Why Sister Wives Is Totally Fake

Seventeen seasons of "Sister Wives" have provided plenty of drama. What else can you expect when there is one man, multiple wives, and many, many children? There was a catfishing scandal, an interfamily adoption, and an unexpected coming out story. And those are just a few of the stories "Sister Wives" has shown on camera in the last few years featuring Kody Brown and wives (or estranged wives, depending on who you ask) Robyn, Christine, Janelle, and Meri. If two married people have their share of trials and tribulations, imagine what it's like when you have multiple spouses. 

But there is something a little bit fishy about it all, right? How much drama could one group of people face? How could they stick together through thick and thin? It's almost as though it's all too good to be true. Not to burst your bubble, but we've got some compelling reasons why "Sister Wives" is totally fake.

Leaving Utah was the plan all along

A lot of noise was made in the initial seasons of the show about the plight of the Brown family being chased out of Utah due to their persistent flouting of norms and laws governing polygamy in the state. In the series, great dramatic scenes were staged to show the family in a state of desperation, with options dwindling before they ultimately decided to flee to Las Vegas. Kristyn Decker, Christine's aunt, told Radar Online, "They talked about moving to Vegas to escape Utah's anti-polygamy laws long before they did. That was their plan and they used the state coming after them for ratings. That's my strong opinion." So according to members of the family who would know, the Browns stirred up their own controversy. They weren't exiled. They're inviting scrutiny for ratings, and controversy was the point. 

During a different conversation with Radar Online, Decker stated, "I think the Browns are precious people. They are just misled like I was. They were born and raised with it. They are not representing the majority of polygamy." Her belief is that this kind of behavior doesn't give the people of Utah a voice like they believe it does.

All involved were handsomely paid

After being on the air for 17 seasons, no one is surprised to hear the amount of money the cast of "Sister Wives" has made. However, even with all the money they're reportedly stacking up, in 2005, Kody and Meri Brown had to file for bankruptcy after having acquired a debt of $90,000 (via Bustle). By 2013, the Browns reportedly made $50,000 per episode, while Robyn Brown told Radar Online, "We are working on a family business but right now we're living off Kody's retirement. It's a challenge to start over again."

Given the money they apparently make and the issues they have discussed in the past, many believe everything is done for spectacle. Film and television producer Laurie Allen described the setup in a 2011 segment with Jane Velez-Mitchell on her CNN show. "These people are scamming every which way. They've been in all kinds of trouble. They've all filed bankruptcy. They rotate the wives around, one files one year, a couple years later another would shift the debt around. They shift the debt around; they're living off food stamps. They've been in all sorts of financial trouble. And then this show comes along."

They blatantly fudge the timeline

As much as the audience wants to believe reality TV comes to their screens exactly as these people live their lives, there are scripts and an editing process involved in every episode. When it comes to "Sister Wives," sometimes real life becomes more dramatic than the life portrayed onscreen, and fans end up finding out details about their lives that weren't on the show. Still, the cast members try to shut down the idea that things are scripted. "We often forget the cameras are there. We have never scripted our show and occasionally things happen that get out of control fast," tweeted Janelle Brown.

One of the instances in which viewers found out something that wasn't on camera was the divorce between Kody and Meri. According to All About the Tea (take that as you will), they did this under the radar so that TLC cameras weren't even there to film what would have been considered major scenes. The show edited this by filming scenes in February and presenting them as though they'd been filmed the December prior. They're not documenting reality; they're trying to tell a story. It may still be entertaining, but it could also be blatant fakery.

Mykelti, Christine's daughter, and her husband Tony spoke about the issue, saying, "It's real, but it's blown up" and "A little bit of both, I would think."

Are their legal problems greatly exaggerated?

One of the hooks for "Sister Wives" is, of course, that this is a group of people who are getting away with something, holding fast to love in the face of the law. But closer scrutiny makes their legal problems questionable. In reality, the Brown family practice of "spiritual marriage" is extremely low on the list of concerns for law enforcement operations around the country, and laws against bigamy, polygamy, or cohabitation tend to not be enforced so long as no real crimes are being committed at the same time.

During a conversation with Radar Online, Kristyn Decker claimed that the Browns had an ongoing lawsuit with Utah to legalize polygamy, particularly after the failure of bill HB281 that tried to make polygamy a crime.

It's a gray area. Technically, they're in the wrong, but realistically, their case would not attract attention, or lead to arrest, unless they were engaging in polygamy while committing other crimes. The show exaggerates this, making our merry band of lovers out to be bigger outlaws than they are.

Everyone is miserable

Taking a closer look at what happens on and off the screen, it seems like everyone on "Sister Wives" is much more miserable than they claim to be. Kristyn Decker told Radar Online, "I call it 'miserable happiness.' That truly describes those that were in polygamist marriages and those that left. I think they are just miserable and the show started showing it."

However, the biggest signs of misery come from the relationship (or lack of) between the wives. "They don't know where to stand when they're talking about their relationship with the other women. They don't get the quality time they want with their husband. Neither do the children."

Once again, the script and editing help disguise what truly is going on between these people and how they feel about their relationships and the cameras following them around. In 2016, Kendra Pollard-Parra, Robyn's former friend, told InTouch Weekly, "It's worse than ever. The family is arguing constantly. They pretend to be happy for the show, but the family is a mess."

Can love last in this cold uncaring world?

From the family coming apart to the show coming under scrutiny for its consistent acts of reported fakery, "Sister Wives" has come close to the end more than once. Back when Season 8 aired, Parent Herald reported the show nearly got taken down from the air, and insider Kendra Pollard-Parra claimed, "He [Kody Brown] wants to stay relevant to TLC."

Trying to stay relevant may have caused fans to catch Kody in another fake act. During the pandemic, Kody claimed to follow strict rules and guidelines for him and his family to stay safe. Using masks and social distancing was part of what they said was their daily routine. However, Soap Dirt showed none of this was true when the family visited one of the daughters and grandkids. Once again, they were proving that the drama they were trying to show was mostly scripted and edited to make their situation look worse than it actually was.

The RV struggle

Anywhere they look, fans can seem to find lies and fake storylines on "Sister Wives." In 2021, Janelle Brown took to Instagram to share her new living reality, writing, "So I have something fun to share. I acted boldly and seized an adventure. The rental where I was living was sold and I chose an alternative path to trying to find another rental."

However, this action didn't come drama-free. While Janelle claimed she had bought the RV on her own, an Instagram post by Katie Joy, a reality TV blogger, claims something to the contrary, writing, "Last year a sub sent me to a Facebook page of a local RV dealer in Flagstaff. Sure enough, Kody & Janelle were posed with the dealer. They made a purchase of an RV that day & Janelle moved the RV to Coyote Pass for the summer."

The issue of who bought the RV wasn't the only big drama. Kody Brown also began claiming marital issues that arose after the purchase of the RV. He told People, "I don't think Janelle or I are being honest or real in this relationship as we communicate with each other about this stuff. The whole RV thing. We never had a really deep discussion, not the kind of discussion you have about spending that vast amount of money."

Robyn Brown's hospitalization

When the trailer for "Sister Wives" Season 17 ran, fans began questioning whether the storyline of Robyn Brown's hospitalization was real or not. Katie Joy did her own analyzing, writing, "The facts: Robyn is laying in a bed in an ER. This is evident by the bed size, bench next to the bed and the fact that her jacket and bag are next to the bed." Kody Brown seemed to hint at the seriousness of the situation, saying, "I think that I was sitting there watching Robyn, wondering if she was going to live."

However, as Joy added, "Robyn is not in critical condition in this image. She is not receiving oxygen or any life supporting treatments that would make her critical. Robyn is not dying in this image" (via OK Magazine), so Kody's comments seemed to make Robyn's condition seem much more serious than it actually was.

However, the family didn't stay quiet, and Meri answered to the allegations by posting on Instagram and saying, "Successful people never worry about what others are doing." No matter what the Browns do, proof of previous instances in which they had lied or had edits made for their benefit make everyone question their actions and whether or not they are telling the truth.