The Brief: A YouTuber's announcement that his wife fell off a cliff has been widely memed with references to "cliff wife" and "wife guy" about how this incident was overdramatized.

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Background

On May 23, 2019, YouTuber Shaun McBride (known as Shonduras) uploaded a video titled “JENNY FELL OFF THE TRAIL.. scary moment for our family” in which he and his wife Jenny retell the story of her falling off a steep slope while hiking in Hawaii the day before. In the video, they replay footage of the incident several times and unpack the experience in detail. During the fall, Jenny got scratched, bruised, and sore, but did not sustain any serious injuries. Afterward, she finished the hike and went swimming with her family.

Here is Shonduras’s video. If you’re not ready to invest a full 19 minutes and 43 seconds, a one minute clip can be found here.

After the incident, Shonduras also tweeted and later deleted the following:

“i watched my wife fall off a cliff…you’re whole world can change in a matter of seconds. mine almost did. a good reminder to be grateful for every moment of it. the good and the bad. the happy and the sad. because you’re here.”

Reactions: The Making Of A Meme

After watching the footage and reading Shonduras’s tweet, many people noted that although the fall seemed to have been scary for Jenny and her family, to describe it as “falling off a cliff” is an exaggeration. Others suggested that Shonduras’s video and tweet were exploitive of Jenny’s experience, overdramatizing her fall to draw viewers to Shaun’s YouTube channel. The fact that there were cameras rolling during and after the fall also indicates that elements of the video may have been at least partly disingenuous.

Reactions to the video and accompanying tweet quickly permutated into a meme in which the phrase “cliff wife” characterizes the somewhat exploitive way in which the video portrays the fall. From there, the meme diverged into song parodies, humorous comparisons between the video and other “cliff wife” jokes.

As this meme took off, it became less about the actual fall and more about the hype and meme-making around it.

Other “Wife Guys”

Shonduras is not the first online figure to appear to use his wife to gain clout in a cringey way. He’s joined the “wife guy” club alongside husbands known as Curvy Wife Guy, Don’t Email My Wife Guy, and Gamer Elf Wife Guy. According to an in-depth investigation of what it means to be a “wife guy” published in The Outline by Tom Whyman, “a Wife Guy is defined by the fact that they have done something which involves a wife, whether their own or someone else’s — call this a Wife Event. A Wife Event can take many forms, but it necessarily involves the internet in some way (a long-distance online relationship; a fake social media account; a prominent Instagram presence) and, when discovered, will be widely discussed online.”

The reasons why Wife Guys continue to go viral online are unclear, but it seems that Cliff Wife Guy won’t be the last “wife guy” we hear about.

Song Lyric Parodies

This meme has lent itself to song lyric parodies about Cliff Wife and Cliff Wife Guy.

Cliff Wife Memes

Many of the memes that this event has inspired are not directly about the fall or the video about it. Instead. they are about how the meme spread so quickly and how the term “Cliff Wife” became a well-known internet meme and spread far beyond its original context.

This weekend, Chrissy Teigen fell down a flight of stairs, leaving her very bruised, but not too hurt to make her own #CliffWife joke:

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