Peloton, a company that sells (checks notes) bikes that don’t go anywhere, is worth nearly 10 billion dollars. But the latest Peloton Bike ad—you know, the 30-second spot that went viral and drew comparisons to the brainwashed family from Get Out—just lost the company almost one billion dollars and sparked an endless stream of Twitter hot takes.
In case you’ve been sitting this internet controversy out, the infamous ad—which shows a woman receiving a Peloton bike from her husband for Christmas, then tracking her progress over the year by vlogging her rides—touched a nerve with millions of people. Critics called it “sexist,” “body shaming,” “abusive” and “dystopian.” Something about the sleek aesthetic of the ad, coupled with a plot involving a man getting his wife exercise equipment—equipment she takes to like a hamster on a wheel—unleashed a kind of public anguish.
Comedian Eva Victor’s very funny parody of the ad has over three million views:
Watch the ad for yourself:
Normally we’re all for any outcry about perceived sexism. But the intensity of the anger over the Peloton bike ad has its own eeriness. The woman in the ad is not being “abused” or “controlled,” and insistence that she is suggests that women can’t make their own choices about their desires and their bodies. America has an obsession with thinness, and that can’t be disentangled from exercise crazes like Peloton. But it’s also oddly disrespectful to act like exercising—albeit on fancy equipment and for social media glory—is something women do solely to please men. It’s just more complicated than that.
It’s ironic that the company so garbled their message in this ad, because so many women have been open about finding friendship and wellness through Peloton that have nothing to do with fitness—or their partners. The hundreds of thousands of women who have created networks based on their at-home workouts can’t be reduced to a reaction to the male gaze. How hard would it have been to make an ad about what so many Peloton women actually seem to have a cult-like devotion to: community.
Maybe part of the anger over the Peloton bike ad is how accurately it reflects consumerism right now, and how uncomfortable that makes us. Peloton Lady and her (maybe evil) Peloton Husband live in a pristine, open concept house with hardwood floors, high windows, and one very well-behaved child. Peloton Lady’s skin is dewey but matte. She comes home from work in block-heeled pumps and a cream-colored coat with a statement lip. She wakes up in matching menswear separates. Everything the Peloton family owns is minimalist but perfect, like it all came from prestige direct-to-consumer startup brands.
It’s a very 2019 fantasy. And when we see clearly that our deeply held fantasy is also a carefully calculated bid by a private company to make money, it suddenly feels more like a nightmare. Friends, Romans, countrymen determined to rescue Peloton Lady from her living hell, consider this hot take: The Peloton Lady isn’t a hostage, but we are.
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour.