One of the side effects of living in an era where almost anything can turn into clickbait, and/or fuel for some sort of social media outrage mob, is that anything that is weird or amusing or unusual or worthy of a little chuckle almost inevitably turns into a GIANT NATIONAL CONTROVERSY.
Take, for example, that Peloton commercial. You’ve probably already heard the jokes: The husband who surprises his wife with a fancy exercise bike on Christmas morning is not going to get such an enthusiastic reaction. The actress is pretty slim and fit already, so we’re left wondering why she or her husband would think she needs this. She seems bizarrely nervous or frightened as she live-streams her first day using the Peloton. (I joked I had seen hostage tapes that looked more comfortable.) She continues to record videos about how she’s using it “five days in a row, can you believe it?” Again, she looks really fit. Why would using an exercise bike for five straight days be such a shock? Then the couple sits on the couch and watches her video diary on their big-screen television. “A year ago, I didn’t realize how much this would change me,” she declares, looking pretty much the same she did in the commercial’s opening scene.
From where I sit, it’s a weird and bad commercial, like the time Quizno’s Subs believed that bizarre, seemingly radioactive singing rodents would make us want to eat sandwiches. But in 2019, nothing is allowed to just be a weird and bad commercial. No, no, it must have deeper meanings.
The New York Times ran an article about how the commercial was being called “sexist” and dystopian on social media, continuing that vital service of modern journalism of letting you know what some people are saying on Twitter. Glamour speculated, “Maybe part of the anger over the Peloton bike ad is how accurately it reflects consumerism right now, and how uncomfortable that makes us.”
Or, you know, maybe it’s just a bad commercial, like the way Mentos commercials suggested their candies would turn teens into “clever” rebellious, authority-defying, wedding-crashing, trespassing felons with the improvisational skills of MacGuyver.
Now the actor who plays the husband — who’s barely in the ad — is appearing on Good Morning America, declaring, “People turned down a pretty dark path and it turned into a nasty thing . . . Once something goes viral, and it turns viral, people jump on that negative bandwagon and start to create any dialogue they want.” He wrote in Psychology Today, “as my face continues to be screen shot online, I wonder what repercussions will come back to me.”
Or, you know, maybe everyone is just making fun of a bad commercial, like the time Kendall Jenner stopped a strangely generic protest’s confrontation with the police by opening a Pepsi.