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‘Fixer Upper’ Is Not the Show We Need Right Now

If you thought you were safe from Chip and Joanna Gaines, you were wrong. They're back.

Imagine learning that Fixer Upper had been canceled and was returning all at the same time. If you’re like me, that’s what’s happening right now — an overwhelming feeling of whiplash. One of the most cloying, and frustrating pop culture phenomenons might have been steadily receding into the sunset, and now, it’s coming back like gang-busters. Do we need Chip and Joanna Gaines in a post- COVID world? Doesn’t matter. They’re coming back anyway.

If you like the show Fixer Upper, I sympathize. In my early days of house hunting (circa 2018), I found some of the chipper can-do-ism of the Gaines to be infectious. It made me feel like I could anything, and that finding a house that wasn’t quite perfect was perfectly okay. I still basically believe that. I think as a general philosophy, I don’t have a problem with the fantasy that the Gaines project: That you can create your dream house, you don’t have to buy it ready-made.

The problem I have (other than their style is very generic and same-y) is that the kinds of “Fixer Uppers” the Gaines feature on their popular show aren’t really the sorts of projects middle-class Americans can really afford to “fix-up.” Fixer Upper is like Pimp My Ride, only less fun because it insidiously makes you believe the lavish remodeling projects they undertake for their clients are both affordable and relatable. Anyone who has bought a house can tell you that the types of repairs required in some of the Fixer Upper houses would actually prevent you from getting several types of home loans, and, would be utterly unaffordable for most people. In real life, if you’re buying a “Fixer Upper” house, it will not look like what Chip and Joanna do, and the money is going to be tight. This is why, in 2019, I wrote another essay outlining all the ways in which I, personally, found that Fixer Upper did not dovetail with my own home buying experience.

COVID has made the housing market insane, and it is very much not a buyers market, at all, I’m not sure that Fixer Upper is going to bring the kind of comfort to the masses that people think it should. In other words, it’s harder now than ever for middle-income families to buy a house, much less one of these fancy rich-person art projects that Chip and Joanna have made their personal brand.

So, this week, the Gaines announced that they would come back for another season of Fixer Upper. Several folks on the internet celebrated. And if you’re a working parent who wants to watch some science fiction set on another planet or a parallel universe, in which there are not all sorts of hidden costs involved in these types of housing situations, by all means, watch Fixer Upper. But, personally, as a fan of dealing with my own actual house, I think there’s better science fiction out there. The planet the Gaines lives on is just all reclaimed wood and the inside of an Urban Outfitters. Not my kind of place.

The Gaines live in an alternate reality. It’s fine for some, but for the rest of us, it’s a painful reminder of what the real world is not like.