The recent fervor surrounding the Try Guys, a BuzzFeed-born YouTube collective of four guys who try things out, is pretty banal by any means: One of the Try Guys cheated on his wife with an employee and was subsequently expelled from the group. Of all the examples of bizarre drama between professional YouTubers, many of which have been christened with nicknames like “Dramageddon” or “Kamageddon”, this one is not the juiciest.
But if you’re interested in the parasocial dynamics between content creators and their fans, or the intricacies of apologetic videos, or the “woman man” paradox, or media studies in general, this is by far the most fascinating. What was once interesting to a small segment of mid-2010 YouTuber diehards is now a national punchline, ripe for pillory Saturday Night Live in a sketch that deftly sifts through the grubby drama of the three surviving Try Guys reactions to the whole thing.
What made it even more forward-looking was the fast and angry reaction from Try Guys fans on Twitter and YouTube, who claimed that the sketch downplayed the power dynamics between employer and employee and that it made jokes about men who “holding other men accountable.” (I’d argue that the sketch acknowledged both of those things and instead made fun of the inherent ridiculousness of three men reading — and, let’s be clear, acting — from a teleprompter to millions of people about their boyfriend cheating on his wife, but whatever I’m not dying on the hill of defense SNL.)
Anyway, the thing worth talking about isn’t the ex-Try Guy and his workplace affair, because there’s already too much speculation about the details and also because, again, everyone involved is a professional content creator. to be. What’s more interesting is why so many people, some who have followed Try Guys’ work for years and others who were introduced just last week, cared about them.
Infidelity, as my colleague Aja Romano noted last week, is having a moment: Beyond the Try Guys, a woman claimed that Maroon 5’s Adam Levine cheated on his pregnant wife with her; married Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka had an alleged relationship with a junior member of his staff; all this time cheating scandals of another form have been rocked the worlds of professional chess, poker and fishing. Stories like this are irresistible in America’s rule-obsessed culture, where every person and concept must be categorized as “good” or “bad,” morally righteous or undeniably immoral, especially within Internet communities dominated by young people. who believe they are moral authorities.
Every day, all the time, people argue in TikTok comment sections, Twitter threads, and Discord DMs about what’s good and what’s bad, but every once in a while the whole internet feels like it’s discussing the same topic at once: the Try Boys , West Elm Caleb, Couch Guy, etc. What all these viral phenomena boil down to is gossip about the personal lives of other people, often people who weren’t even famous in the beginning but got caught up in a largely fabricated scandal.
Wherever the discourse ends up, there will be people who have decided that what just happened is actually a matter of great ethical importance and that their opinion is the only one that is truly correct. Others will of course answer why the assumption is actually wrong and that they are wrong as human beings, and poisonous, and evil. Niche drama is a way of reinforcing those beliefs and rules and asserting ourselves as good. Just like ours obsession with true crime, niche gossip is often less about the incident itself and more about what we can extrapolate from it to make us feel safer and more protected. And it could never have happened to us, that’s the idea behind it.
What I think the SNL sketch does well is to mock the group’s efforts to maintain their healthy image: how they use therapeutic buzzwords to describe their feelings and congratulate themselves on expelling a member, despite the financial and public benefits. relations hit it cost them. (That the three other Try Guys would have known and witnessed their partner’s bad behavior for years adds a rather complicating element to this image.)
Unlike random people who become the protagonist of the internet, the Try Guys do this for a living. So far their videos titled “what happened” and “okay let’s talk about it” have received over 15 million views in total (and yes, both videos are monetized). They are professional content creators and nothing makes for better content than a scandal. The Try Guys will be fine. The next person to get caught up in a viral drama tornado might not be.
This column was first published in the Goods Newsletter. Register here so you don’t miss the next one, and receive exclusive newsletters.