Alec Beall, Ph.D.

Aesthetics 101

"Peloton Husband" Speaks Out

Actor Sean Hunter offers his view on being involved in a criticized ad.

Posted Dec 05, 2019

Few people know what it's like to be thrust into controversy in quite the same way as the actor who plays the "tone-deaf" husband in a recent Peloton ad. (You probably know the one but here it is).

 Sean Hunter, used with permission.
The Peloton Husband, Sean Hunter
Source: Sean Hunter, used with permission.

Sean Hunter is an actor and elementary school teacher in Vancouver, Canada—he also happens to be one of my best friends. In real life, he's a decidedly good guy, so after reading a tweet joking that the people involved in making the commercial should be jailed and another tweet stating that there was a "100% chance that the husband in the Peloton ad is abusive," I decided to reach out.

I asked him about his perspective as someone who has suddenly found himself in the middle of a worldwide conversation about family dynamics, gender roles, and domestic abuse.

Here's what he had to say:

"In early September, I filmed a commercial for the Peloton exercise bike company. During the few days on set, I had a wonderful time working with the cast (“mother & daughter”), and the amazing crew. It was an extremely positive experience, and I was excited to see the final clip. In late November, the commercial was posted and reviews started pouring in. At first, they were well received. My acting coach messaged me after seeing the video and said that I looked great! We shared a positive discussion about my part in the commercial and her advice helped in my endeavour of becoming a better actor, as I hold her opinion highly. 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.” I appreciated the compliments, but in my eyes it was just a small role. I was simply grateful for the experience. 

But a few days ago, that all changed. Reviews from my friends stopped as the video went viral. I soon noticed that the commercial had several thousand down votes as the tweets came out and talk shows weighed in. “Absolutely 100% chance that the husband in the Peloton ad is abusive.” (@allahpundit/twitter) “She would rather be anywhere else in the world than here, in her glacial home with the husband she loathes” (Katie Way, Vice US). Commenters essentially “blasted the promotion as sexist and mocked its message” (Janine Puhak, Fox News). I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My 5 seconds of air time created an array of malicious feedback that is all associated with my face. My friend texted me today declaring that I’m “a symbol of the patriarchy.” “We have the chance to make #PelotonHusband a meme” (@matt_clarke/twitter). 

As my face continues to be screen shot online, I wonder what repercussions will come back to me. 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. “I think the acting was corny because it was overdramatic” (Jeannie Mai, The Real Daytime). It’s really hard to improve when all feedback goes against any type of growth. I currently sit here hoping that I’ll be able to continue auditioning for commercials without any taint, and that if my students happen to find the commercial and recognize me, they won’t think about me any different than they already know me. After all, this commercial has nothing to do with my ability to teach or who I am. 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. As I continue to reflect on the commercial, I consider these thoughts: Why are people creating so many additional narratives to the story? Am I allowed to view the commercial positively after receiving such negative feedback? If recognized on the street, what will people’s first opinions be of me? The aftermath of the commercial has left me with more questions than answers, and this is only half the story. I reflect on what my co-actor must be dealing with, as she’s the other 25 seconds of the story."

References

Mai, J. (December, 2019). PART TWO: How We REALLY Feel About That Peloton Commercial. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ynFsRdiNI8

Puhak, J. (December, 2019). Peloton actress from controversial commercial is now the subject of a Twitter search: 'Does she need our help? Retrieved from https://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/twitter-peloton-actress-commercial-twitter-search

Way, K. (December, 2019). The Peloton Ad Woman Is Absolutely Not Ok. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/43kjbw/peloton-commercial-holiday-advertisement