If there was a viral villain of the week, it may have been the “Peloton husband.”
A disastrous commercial for stationary bike company Peloton depicted what seemed like an overbearing husband gifting his svelte wife one of the exercise machines. The ad, titled “The Gift That Gives Back,” implied the gift back was an obedient, skinnier wife, a firestorm of critics said.
Much of the ire was directed to the husband in the commercial.
“Absolutely 100% chance that the husband in the Peloton ad is abusive,” @allahpundit wrote, and others echoed, on Twitter.
But the actor who played the spouse, Sean Hunter, now says he was thrust into the center of a vicious debate on gender roles and body image. The elementary school teacher from Vancouver, British Columbia, says he received only positive feedback when he filmed the commercial in September, as well as when it first aired in late November. Peloton, too, in response to the criticism, says it received mostly positive reviews.
But then the ad started to go viral online, says Hunter, who is also pursuing a career in acting.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Hunter wrote in a blog post for Psychology Today. “My 5 seconds of air time created an array of malicious feedback that is all associated with my face.”
Becoming the “symbol of the patriarchy,” as one friend put it to him, has been a lot to grapple with, he wrote.
“Unfortunately, the problem is that viewers can mistake an actor as that person after they’ve seen them on television instead of a person given a script with no opinion on what they are being told to portray.”
For better or for worse, it’s given his acting career some exposure. He started an Instagram account, @PelotonHusband, to post his head shots.
But he said he especially feels for the woman who plays his wife in the commercial. After the ad went viral, internet sleuths were desperate to identify her.
“Who is the actress in the Peloton commercial and does she need our help?” @EvanJKessler tweeted, alluding to the arguably disturbing undertones of the ad.
“The aftermath of the commercial has left me with more questions than answers, and this is only half the story,” Hunter wrote. “I reflect on what my co-actor must be dealing with, as she’s the other 25 seconds of the story.”
Hunter hasn’t responded to The Post’s requests for comments.
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