The actor in a viral commercial for a stationary bike is fashioning himself into what has, in 2019, proven to be yet another path to success for men: a wife guy. Sean Hunter has rather little screen time in the 30-second widely mocked Peloton spot. Nonetheless, he’s grabbing the spotlight. Classic wife guy, honestly.
Let’s recap: A small portion of Hunter’s body is in the first few frames as he gifts his on-screen wife the bike. We hear his one and only line, an instruction for her to stop covering her eyes and gaze at the surprise contraption: “OK, you ready? Now!” We then see several shots of the woman working out, talking about working out, checking in post-workout. There are the fearful eyebrows as she sits down for her first session, the groaning “6 a.m., yay” as she rises from bed. These moments are the meat of the commercial. Toward the end, we see woman and husband watching that footage while sitting side by side on the couch. Hunter grins. His co-star stares at the grin. Truly it is this woman’s acting that makes what otherwise would have been a standard advertisement such a rich and widely discussed text.
But it is Hunter we are hearing from. He has changed his Instagram handle to “pelotonhusband.” He has written several paragraphs for a Psychology Today blog post. “As my face continues to be screen shot online,” he writes, “I wonder what repercussions will come back to me.” He expresses hurt that someone called the commercial’s acting “overdramatic”: “it’s really hard to improve when all feedback goes against any type of growth.” He worries that this will jeopardize his day job as an elementary school teacher and his budding acting career: ”I currently sit here hoping that I’ll be able to continue auditioning for commercials without any taint.”
I cannot muster any concern on behalf of this wife guy. Most comments seem clearly aimed at his character and not him. “Overdramatic” is a valid note, try being a woman online for one day, etc. Hunter is so much of a blandly handsome white dude that I had to spend dozens of seconds going back and forth between a photo of the person in the commercial and prior Instagram glamour shots before I could convince myself that it was actually him in the ad. I do not think this will affect his day job—I would be surprised if the young minds he educates are terribly keyed into gentle, comedic critiques of the luxury workout market. I doubt that his face’s brief appearance in a piece of internet ephemera would cause him to have “any taint” going forward.
Also, his path back into obscurity would have been much smoother had he just remained anonymous. Attaching his name and Instagram account to the commercial is, in fact, an explicit choice that he made. Multiple reporters (me, one from the New York Post) were unsuccessful at figuring out the identity of Hunter’s female co-star, whom we were interested in hearing from because, you know, she was ostensibly the focus of the commercial, the one whose acting even made it a thing. (I even DMed Hunter on Instagram to see if he could connect me with her but, at press time, had not received a response. He has been Insta-Storying coverage of his star turn, though.)
Mystery Peloton Woman is understandably/hopefully riding this out somewhere peaceful without Wi-Fi. Hunter acknowledges in the Psychology Today post that his screen time was relatively short in comparison to that of his screen-wife: “I reflect on what my co-actor must be dealing with, as she’s the other 25 seconds of the story.” That’s considerate, but it’s also just what wife guys do: hip-check their way to the mic by latching onto their more noteworthy counterparts (see curvy wife guy’s infamous Instagram post opining about his beloved’s body, see John Legend making a hit song and a Sexiest Man Alive–worthy persona out of his adoration for Chrissy Teigen).
There are a few ways to read the events in the Peloton commercial. We have little context and no backstory, so really, your read probably depends more on you than on anything else. (Also, here is a good Twitter thread explaining why flaws in the copy of the commercial have made the ad so weird for some people.) When I saw it, I assumed that the woman had either asked for a Peloton or at least demonstrated ambitions to get into home exercise such that an expensive piece of equipment would reasonably make a good gift. (I don’t find this horrible, but I like Peloton. Anyone may buy me a Peloton.) In my read, a woman wished for something, her husband made it so; in quietly grinning at her video, he cements himself as a mere audience member to her life. Honestly fine for an advertisement.
But in the reading of the commercial that made the ad go stupidly viral, Hunter’s character purchased this thing for his spouse so that she would maintain a specific variety of hotness—or, at least, so that she could make this weird bike-riding highlight reel for him to judge. In this scenario, Hunter’s character is a wife guy, too. Wife guys understand that they don’t have to be the shiniest attraction to matter. They can still make things about them.