Let’s be real, we all dream of being a meme.
But what happens when you go viral when you didn’t even mean to?
Vancouver actor Sean Hunter, better known as “Peloton Husband,” says he’s worried the exercise bike ad he starred in that went viral earlier this week could hurt his career after a wave of online blowback.
Hunter stars in the stationary bike company’s holiday ad campaign as a husband who gets his wife a Peloton exercise bike for Christmas, set to the upbeat tune of Tal Bachman’s “She’s So High.” She keeps a video blog of her experiences, which end with her family reviewing the video blogs.
However, many social media users pointed out that the fictional woman in the commercial seemed to be giving silent cries for help and might even be in an abusive relationship.
Backlash was swift against the company and its market value dropped by $942 million the day after the ad went viral. But according to Hunter, he’s also received a share of the criticism. Hunter says since appearing in the ad, he’s been told he should go to jail for his role.
“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.” he wrote in Psychology Today. “My friend texted me today declaring that I’m ‘a symbol of the patriarchy.’”
Twitter users particularly zoned in on the Hunter’s husband character, arguing that he was rude to pressure the wife to exercise, or possibly even abusive.
Think pieces with headlines like “Someone please help the woman from Peloton’s awful new ad” and “The Peloton ad woman is absolutely not OK” immediately started to make the rounds.
What repercussions will come?
By day, Hunter works as a Vancouver elementary school teacher. He said he’s worried the ad’s backlash will seep into his personal life.
“As my face continues to be screen shot online, I wonder what repercussions will come back to me,” he wrote. “I pride myself on being a great teacher and developing actor, and I can only hope that this affects neither.”
The actor says he was excited to take the job, and enjoyed being on set. He just hopes going viral doesn’t negatively impact his career.
“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,” he blogged. “After all, this commercial has nothing to do with my ability to teach or who I am.”
WATCH: Peleton ad sparks controversy. Story continues below.
For its part, Peloton has come out, claiming people have “misinterpreted” the ad. Stocks for the company dropped nine per cent Tuesday, following the ad’s release.
“We constantly hear from our members how their lives have been meaningfully and positively impacted after purchasing or being gifted a Peloton Bike or Tread, often in ways that surprise them,” a Peloton spokesperson said in a statement to CNN.
“While we’re disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial, we are encouraged by -—and grateful for — the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate.”