Peloton Says Controversial Christmas Commercial Has Been "Misinterpreted"

Peloton is standing by the holiday ad, which some called sexist and compared to a hostage movie.

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Just before Thanksgiving, Peloton released a Christmas commercial for its $2,245 stationary bike that sent the internet into a frenzy. The luxury fitness company is often mocked on social media for catering to the same demographic as the outrageous 2019 Goop Holiday Gift Guide. But, even for a company that doesn't seem very progressive, this ad went viral after viewers deemed it especially sexist and out-of-touch. Now, Peloton is defending it, telling CNBC that they were "disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial."

"We constantly hear from our members how their lives have been meaningfully and positively impacted after purchasing or being gifted a Peloton Bike or Tread, often in ways that surprise them," a company spokesperson said in an email. "Our holiday spot was created to celebrate that fitness and wellness journey."

The 30-second ad shows a wife and mother getting a Peloton bike from her husband as a Christmas gift. It appears to be a surprise, but she's excited, and immediately begins feverishly exercising on it and recording her journey. In the end, you see her sheepishly sitting on the couch next to her husband, showing him the montage and anxiously awaiting his reaction. He smiles and nods his head in approval.

The ad went viral over Thanksgiving weekend, and it was viewed as problematic for several reasons. Firstly, it reinforces traditional gender stereotypes—the mom takes care of the kids and works out while the dad brings home enough money to buy her a Peloton bike. And secondly, it also seems to imply that the husband would like his wife to lose weight or get fit. (Note: It does not help that she is slim to begin with.)

But the part that feels most concerning is that she appears to be frantically exercising on the bike solely to make her husband happy, which seems unhealthy at best and a sign of emotional abuse at worst. The woman seems somewhat terrified throughout the entire ad, to the point where some have compared it to a hostage movie.

This screenshot from the very end (when she unveils her workout "thank you" montage) says it all, really.

peloton ad
Peloton via YouTube

Many people found Peloton's Christmas commercial a little unsettling.

And it even inspired a hilarious spoof, which is also going viral, from comedian Eva Victor, in which she realizes she wants a divorce because her husband got her a Peloton bike for Christmas. It's a storyline many Twitter users find more fitting for the occasion.

In Peloton's CNBC email, the spokesperson also noted that the company is "encouraged by—and grateful for—the outpouring of support we've received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate." And they included a few emails from people who liked the controversial ad, and a Facebook post from one woman who had a different perspective on it.

"When I see that ad, I see a woman who is lovingly gifted a Peloton bike because it is something just for her," the post reads. "I see a professional woman with little time for herself who become surprised that she can find a small amount of time for herself to work out … I love this ad, because, in it, I see me."

And for more recent controversies and backlash, read Pinterest Is Taking a Stand Against Plantation Weddings.

Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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