be in marketing,” user Peter Shankman wrote on Tuesday. “I guarantee it’ll increase sales.”
Actually, Peloton’s stock has been fluctuating wildly over the last week. It rose by about 5 per cent on Monday before plunging by nearly 10 per cent on Tuesday amid the growing backlash.
Peloton acknowledged the mixed response to its ad in a statement to CNBC on Wednesday. A spokesperson said the holiday spot was meant to celebrate the “fitness and wellness journey” that many customers experience after buying the bike.
“While we’re disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial, we are encouraged by — and grateful for — the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we’re trying to communicate.”
The actual product in the Peloton ad is a rather pricey gift: a stationary bike starting at $2,950, which must be purchased with a Peloton membership at $49 a month.
Perhaps the real question is: what price will you put on your wellness — or your relationship?