03 April 2014

And now for something completely different!

A friend of mine made me aware of this article, via Facebook. Now, it’s published on slate.com, which should already have let me know that I most likely wouldn’t agree. (Articles recommended to me in the sidebar include: “Another Reason Not to Go to Jared: Female Employees Say They’re Paid Less Than Men,” “Ford to Cadillac: Not Everyone in America Is a Materialistic Jerk,”  “Why You’ll Never Be Rich,” “The OED Gets All C-Wordy. You Should Too.” and “Why Aren’t Democrats Taking This Simple Approach to Defending Obamacare?” So, yeah… Slate is maybe not my cup of tea.)

The premise (I read it so you wouldn’t have to!) has to do with Planet Fitness, the gym chain that advertises itself as a “lunk-free zone,” wherein “lunk” is defined in a variety of ways, all of which equate roughly to: someone who makes you feel uncomfortable at the gym. Basically, says the lunk writing the article (he admits that he has been to multiple Planet Fitness locations while traveling, as an “emergency gym”; who among us has never had a workout emergency, except everyone?), Planet Fitness has declared war on the fit: it’s an “assault on people who are actually trying to get a workout.”

I think I just got a day’s worth of exercise rolling my eyes.

Look, as a woman with a much-less-than-ideal body type, I can’t help but appreciate Planet Fitness’ marketing campaign. I have big bones, I have a toddler, and my hormones are a mess (all in fat-producing ways – thanks, body!) and as a result I just don’t feel that comfortable in gyms. If I’m there, it’s grudgingly, and it’s to work out while hating every minute of it. If you’re standing in front of the mirror, flexing for a selfie and giving the fatties around you the stink-eye for daring to pollute your workout space with their blubber, I basically wish you would disappear in a puff of smoke. But you have the right to be a lunk, most certainly. And I – and other people to whom Planet Fitness are marketing their gym – have the right to wish you weren’t.

Also, I would venture a guess that the lunks of the world are outnumbered by the lunk-wary, which is why Planet Fitness, despite being named “The Worst Gym in America” by Men’s Health, according to this article, is also “rapidly-growing.”  In fact, this article cites the statistic that 85% of Americans do not currently belong to a gym (which percentage he refers to as “the doughy majority,” because he’s charming like that). Planet Fitness' strategy is convincing non-gym-goers that their gym is a great starting place. You can go in there, out of shape or not, and not find yourself surrounded by a bunch of meatheads who make it clear that they’re judging you and wishing they could come right out and call you doughy. There are enough of us out there to make it worth Planet Fitness’ while to risk offending people who – and this is key – obviously self-identify as lunks. Because if you don’t think of yourself as a lunk, then how could you be offended by a commercial advertising a gym that doesn’t cater to lunks?

What I really find remarkable about this article, though, is the admiring way in which its author describes how these self-identified lunks got Planet Fitness’ YouTube channel shut down by “organizing a mass flagging of their commercials as offensive material.” Let’s be clear: these commercials did not show nudity, or profanity, or racism, or indeed anything objectively offensive. They merely portrayed gym rats as annoying. And YouTube, not noted for its bravery in the face of bullies, shut the channel down.

I  just wonder who has that kind of time on their hands, that they would organize a campaign to get a company’s YouTube channel shut down for something so silly. Maybe get a hobby? Or spend more time at your lunk-friendly gym! Maybe soon your biceps will be so big you won’t be able to lower your arms far enough to click that little flag on YouTube.

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