Last week, another wife guy did the predictable: he cheated on his wife.
For those unfamiliar with this Internet term, “wife guys” are notable men who base a large portion of their reputation on their roles as good husbands. They’re stars who publicly coo over their wives, talk about how lucky they are to be with them, and shower them with very visible love.
Tom Cruise jumping on the sofa over Katie Holmes had huge wife-guy energy. Ryan Reynolds’s Instagram page is one long lesson in perfecting—and understanding—the wife-guy ethos. Will Smith slapping Chris Rock to defend Jada’s honor was a wife-guy move, too, though that one didn’t go down quite as well.
The wife-guy movement has been steadily gaining steam since 2017, when Robbie Tripp went viral for seemingly no reason other than loving his wife’s curves. Then, with one little TikTok video revealing texts between the Maroon Five front man and notorious wife guy, Adam Levine, and his alleged ex-lover, it all came crashing down.
For as long as celebrities have existed, so have celebrity cheating scandals. Richard Burton was notoriously unfaithful to Elizabeth Taylor. Alain Delon cheated on Romy Schneider long before the pair filmed La Piscine. More recently, there was Bill Clinton on Hillary; Tiger Woods on Elin Nordegren; Jay-Z on Beyoncé; the list, as everyone knows, goes on. The difference now—and what makes the recent scandals so especially shocking—is the fact that the cheaters in question have been total wife guys.
One of the latest men to be hoisted with his own wandering petard is Ned Fulmer, of the Try Guys.
Now, if you’re not a 30-year-old screen addict, you may not know who the Try Guys are. They’re four friends who used to make videos for BuzzFeed in which they would “try” a different thing, such as playing Roller Derby or wearing women’s underwear, in each episode. The Try Guys were so popular that in 2018 they left BuzzFeed to set up their own YouTube channel, which has since gotten millions of views.
Each of the Try Guys has his own brand and his own ideals (if you can call them that). One loves fried chicken; another is passionate about L.G.B.T.Q.+ rights.
Ned is the wife guy. His wife, Ariel, was one of the first women to be repeatedly featured on the Try Guys show, always to sycophantic praise from Ned. In one episode, Ned even tried a labor simulator, because he wanted to experience what Ariel went through to birth their son.
One of the only business ventures Ned has pursued outside of the Try Guys is a date-night cookbook he wrote with his wife, which features “10 years of never-before-heard dating stories and relationship tips,” promising to “quickly become a favorite resource for every couple.” Yikes.
On September 27, Ned was found to have cheated on Ariel with an employee at his company who was his subordinate. In the aftermath of the scandal, Ned left the Try Guys. (The company released a statement saying that “as a result of a thorough internal review, [they] do not see a path forward together.”)
With one little TikTok video revealing texts between the Maroon Five front man and notorious wife guy, Adam Levine, and his alleged ex-lover, it all came crashing down.
Ned is just the latest data point in a steep, rapid decline of the wife guy.
The comedian John Mulaney regularly made jokes about his loving relationship before it was reported that he’d been allegedly cheating on his wife of seven years with the actress Olivia Munn. (Mulaney is now divorced from his wife, who told reporters she was “heartbroken that John has decided to end our marriage” and dating Munn, with whom he has a baby.)
Anthony Ramos, the star of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights and the Broadway show Hamilton, would publicly fawn over his fiancée, whom he met during Hamilton rehearsals. Late last year, a video went viral on TikTok allegedly showing Ramos and another woman enjoying each other’s company at a strip club. Soon after, it was reported that the pair had called off their engagement and were no longer together.
And then, of course, there is Levine, who built his career on romantic love songs and his public persona around being a good husband to former Victoria’s Secret model Behati Prinsloo. On September 19, a woman named Sumner Stroh took to TikTok to reveal that Levine had been cheating on Prinsloo with her, and that he even wanted to name the baby he was expecting with Prinsloo after her. (Levine denied the affair but apologized for “cross[ing] the line during a regrettable period in my life.”)
For wife guys, being a husband isn’t just a relationship decision; it’s a brand. Women love it when male celebrities fulfill the “nice guy” role. The bar for men has been set so painfully low that just doing the bare minimum—actually loving your wife, or at least looking like you do—is praiseworthy. We adore it. We clap for it. We like photos of it, buy songs about it, prop up careers built around it.
Female celebrities, of course, are held to completely different standards. Just the idea of a “husband girl” either invites contempt—Cooing over husbands is anti-feminist!—or it’s the expected default.
But being a good husband can be incredibly profitable, as long as you don’t fuck it up. Which shouldn’t be that hard—being a wife guy requires you to do only two things: publicly praise your wife and not cheat on her. Yet so many celebrities fail.
Imagine building your whole career around your pet hamster and then one day getting the strong urge to step on it. Surely you’d be able to resist. You’d think, Well, I shouldn’t do this because it would be so costly to me. Not to mention that it’s not nice to the hamster.
But sooner or later they all trample them.
If history is to be trusted, expecting the wife guys to clean up their act is a nonstarter. What we can do, though, is approach the wife-guy brand with a little more skepticism. Or, as the recently separated Emily Ratajkowski called for in one of her recent TikTok videos (Ratajkowski’s soon-to-be ex-husband, the film producer Sebastian Bear-McClard, allegedly cheated on her): we can be angry.
Flora Gill is a London-based writer