Online celeb pays for 1,000 people to have life-changing surgery – and people are...furious?
It feels like every week there’s a new scandal involving a YouTuber.
This one was caught watching deep-fake porn videos of his fellow content creators. This one cheated on his wife. This one performed a miracle and gave 1,000 people the gift of sight. Wait a second: run that last one back?
He made it so that a bunch of people could see the smiles on their children’s faces for the first time in years
In one of the more bizarre online scandals to hit the internet this week, people are coming for wildly popular YouTuber MrBeast for his video “1,000 Blind People See for the First Time”, in which he pays for the cataract surgery of 1,000 Americans. And people are furious. They’re saying he has a “God complex”, that he’s putting himself out as some kind of “saviour”.
So what’s the issue? Did he fake the whole thing? Did he only pay for the surgery of people with Donald Trump tattoos? Did he take each of their first-born sons as a dark form of compensation?
Nope, he just made it so that a bunch of people could see the smiles on their children’s faces for the first time in years. He gives one kid an extra $50,000 right after the surgery so he can put himself through college. A bunch of them cry because they’re so happy. The man simply must be stopped.
If you’re not familiar with MrBeast – real name Jimmy Donaldson – you should know that he tends to do stuff like this a lot.
He’s made a name for himself for these types of charitable ventures, which include everything from planting millions of trees, to donating tens of thousands of dollars to homeless shelters, to opening his own charity.
Some of his videos are more challenge-oriented; one of his most popular videos is titled “Would You Sit in Snakes for $10,000?”, and it’s exactly what it sounds like.
He's made generosity and philanthropy a key part of his brand – and it’s a brand that pays off in spades. While you may not have heard of MrBeast, you can be damn sure your kid has.
This isn’t some internet fad. He’s a bigger celebrity than some actors and musicians
His videos regularly see viewership in the tens of millions (the cataracts video has, at the time of writing, amassed 69 million views in three days; for comparison, the Game of Thrones finale was watched by a little under 14 million people). He’s a character in Fortnite. This isn’t some internet fad.
He’s a bigger celebrity than some actors and musicians.
So why are people so mad at him? I’ll confess, I kind of get it. When I first saw the thumbnail for his most recent video – featuring a smiling Donaldson standing next to a gawking child who’s been photoshopped within an inch of his life – it made me question why he’d done it. Why he’d really done it.
It felt like virtue-signalling – there’s just something instinctively eye-rolling about celebrities filming their humble acts and uploading it to the internet so that everybody can tell them how special they are (and give them money – let’s not forget that).
We can’t know to what extent Donaldson is just in this for the cash, but what we can say for sure is that where his videos are concerned, charity is a very lucrative business. And shouldn’t charity be done privately?
The biggest issue that people seem to have, though, is that Donaldson has appointed himself as something of an arbiter of how these funds are distributed.
There’s something a little uncanny about finding exactly 1,000 people and declaring “let there be sight”.
Why not 1,001? Why not 10,000?
Were there people who didn’t make the cut? Was there some hidden criteria that dictated who was allowed to see again, and who wasn’t?
We can’t know for sure; my point is that because of how the information is presented, there’s some part of us that is going to ask ourselves these questions by default.
Here's the thing: when we get into the weeds of who gets to make those choices, we aren’t really talking about a YouTuber anymore.
We’re talking about the fact that in America people are allowed to go blind from a condition that is easily reversible, and it becomes the job of unelected good Samaritans to cobble enough funds to pay off the people that let them go blind in the first place.
Should we be mad at MrBeast for paying for people’s cataract surgery in a way that sort of reinforces that cycle of suffering and profit?
We shouldn’t need some moustachioed 24-year-old to swoop in and save the day
I don’t know; should we be mad at Marcus Rashford for paying for children’s school lunches, thus taking some of the pressure off politicians whose job it is to stop our kids from starving?
Those aren’t rhetorical questions. It’s difficult to talk about something that is so incontrovertibly good on the surface, when it may cause further harm in the long-term. How can you possibly get mad at somebody who’s changed so many people’s lives for the better?
Ultimately, people’s anger in MrBeast is understandable, but misplaced. The fact is, we shouldn’t live in a system where somebody like MrBeast is necessary – that’s what the government is for.
Charity is obviously a good thing, but we get so used to it that we lose sight of the fact that many of the functions they perform should already be baked into the way our society is set up.
We shouldn’t need some moustachioed 24-year-old to swoop in and save the day, because our infrastructure should already do that for us.
One thing I’ll definitely give MrBeast credit for is the fact that his video, despite profiting from America’s broken medical system, highlights the fact that what he’s doing shouldn’t actually be necessary.
He's made generosity and philanthropy a key part of his brand
He states in plain language that the surgery he’s paying for is a simple procedure, and that it shouldn’t be as big a deal as America has chosen to make it.
I guess at the end of the day all you can do is be happy that somebody with a platform as big as MrBeast’s is using his influence to spread awareness of important issues.
I’d rather he spend his time and money doing that than, oh, I don’t know, recreating Squid Game without a hint of self-awareness.
What’s that? He did exactly that, and it’s his most-viewed video of all time? Okay, I guess we can be a little mad at him.