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ICYMI: The Try Guys try stoning an adulterer to death
How to be your brother's keeper without being your brother's creeper.
Recently, I had a discussion with some friends and colleagues about the most useless news stories of 2022. For the most terminally online of us, the Try Guy Melt Down of 2022™ took the cake.
I’m republishing this piece from Oct. 7, 2022, because:
I’m still laughing uncomfortably over the absurdity of the situation,
Unnecessarily judging people is always relevant (and says much more about the condition of our hearts rather than theirs), AND
SNL was funny for the first time in AGES when they did a skit about it (which subsequently went over the Try Guys’ fanbase’s heads.) Watch it here.
This post was behind a paywall, but I’m releasing it to you guys for free here. You can access all the content in my archive as well as future content and features by upgrading your subscription. — K
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ned Fulmer of The Try Guys will be leaving 2nd Try, LLC. due to irreconcilable differences. We wish Fulmer and his family the best of luck in this new chapter of their lives.
[Insert obligatory boilerplate language]
[PR Contact Information]
Is what I would have advised the three remaining Try Guys to say in their statement about the exit of "Wife Guy" Ned Fulmer.
I would have also advised that a lawyer get involved and everyone signs an NDA and a mutual non-disparagement agreement. Then I would recommend we all move on with our lives.
But if you are a Very Online Person™,️ you know that's not what happened.
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Record scratch. Freeze frame. You're probably wondering how we got here…
I hate celebrity gossip, but my outrage at the outrage has had me spending more time on Page 6 and TMZ than I would ever like to again. This isn't my standard Weekly Rondo material, but I have a point… and I want to vent. Let me give you a brief summary of who these guys are and what the drama is:
Circa 2014, four Buzzfeed employees — Kieth, Zach, Eugene and Ned — starred in a video called "Guys Try Ladies' Underwear for the First Time"… because that's the high-quality intellectually-stimulating content Buzzfeed is known for. A brand was born, and these four became "The Try Guys" — four guys who would try basically anything on camera.
In 2018 after breaking with Buzzfeed, they started their own production company, 2nd Try, LLC. and continued with their YouTube shenanigans. Early in the series, Ned, who married his college sweetheart Ariel while at Buzzfeed, had his first child. This (and much of his family life) has been captured on camera. Much of his personal brand revolved around being "The Wife Guy," and his wife was not only a recurring character in the series but had regular features within their media company.
Sometime over Labor Day weekend of this year, "multiple fans alerted" the other Try Guys that Ned was seen engaging in "public romantic behavior" with an employee of the company. Rumors began to spread online.
On Sept. 14, Fulmer was taken off of all work-related duties.
On Sept. 27, the remaining three Try Guys confirmed that Ned Fulmer was no longer working with the group.
On Oct. 3, they posted this…
(Again, I cannot recommend the SNL version enough.)
"We refused to sweep things under the rug."
This video made me uncomfortable in a myriad of ways. As someone who has spent a great deal of my career in public relations, this struck me as a terrible way of doing damage control. And as a millennial who has had some deeply scarring fallings out with friends and had suffered cyberbullying to the point of a suicide attempt, it felt utterly disrespectful.
What I found particularly disturbing about this video was how virtuous and dramatic it felt.
They were clearly reading from a teleprompter, but all the emotional cues — the stammers, the choking up, the pensiveness — were all at the right moment.
They pointed out how they went through all of the right channels.
They ensured the viewers knew that "[this] is not who we are and is not what we stand for."
They let us know how proud they are of their team for editing Fulmer out of all their videos.
They made it clear they are no longer friends with Fulmer.
They ensured that we knew they were taking a brave stand against adultery and workplace relationships and that they owed the world an apology.
Don't misinterpret what I'm saying: Adultery is wrong. Obviously, provided these allegations are true, Fulmer screwed up. I feel terrible for his family. If I'm honest, I also feel pretty bad for him too — cheating on a spouse tears your soul apart, and now he's in the stocks being publicly shamed (and so is his entire family).
Also, I am a 31-year old, Latter-day Saint virgin who goes to church every week and takes the institution of marriage very seriously. If there is anyone who has the moral high ground to judge this guy, IT'S ME. But it's none of my business. It wouldn't be any of my business even if I knew him personally or worked with him.
I'm not going to debate whether or not this was something he needed to be terminated for. Although what he did was not illegal (and I think HR departments shoot themselves in the foot by outlawing romantic relationships), I don't know the details and won't weigh in on whether or not he should have been fired. What I do know is that we can be our brother's keeper without being our brother's creeper.
Some things should just be swept under the rug. No apology or explanation was owed. Rumors be damned.
Tituba in a corner
While learning more about the Salem Witch Trials and witch hunts, I've noticed that as soon as people get squeezed into a corner, they will weasel their way out by playing the victim or protesting too much. Tituba Indian, as she is known on court documents and one of the first women questioned in Salem for witchcraft, did both.
Tituba was an enslaved indigenous woman serving Rev. Samuel Parris' family. She was the housekeeper and cared for his young daughter Betty and her cousin, Abigail Williams. Early in 1692, the two girls started to exhibit tremors and headaches and make weird noises (similar to a well-known case in Boston in 1688). When questioned, they blamed Tituba.
A day later, Ann Putnam Jr. and Elizabeth Hubbard experienced similar happenings and blamed a homeless woman, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osbourne, the local piece of work. Two days later, on Feb. 29, an arrest warrant was made for the three women, and on Mar. 1, they were all taken in for questioning. Good insisted on her innocence but blamed Osbourne and Tituba, and Tituba was questioned for another two days.
Tituba turns on the theatrics. She confesses and names the other women as witches (who were both executed). Her confession perfectly aligns with English folklore (and not her native lore). She shows deep contrition because of how much she loves the girls in her care. She even goes into a fit. She shows she is the very model of a reformed witch. Because she confesses, the rules of the court exempt her from execution.
She later recanted her confession.
It's a long fall from the top
In recent years I have learned the important wisdom of not overselling yourself — let your qualities speak for themselves. For example, if I tell people how smart and funny I am, and I get to a moment to say something witty and clever, it will fall flat.
The same can be said for virtue. When you take brave public stands against immorality, racism, etc., you simultaneously set the bar very high for yourself. This is what the Try Guys just did.
Adultery is wrong, and that is obvious. Very few people are going to fight you on that point. So are workplace indiscretions and so forth. However, when you brand yourself as a virtuous knight in shining armor, people will be shattered when you mess up.
I don't think any of these four guys is a bad person, but I'm sure one of them has done or will do something regrettable, or someone will have a bone to pick with them or one day they will wake up and discover they have the "wrong" opinion about something. That fall from the top of the world is going to hurt.
He that is without sin, let him first cast a stone
Somehow when I have spoken to people this week (or broken my months-long streak of not getting in Twitter fights), people don't seem to grasp that one party doesn't have to be "right" in this situation. Both sides can be absolutely wrong.
I've thought a lot about the story in John 8:1-11 of the woman taken in adultery. Very appropriate, I know.
As a brief summary, some men bring a woman accused of adultery — caught in the act— to Jesus. Jewish law at the time stipulated that adulterers should be stoned to death (a painful and torturous form of execution).
They ask him what the law says and thinks they should do, but he ignores them and starts doodling in the dust on the ground. They ask again, and he keeps ignoring them. They push it again, and he finally responds, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone."
Obviously, they had all done stupid things, so they put down their rocks and walked away.
He talks to her and says, "Go and sin no more."
Note that he doesn't judge and condemn her, as she probably felt bad enough as it is. He also didn't say anything like, "Well, I guess you must have a lousy husband, and maybe it's justified, and…." He didn't make excuses. He just told her that she was not under condemnation. She could go and change her life.
Clearly, she did something wrong. She would suffer for it, and so would her husband, but it was no one else's business. The men who rounded her up and dragged her into the temple were no better for having done that and would not have been improved by stoning her to death.
Sometimes, I think we look at these types of stories and want to see ourselves as Jesus and not Judas; Moses and not Pharaoh; Esther and not Haman. Before we pick up our stones and shout, "STONE THE WHORE!" let's remember we may be the bad guy in the story.
To be sure, no one is above how she acted. If you were facing the death penalty in an atmosphere of abject hysteria, you might have a fit as well. I really don’t blame her.