CULTURE

What Do Christopher Meloni and Peloton Want From Us?

How does Peloton choose its men?

Sexy Stabler alert

vis Peloton

Apparently it’s #NationalNudeDay. The best way to celebrate? With … Peloton?!?

Everyone’s favorite exercise bike brand has done it again: gone viral. While their first viral video broke the internet unintentionally, in its aftermath, they’ve since capitalized on the hilarity of it and become master marketers.

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ToTrueself

Online Wellness Trends You'll Be Seeing More of in 2021

A year into the pandemic, wellness is a growing industry and we need it now more than ever.

photo via @thcon.cept on Instagram

Well, we're approaching a year since the Covid-19 pandemic picked us all up and body-slammed us against the empty shells of our old lives.

For most of us, this has come with some sort of lockdown — which has not been great for our physical nor our mental health.

But whether you started lockdown with a yoga mat and a plan to get in shape but quickly fell off, deduced by the wiles of sweatsuits and banana bread, or whether you had no such intentions but are worried your muscles may be atrophying and your stress headache has not gone away for days, it might be time for a change.

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After 2020, I knew I needed to start focusing more on my health.

I've never been unhealthy, I like to think, but this year has been the laziest of my entire life, and things needed to change. The first step was my fitness.

Halfway through the year, I noticed I didn't have as much stamina as I used to. Before the stay at home order, I would cycle a lot, so I decided to get an at-home exercise bike. Not just that, I decided to get the Peloton. After some research and reading many reviews it was the obvious choice.

I struggled to get into the groove of exercising from home so I looked up some tips, and I discovered how vital sleep was when it comes to exercise and performance. I've been struggling to get a full night's sleep this entire year.

I remembered reading about a smart mattress by a company called Eight Sleep that was listed with the Peloton as one of the "best tech inventions of the year" so I decided to look into it.

The Pod Pro by Eight Sleep is a cooling mattress that incorporates cutting edge technology to give you the most comfortable and effective sleep. One issue I had with my sleep was feeling too warm. When I read that the Pod Pro allows you to control the temperature of either side of the mattress separately, I was even more interested.

The Pod Pro creates a microclimate anywhere between 55 to 110℉. You just set the mattress to whatever temperature suits you best, and the intelligent Pod sensors will adjust to your ideal temperature whenever you need it. My partner and I are always fighting over the AC at night, so it didn't take much convincing.

Our Pod Pro was delivered and we couldn't wait to put it to the test. It was super quick and easy to set up, and the cooling feature was just the beginning. Eight Sleep also has its own app that connects to your mattress where you can track all your sleep metrics.

The Active Grid tracks your vitals such as heart rate, breathing, sleep cycles, and HRV, but also environmental factors like humidity and temperature. All this biometric data is fed into an algorithm so that the Pod continually calibrates exactly what your body needs to stay asleep all night.

First night in the Pod Pro and I couldn't believe how comfortable it was. Not just temperature-wise, but the mattress itself molded perfectly to my back. Turns out, it's a 5-layer premium foam mattress that provides the ideal comfort and support.

It has Comfort Blend™ technology that integrates with the Active Grid water-cooling system for enhanced comfort and pressure-point relief. I fell asleep super quickly that night and actually stayed asleep. My partner was the exact same. We didn't think this was actually possible for us, it had been so long since we had an undisturbed sleep.

We both woke up super refreshed, the first night in a long time we didn't have to fight over the AC remote. Not to mention, this mattress is much quieter than the AC, and even uses up less energy so it saves us money on bills.

A cool thing about the Pod Pro by Eight Sleep is that you don't need a loud alarm anymore. The mattress can wake you up naturally by gradually reducing the temperature. This wasn't something I thought would work but it really does and it's a much nicer way to wake up. We even have it connected to our smart coffee machine so our coffee is already being made when we wake up!

After a few weeks on the Pod Pro by Eight Sleep, I noticed something; I had much more energy and was able to burn more calories on the Peloton. Looking at my sleep metrics on the EightSleep app, it all made sense. Sleep is really important for fitness and health, and the better sleep I get the more energetic and fit I am.

If you're starting to exercise more then you need to start off by getting better sleep. I'd highly recommend the Pod Pro by Eight Sleep for the best night sleep ever. Check it out, you won't regret it.

Readers will exclusively get $300 off the Pod and 20% off accessories for a limited time

Since the star of the bizarre Peloton Christmas ad first came to our attention, portraying the victim of a strange new form of spousal abuse, she has been a good sport about the whole mess.

The actor, whose name is Monica Ruiz, has acknowledged the strangeness of the ad, given interviews trying to take some of the heat off her employers by blaming her eyebrows for the negative perception, and even made a parody commercial with Ryan Reynolds. She has generally made it clear that she is in on the joke and has managed to have some fun with it. The same cannot be said of the man who played her husband, an actor named Sean Hunter (not to be confused with Shawn Hunter).

sean vs. shawn Nice try, Sean, we're not buying it

He has fought hard to make himself the victim in all of this, lamenting the fact that the small supporting role he was excited to land had been cast in such a dark light. Suddenly he was not playing the loving husband, but the secret abuser, and the new addition to his reel was officially ruined! Now his friends were making fun of him, and the career that was otherwise just on the brink of taking off was ruined! As he said in an interview with Psychology Today, "I currently sit here hoping that I'll be able to continue auditioning for commercials without any taint." Poor guy—dealing with anatomical issues on top of everything. How can he salvage the recognition he deserves? How can he stay in the headlines after everyone has stopped caring? He found a way.

Fully embracing the counterargument that, "actually, there's nothing wrong with that commercial," Sean Hunter posted a truly cringeworthy image to his new Instagram account, @pelotonhusband, on Christmas Day. The image, which was accompanied by the text, "Here's hoping this goes over better the second time.... Merry Christmas to my actual girlfriend (pls don't leave me)," features Hunter standing beside a woman who is sitting astride a Peloton bike, with a Christmas bow lazily slapped on its front. Both of them are forcing the kind of half-hearted smile people get when the photographer takes too long to snap a shot.

If, as the post suggests, that is actually his Christmas gift to his girlfriend, there is a debate to be had about whether it's an acceptable gift. If she has expressed a desire for a Peloton bike, it's obviously a fine gift. Even if she hasn't made that interest explicit, but he happens to know that she really likes spin classes or cycling as a form of exercise, an overpriced stationary bike with a screen attached could still be a thoughtful and generous present that she'd be excited to receive. What's not debatable is that the post itself is gross and stupid.

What made people so uncomfortable with the commercial was the wife's surprise, her apparent distress, and the way her daily workout started to seem like a task imposed by someone else. It made it look like the husband in the commercial had an unspoken motive for giving her a Peloton bike—that the gift wasn't really for her at all. For instance, maybe he wanted her to lose weight, or maybe he just wanted her to help him do some cynical self-promotion on Instagram…

peloton wife

While the gift itself could be great under certain circumstances, by conscripting his girlfriend to participate in a weird scheme to keep the spotlight on him, the so-called Peloton Husband has revealed, once again, that he doesn't get what the whole issue is about. At this point it seems like there's only one way he'll get the message, so we are officially reaching out to his girlfriend with a message: Please do leave him!

He's weird and oblivious and he's using you in his clumsy attempt to prop up an acting career that was never going to happen in the first place. You're too good for him! Get out while you still can—before he takes you hostage and forces you to make a weird Peloton vlog.

Also, he apparently doesn't have a taint. Gross.

CULTURE

The "Peloton Husband" Really Wants You to Know He's Not Sexist

Actor Sean Hunter is worried how the infamous ad will impact his career, but I still don't know what he looks like.

By now, we've discussed at length the terrifying, borderline dystopian Peloton Christmas ad that recently went viral.

Here's the ad if you've somehow avoided it thus far. The 30-second clip—in which a man gives his wife a stationary bike for Christmas and she spends the next year vlogging her fitness progress—was quick to spur allegations of sexism and domestic manipulation. The real issue could just be poor copywriting, but either way, the "Peloton Husband" is a little concerned about his future, which is funny, because he only said four words in the commercial and his face is seen for a total of about three seconds.

Since the viral ad aired, Ryan Reynolds cast the actress playing the wife, Monica Ruiz, in an Aviation Gin commercial that nods to her infamous beginnings.

The Gift That Doesn't Give Back youtu.be


It's safe to say the Peloton ad probably won't hurt her career, but the on-screen husband and real-life teacher, Sean Hunter, evidently has some concerns. He spoke with Good Morning America about how he fears the commercial tarnished his likeness, and as a result, his future acting endeavors.

"My image is being associated with sexism, with the patriarchy, with abuse," he said. "That's not who I am." Thank goodness—I was losing sleep over whether or not this bland man in a bad commercial was a misogynist. But that's not all. Last week, Hunter made a statement in Psychology Today to further excuse himself.

"My acting coach messaged me after seeing the video and said that I looked great," Hunter wrote, which is hilarious because I still have no clue what his face looks like. "A few comments from my friends came in and the overall consensus was that it was awesome, one even mentioning, 'I always knew you would make the big time.'" His friends are so sweet!

"As my face continues to be screenshot online, I wonder what repercussions will come back to me," Hunter continued, although I wouldn't be able to pick him out in a lineup. "I pride myself on being a great teacher and developing actor, and I can only hope that this affects neither. I'm grappling with the negative opinions as none of them have been constructively helpful."

Maybe the negative opinions haven't be constructively helpful to Hunter because Hunter did not write the commercial. I repeat: He said four words. He's really milking this brief moment of poor commercial writing for all it's worth, when nobody would bat an eye if he'd just let the thing quietly blow over. Considering his Instagram username remains @pelotonhusband, it seems he's already solidified his minor legacy.

CULTURE

The Peloton Ad Is Actually the Realest Thing on TV Right Now

If anything, online fitness "journeys" are even eerier than the Peloton woman's.

By now you've probably seen the infamous ad in which a woman receives a Peloton bike for Christmas and then proceeds to make a video diary documenting her "fitness journey."

The ad disoriented Internet users across the board, many of whom called it sexist, critiqued the husband for gifting his already thin wife a Peloton bike, and noted the expression of absolute terror in the wife's eyes.

Let's get one thing straight: "The Gift That Gives Back" is very, very creepy. But the truth is, a lot of the critiques it received are missing the point. What makes the Peloton ad so eerie is the fact that it highlights the problematic cracks that characterize the majority of ads we see.

The Gift That Gives Back | Peloton Bike Commercial www.youtube.com

Sexism, Weight Loss, and the Female Empowerment Hypocrisy

To refresh your memory, the Peloton ad begins on Christmas morning. In the first frames, the commercial's female protagonist enters the living room of her gorgeous home and sees that her husband has bought her a Peloton bike.

Many critics were horrified at the idea that a man would gift a woman an exercise bike without her asking, and many took issue with this because the woman is slim. Actually, these critiques miss several points.

Firstly, women are constantly sold the idea that they need to lose weight no matter what size they actually are. Capitalism has always profited off women's (and everyone's, really) dislike of their own bodies, and the fact that useless and dangerous diet products are still on the market—and are still being sold by people as influential as the Kardashians—is proof of this.

While people don't typically surprise their significant others with weight loss equipment, normally they don't have to. The desire to change and dislike one's body is already ingrained in most women's minds, tattooed there by advertisements and corporations that usually operate much more insidiously and subtly than the Peloton ad. Most of the time, societal expectations will have given women eating disorders long before their husbands buy them exercise bikes.

The argument that the husband in the commercial shouldn't have bought his wife a Peloton because she's slim is even more misguided. Why would it be more acceptable for a man to buy his fat wife a Peloton? Wouldn't that be even more critical and judgmental? Also, of course, slim people can be out of shape—and most in-shape people would probably appreciate having their own high-tech exercise bike. Needless to say, exercise is healthy for everyone's body and mind regardless of one's health and appearance. The idea that we should only be exercising to lose weight or to alter our appearances is a dangerous concept in and of itself, one that promotes unsustainable mindsets and unhealthy fatphobia.

"Peloton Husband" Speaks Out www.psychologytoday.com

Of course the gender roles in the commercial are sexist and old-fashioned, but we can't blame the entire thing on the husband (and we definitely shouldn't blame the male actor, who recently spoke out in hopes that the commercial wouldn't hurt his chance at getting jobs). It's old news to say that men sometimes treat women like objects, and a little feminist ethos isn't going to scrape this out of our collective consciousness.Pinterest

Nowadays, ideas that subjugate and harm women are very easily packaged under the guise of feminism and empowerment, just as ideas that perpetuate damaging and capitalism-influenced perceptions about health have been packaged under the umbrella of"wellness."

If the woman had bought this Peloton with her own money, would that have made everything better? If she hadn't filmed herself and exposed her horror, would it have been better? If capitalism is disguised as empowerment, self-help, tradition. and freedom, does that make it okay?

When Bad Copywriting Meets Real Millennial Existential Horror

Many people took issue with the ad because of the weirdness of its plot, particularly its video-diary aspect. The female protagonist who receives the bike appears to film herself working out for an entire year, and then on the next Christmas Day, she gifts her husband with a compilation video in which she thanks him for the present.

According to Amy Hoy on Twitter, the ad's main issue isn't its sexism but rather its structure. The main thing that made the ad so awkward, she argues, was the fact that the woman in it seems to be speaking not to her husband, or to herself, but to us. "The scriptwriters actually wrote OUR PERSPECTIVE to be the husband's perspective," she writes. "All her work… is for us… We get turned into a character we didn't ask for, looking out at a world that isn't ours, being pandered to in a way that feels super gross." This voyeurism, because it's so disorienting, seems "gross because we feel gross because she made that scared face AT US."

This is true: The Peloton ad shatters the fourth wall. But isn't that disruption the goal of all advertisements, and of all stories in the end? When characters or bloggers interact with each other on screen or on Instagram livestreams, they're not doing it for themselves. They're blogging or speaking in order to reach someone and to communicate a story.

The problem is that when sales are the objective, stories fall apart and humans lose their humanity, consumed by algorithms and trends. Usually, we just can't see this as clearly––the people selling us products typically smile instead of staring out into the glowing ether of the screen with a look of raw terror in their eyes, making us feel implicated and guilty.

In my opinion, the fear in the Peloton woman's eyes is the most visibly disturbing aspect of the commercial. She really does look like someone is holding a gun to her head, and for good reason, because she appears to be living a dystopian existence. It makes sense that the ad has been compared to the Black Mirror episode "Fifteen Million Merits," in which people ride exercise bikes all day in order to earn a currency (and hope to win a spot out of their servitude via reality TV success).

All in all, the commercial takes the worst of the Instagrammer era, combines it with 1950s-style gender roles, and wraps it together with a bow of millennial anxiety and existential terror. No wonder the Peloton market value has tanked.

Undeniably, the whole thing is uncomfortable to watch. But... are this woman's actions so different from those of fitness bloggers and Instagrammers who constantly document their "fitness journeys," sell their personas as commodities, and pressure millions of followers into buying products they're commissioned to post about? If anything, online fitness "journeys" are even eerier than the Peloton woman's, because the latter are usually persuasive and relatable. They're designed to make you feel bad about yourself for not looking or feeling a certain way in order to sell impossible body images and wellness standards and, most insidiously, to perpetuate pre-existing power structures.

This isn't just a weight loss thing: It happens across the board, in fashion, in the arts, in everything where advertising is involved.

All media funded by someone trying to sell you something is going to attempt to convince you that what they offer will make your life better somehow. That's the golden rule of advertising, and the secret behind all human interaction, in a way. Normally, humans make each other feel loved by making each other feel seen and recognized and by helping each other grow. But advertisements and capitalism devour and distort these natural impulses, promising that we'll feel loved and happy and seen if and only if we buy this product or attain this artificial moniker of success or this level of wealth.

This brings us to the final and most important critique of the Peloton commercial.

Why Peloton: The Capitalist Critique

Despite whatever internal weirdness is going on between the Peloton husband and wife, the family in the Peloton video appear to be the epitome of privilege. They live in a beautiful, hyper-modern home, and the husband has the ability to purchase a $2,294 bike on a whim.

Many people have taken issue with the price of the bike, which is exorbitantly expensive. Then again, many gym memberships cost this much in a year, and Peloton has actually sold well with middle-class people who struggle to access gyms or wellness communities. And of course, for the owning and billionaire classes and for the one percent, this price is almost nothing.

Yet we don't complain when we see ads for much more expensive jewelry or homes or designer clothing. They slip by, fading into the background noise that hums at the edges of our lives, constantly whispering about everything that we are not but could be if we just worked a little harder and made a little more money.

So what about the Peloton commercial is so horrible that it managed to actually get under our skin? 2019 has already seen a lot of controversial ads that hit nerves for everything from racism to plagiarism. Why is this the ad that's suddenly awoken us? Are we just now realizing that maybe the rich shouldn't be allowed to have everything they have, and that a lot of capitalism is bullsh*t? That some people struggle to make ends meet every day, or find themselves tanked in debt because they got sick and didn't have health insurance, or were sold bad drugs by greedy corporations, or find their homes flooded because these same corporations paid to distort facts about climate change? That capitalism profits off our insecurities and selfish self-loathing by manufacturing these things?

I'm probably going a little too far for an analysis of a Peloton commercial. Obviously Peloton did not single-handedly invent capitalist systems of oppression. Plus, many of us have known this stuff for a while, and admittedly it's much easier to critique capitalism than actually take action against it—and action is certainly what we need.

Regardless, let's not think for a second that the Peloton ad is misrepresenting the way that women feel in this world, or the way the wealthy live, or the way that capital drives dangerous, bizarre, completely unnatural expectations and habits. The Peloton commercial isn't dystopian (or maybe we're just living the dystopia right now). It's probably one of the most raw and real things on TV right now, and if it's terrifying you, maybe it's time to ask yourself why.