Is There a Reality TV “Divorce Curse?”

As seen on HGTV's Flip or Flop, Tarek and Christina El Moussa install back-splash tiles in the kitchen of a home that they are renovating.

Another reality television marriage flops. Specifically, the marriage of Tarek and Christina El Moussa of the house-flipping reality show, “Flip or Flop.”

For the past week, the dramatic unraveling of their marriage, which apparently involved him chasing her out of their home with a gun and the oh-so-common nanny affair, has been splashed across both celebrity and mainstream national news outlets.

As CNN.com declared, “One of HGTV’s most popular couples are now a house divided.”

Their story on the couple was filed under “shocking celebrity splits.”

But is it really so shocking?

It is in the sense that fans of the show might not have seen the split coming; and yet, anyone who follows these things knows that on-screen marriages seem to be on a one-way train to splitsville. Divorces on the “Real Housewives” series are a dime a dozen, eight kids weren’t enough to keep Jon and Kate Gosselin together, and even being two relatively normal people who actually seemed genuinely in love didn’t stop Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey from a dramatic on-screen implosion that played out over many episodes of their reality show. If anything, Jessica and Nick were America’s first reality TV couple, and their short-lived on-screen bliss should have been an omen.

Instead, it seems that today’s couples are more eager than ever to sign on the dotted line in order to invite cameras into the most intimate corners of their marriage. Some celebrity couples like Travis Barker and Shanna Moakler actually seem to try reality TV out as a last-ditch effort to save things, as if millions of eyeballs on their fights will magically make them more constructive.

Hollywood likes to call it the “reality TV divorce curse.” A Jezebel piece on the phenomenon cites one “Real Housewives” victim, Vicki Gunvalson, who pinned most of the blame for the failure of her marriage on the show. “We didn’t have 90 percent of the problems that we have now,” she said, “and I truly believe it is the show.”

It might be the reality TV. Or it might just be reality, which more or less dictates that a marriage is a private thing and will be hugely strained by fame and status and a deeply unrealistic life that is, in fact, half-staged. As Carmen Electra later said of doing a reality TV show while married, “You’re not gonna be real with an eight-man crew in your house.”

And life’s realities are going to feel rather surreal, as another HGTV reality couple learned recently when their lives were dragged through the media mud after someone made an issue about the religious views of their pastor. Not something they said or did either on or off-screen, but the guy who preaches on Sunday at their church. Only because their marriage is on-screen did they endure a weeklong political pressure cooker that they were no doubt unprepared for when they signed up to redecorate houses in front of the cameras.

Nevertheless, the reality television empire just keeps growing and multiplying, more often than not featuring married couples front and center. So spare us the complaints about the reality TV divorce curse. There is a simple way to protect against it: Don’t appear on reality TV. Please do say yes to the dress. But then close the doors and tells the cameras to get lost.

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