The woman wears an eerie expression as she climbs onto her new Peloton for the first time. She's sort of smiling, sort of grimacing. She looks like she might burst into tears. "I'm a little bit nervous. But excited," she says, not at all convincingly, at the start of the pricey stationary bicycle company's new commercial.
It was a look that spawned a thousand Twitter jokes. To some, the young mother -- who spends the majority of the 30-second ad toiling away at the bike after her husband gives it to her on Christmas -- looked like a hostage. To others, she bore a striking resemblance to the possessed character who delivers the titular line in the horror movie "Get Out."
An Internet that rarely agrees on anything was seemingly united on this one thing: The Peloton ad was downright dystopian. And accidentally hilarious.
"The Peloton Ad Woman Is Absolutely Not OK," went the Vice headline, accompanied by a photoshopped image showing cartoon tears flowing from the woman's eyes. "Someone please help the woman from Peloton's awful new ad," USA Today implored.
"My husband got me a Peloton for Christmas, nothing weird about that!" comedian Eva Victor exclaimed in a widely shared parody video. "Thank you, you get me!"
Peloton, a New York-based start-up now worth billions, makes luxury indoor bicycles that start at $2,245 (a price point CEO John Foley called "crazy affordable") and streams subscription-based workout classes.
The company has a cultlike following to rival SoulCycle's. But it's been panned in the past for its ads -- most notably due to a penchant for showing its bikes in opulent settings, as highlighted last year in a lengthy Twitter thread.
The Christmas commercial, however, reached a new level of Internet infamy.
It debuted last month, just in time for the holiday season. On YouTube, where the comments are turned off, the ad carried an innocuous title: "The Gift That Gives Back." The caption urged viewers to "give your loved ones the opportunity to discover their strength, whenever they want it, all year long."
But to many watching, the star of the commercial didn't seem to want it at all. After the Peloton is foisted upon her, the woman, identified only as "Grace from Boston," films herself reporting to it day after day. "Five days in a row," the already stick-thin woman tells the camera. "You surprised? I am." She pries her eyes open one morning, groaning, "Six a.m. Yay."
At the end, in a twist some found to be a little too "Black Mirror," she plays the montage of grueling workouts for her husband the next Christmas, turning to him to watch his reaction. The Peloton looms in the background.
It was spousal abuse, viewers cried. It was sexism, a descent into wellness hell, a sequel to "The Nightmare Before Christmas." Many ascribed misery to "Grace," imagining she had been forced into spinning her days away on her husband's behalf.
"She would rather be anywhere else in the world than here," mused Vice, "in her glacial home with the husband she loathes, putting on this sick pantomime of wellness and marital bliss; she'd even rather be back on the dreaded Peloton."
Yet despite all the ridicule, Peloton just might have the last laugh. The commercial has brought plenty of attention. And then there's the company's reaction to its previous brush with online mockery, the Twitter thread of bikes in fancy locations.
"That thread demonstrated that Peloton has officially become part of the cultural conversation," a company spokesperson told CNBC earlier this year.
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