Why the Peloton Death in the New “Sex and the City” Reboot Is So Irresponsible
"And Just Like That" kills off a major character at the end of the first episode
Note: This post contains major spoilers from Season 1, Episode 1 of And Just Like That.
“Chekhov’s Peloton” has entered the cultural vernacular.
Who saw this one coming? On the first episode of And Just Like That, HBO Max’s heavily anticipated Sex and the City reboot, Carrie Bradshaw is finally (and happily) married to on-off love interest John James “Mr. Big” Preston. But then Big straps in for his 1,000th ride on his beloved Peloton, with his beloved instructor Allegra. It’s to be his very last.
Big’s home alone during his “45-minute power ride,” as Carrie’s off at Charlotte’s daughter’s piano recital. When Carrie returns to the apartment, she finds him slumped in the entryway of the shower, clutching his left arm. This sequence is preceded by Big breathing heavily on his bike, eking out every last drop of sweat to finish his workout strong. The implication is clear: it was the damn Peloton that killed him.
From one perspective, And Just Like That appears to be making a commentary on modernity’s uneasy tug-of-war between love and technology — Big is obsessed with his Peloton classes, and likely Allegra (he tells us she’s from Barcelona, Carrie calls her a whore). If only they could’ve communicated just a bit better, perhaps Carrie wouldn’t have lost him so soon.
But that’s not how the explosive plot point is playing to a national audience. Most of Twitter’s diehard fans are upset that they followed along for years only for Big to be killed off by an exercise bike. “Big deserved better” has become a bit of a rallying cry. But everyone else — including people who don’t watch the show, which would include me — is shocked that of all murder weapons, the writers chose a Peloton.
Officials at Peloton might be the most surprised of all. The platform has had a rollercoaster of a last 20 months, to say the very least, and the last thing they expected when they agreed to a product placement on the new SATC season was massive market losses. Peloton shares plunged by 11% this morning following Big’s death. That might read as slightly insane; many online have been quick to point out that a fictional plot twist involving a fictional character probably be used as a “prime determinative factor in global economics.”
And yet, here we are. Peloton is now down 73% on the year. It’s struggled to keep up with the many debuts of competitor connected fitness machines, not to mention the fact that gyms are fully operational again and working out from home is no longer a necessity. Now it has the death of an iconic TV character on its hands. The development was significant enough that cardiologist Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum — who works on Peloton’s Health & Wellness Advisory Council — released a statement to the press this morning.
“I’m sure SATC fans, like me, are saddened by the news that Mr. Big dies of a heart attack,” Dr. Steinbaum said. “Mr. Big lived what many would call an extravagant lifestyle — including cocktails, cigars, and big steaks — and was at serious risk as he had a previous cardiac event in Season 6. These lifestyle choices and perhaps even his family history, which often is a significant factor, were the likely cause of his death. [If anything] riding his Peloton bike may have even helped delay his cardiac event.”
She continued: “More than 80 percent of all cardiac-related deaths are preventable by changing one’s lifestyle, diet and exercise. While 25 percent of heart attacks each year are in patients who already had one (like Mr. Big), even then they are very, very treatable.”
That may read like an all-time spin zone by a well-compensated PR department, but the truth is, Dr. Steinbaum’s right. Cardio doesn’t cause cardiac arrest; the exact opposite does. Heart disease is a leading cause of death in this country thanks to the nationwide penchant for a sedentary lifestyle. HIIT workouts are not the norm, by any means, and a storyline that suggests getting a good sweat will send you to the grave sooner than anticipated is just downright irresponsible.
The CEO of CityRow, Helaine Knsapp, points out that Big’s death casts an unnecessary shadow over exercise at a time when we need it most. “The last two years of the pandemic have been a challenge for everyone, especially from a health and fitness perspective, where at-home workouts have been crucial to so many of us. The last thing anyone working towards personal fitness goals needs is to feel dissuaded to exercise because of poorly-informed product placement in influential shows such as And Just Like That. In reality, one of the most effective defenses against cardiac disease is regular exercise — no matter whether it’s at-home, outdoors, or in the gym or studio.”
Sudden cardiac arrest is an extremely serious medical concern. It can even affect the young and healthy — who could forget the terror of seeing 29-year-old Danish footballer Christian Eriksen collapse to the ground this past summer at the Euros? He survived, but according to reports, “doctors still don’t know what caused his heart problems but they don’t think it is safe for him to ever lace the boots up again.” There are genetic circumstances at play here that can’t be attributed to a piece of equipment, and they most certainly can’t be attributed to conspiracies. (Following cardiac incidents with several other footballers this year, some online called for an “investigation” into the role of vaccines. These ideas have been debunked, repeatedly.)
It’s unfortunate that the And Just Like That writers didn’t consider that angle, or the more overtly obvious fact that people have died at the hands of Peloton products this year. The majority of the casualties have been small children, who were sucked under the slats of the Peloton Tread. This led to a massive recall last May.
There is a degree of silliness to all of this. Big isn’t real. But monocultural moments are rare these days, and when they happen, people pay attention to even the smallest details. A longtime love interest dying by the premier workout equipment of our time is no small detail. All credit to Big for trying to turn his life around. He deserved a nice, long shower after that power ride. Not an early exit.
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