If there’s a particular kind of guy who is not having a great time right now, it’s the Wife Guy—a guy who has built an entire brand, or at least a running bit, around how much he loves his wife. Think: Alec Baldwin, Ryan Reynolds, former President Barack Obama, John Mulaney before last year, NBA player Steph Curry.
Ousted Try Guy Ned Fulmer broke the internet this week when he, his wife, and his (former) co-stars confirmed the great internet conspiracy theory that he’d been removed from the YouTube show for cheating on his wife with one of their producers. Yet another cheating scandal, and amongst a group of YouTubers, at that, probably wouldn’t have been so fascinating to the world had it not been for the fact that Fulmer was, if not the king of the Wife Guys, then something very close to that. Fulmer’s whole internet persona was that he loves his wife—he co-wrote a cookbook with her based on their date nights.
Fulmer’s cheating scandal this week is basically a drop in the bucket right now, alongside those of Gerard Piqué (Shakira’s ex), Sebastian Bear-McClard (Emily Ratajkowski’s husband), and just last week, Adam Levine and former Celtics head coach Ime Udoka (Nia Long’s partner). Some of these men were more public about their (performative?) obsessions with their wives than others, but Fulmer, in particular, had spent the last decade constructing not just an identity but a business out of being a wife guy. It’s why the revelation of his infidelity has sparked something of an internet reckoning with the very existence of the wife guy—an archetype that exists solely because our default assumption is that heterosexual marriages are unhappy, that most men don’t care for their wives, that those who do love their wives are automatically deserving of our collective adoration.
That a character like the wife guy even exists should speak volumes about the bullshit straight women are expected to put up with under patriarchal, heteronormative traditions. It reminds me of a story I heard years ago from one of my deeply cool female professors, who said her husband, a stay-at-home dad, was beloved and called a “unicorn” by PTA moms solely for showing up to events. Why do we insist on celebrating the male influencers and celebrities who commodify the mere act of loving their wives? Cheating scandals are all awful in their own ways, but I’ll take the demise of the wife guy as one benefit to all this.
Let’s circle back to Fulmer, specifically. As I noted on Tuesday, his cheating controversy is reminiscent of infidelity allegations against John Mulaney in 2021, for allegedly cheating on the ex-wife who supposedly taught Mulaney everything he knows about ~feminism~, and impregnating Olivia Munn almost immediately after he exited rehab. Prior to Fulmer and Mulaney’s respective cheating controversies, both men were decently well-liked—and certainly profited off this!—because they branded themselves as vaguely funny, uber-devoted husbands. Their frequent disclosures about their personal lives, and in Fulmer’s case, his family, were central to growing their businesses and audiences. For Fulmer, in particular, as Buzzfeed News’ Scaachi Koul points out, “Why else would 4.8 million people earnestly care about Ned and Ariel’s house tour or Ariel’s first mammogram?”
It’s not even just the cheating, specifically, that’s upsetting—it’s the act of commodifying your very public performance of the bare minimum as a man who’s married to a woman, arguably even commodifying your very public performance of the nuclear family structure itself, and then, in your private reality, being unwilling to honor any of it.
Yes, another takeaway from all of this is that we all simply know too much about each other’s personal lives and should mind our own business—to that I say, I didn’t actually want to know about any of this! But we’ve been fully insinuated into the personal lives of famous (or internet famous?) men like Fulmer for years, because they wanted us to be. And now, they have no one to thank but themselves for the reaction they’re getting.
Honestly, I have long been anti-wife guy, and I’m hopeful that all of the tiresome moralizing around this scandal will eventually yield the understanding that WGs should not exist. Because, for crying out loud, men should just love their wives!!