The internet is abuzz about a new Peloton commercial, which is designed to get people — and by “people” I mean upper class women and their
panoptic body modification overlords loving partners — to drop $2,299 on what looks like a stationary bike, but is apparently a vehicle for what is both a physical and deeply spiritual transformative journey. Let’s watch:
Lots of people are decrying the creepy combination of patriarchal tropes and body fascism that Grace from Boston’s secret journey represents. I’m going to go meta on this, to point out that a lot of those criticisms are themselves inadvertently replicating the very discourse they are trying to critique (sorry my pomo seems to be acting up this morning).
For example, here’s Alex Abad-Santos in Vox:
The problem seems to be centered on the idea that the man, like a villain from a Bavarian fairy tale, has thrust the Peloton upon his already in-shape partner — that he believes she needs to get fitter (though she’s already plenty fit). Like in those scary fairy tales, she doesn’t spin for herself, she spins for him. Every day she spins. And then, in her epiphany, she realizes how much she’s changed and truly has found love.
CNN weighs in with some similar observations:
Perhaps Grace from Boston just wanted an actual bike or an Instant Pot or something, but in Victor’s clip, it seems her husband was nudging her toward weight loss.
About weight loss — It’s never explicitly mentioned that Grace from Boston uses the bike to slim down, and she’s already quite slender when we meet her. We know exercise benefits the body and mind, but in this ad and others, it seems Peloton bikes are used only by people who are already fit.
Peloton’s profit margins are fattened by its exploitation of the cultural assumption — so deeply engrained that it’s practically invisible — that “fit” and “[extremely] thin” are just two ways of saying the same thing.
Of course from another perspective, it’s possible to imagine that Grace from Boston might be starting out her journey while already being in approximately the second percentile of the Body Mass Index because she is suffering from a severe eating disorder, which has left her incapable of jogging a mile, let alone replicating mountain stages of the Tour de France on her husband’s lovingly gifted instrument of domestic torture.
And plenty — indeed almost all — people who are aerobically fit are far fatter than Grace, because Grace “enjoys” a level of thinness that is both at the very far left edge of the normal distribution, and completely impossible for the vast majority of people — and by “people” I mean “women” — to achieve. For the vast majority of people, being as thin as Grace from Boston would require not just a combination of daily use of a Peloton and a lifetime of hyper-vigilant restrictive eating, but also a genetic makeup that the vast majority of people don’t happen to have.
This fact is hidden from view by the further fact that every woman on TV looks like Grace, which produces a distorted cultural perception equivalent to that which would be produced if every woman on TV weighed 300 pounds.
But of course Peloton isn’t actually about “fitness” — it’s about attempting to achieve what for most people is a completely unachievable ideal of thinness, which itself is a synecdoche for wealth, status, beauty, youth, whiteness, and all that other good stuff, which can now all be yours for the low low price of $2,299 [eta: there’s also a hefty subscription fee you have to pay to have cyber-instructors scream at you] this Christmas season (did you know we are allowed to say “Christmas” again?).