YouTuber MrBeast has gained a following of over 130 million subscribers in the 11 years he has been making videos on the platform. It took time for his audience to build, but as the lore goes, he gathered a group of friends to watch and study the successful tactics of other YouTubers and incorporated their findings into his own strategy. He found his audience by doing outrageous activities in videos and uploading them—see, for example, videos like “I spent 50 hours buried alive” and “$456,000 Squid Game in Real Life.”
His most recent video has a similarly eye-catching title. In “1,000 Blind People See For the First Time,” uploaded on Jan. 29, he documents the surgeries (and their emotional aftermath) of many people for whom he paid for a “10-minute surgery” to help them recover their vision. While most viewers hailed MrBeast a hero for providing these people the opportunity to get a surgery they couldn’t otherwise afford, others criticized the creator for using his good deeds as “content.”
MrBeast, born Jimmy Donaldson, is one of the most—and by many metrics the most—successful YouTubers in the platform’s history. He is the most subscribed individual and has the fourth-most subscribed channel of all time; his videos garner tens of millions of views within hours of being posted; and all of this is both fueled by and further fuels his rabid fanbase, numerous sponsors, and business ventures. In his newest video, which already has over 47 million views, he not only documents helping 1,000 people see again but is also recorded giving $10,000 to a few of them, $50,000 for college to a high school senior, and a Tesla to a young man whose blindness had prevented him from being able to drive.
Within hours, the video was met with the usual excitement and admiration in the comments section and on Twitter. “Dang, as a person with total blindness in one eye, this made me tear up, this is the most moving act of charity I’ve ever seen,” one person commented. Another tweeted, “People can hate on the high price of health care (I do more than anyone), but what MrBeast did here was astounding, powerful, and should only be respected.”
People can hate on the high price of health care (I do more than anyone), but what MrBeast did here was astounding, powerful, and should only be respected.
— CapCorgi (@CapCorgiTTV) January 30, 2023
Others took issue with the video, especially around the issues it raises regarding health care. Many people pointed out that the surgeries MrBeast is paying for out of his own pockets is what universal healthcare looks like. Some commented that the video further highlights the disparity between those who can afford healthcare in the U.S., and those who can’t. One Twitter user joked, “In one of the timelines, this tweet will be the beginning of MrBeast becoming president and finally bringing universal healthcare to the USA.”
A tweet he uploaded this morning, the day after he published his video, was met with both earnest calls for “MisterBeast for president” and opinions about the power of the pharmaceutical lobby. “I don’t understand why curable blindness is a thing,” he wrote. “Why don’t governments step in and help? Even if you’re thinking purely from a financial standpoint, it’s hard to see how they don’t [return of investment] on taxes from people being able to work again.”
I don’t understand why curable blindness is a thing. Why don’t governments step in and help? Even if you’re thinking purely from a financial standpoint it’s hard to see how they don’t roi on taxes from people being able to work again.
— MrBeast (@MrBeast) January 30, 2023
Others found the stunt inauthentic in its use of charity for views. “There is something so demonic about this and I can’t even articulate what it is,” one tweet reads. One of the replies to this tweet calls the video “charity porn.”
There is something so demonic about this and I can’t even articulate what it is pic.twitter.com/OSpgaUxnQK
— Lolo (@LolOverruled) January 29, 2023
A Twitter user with the handle @wapplehouse summarized a common criticism of MrBeast. “It’s the never-ending cycle of content creation that makes MrBeast feel insidious. The underlying notion that if the camera wasn’t on to feed the machine, nothing would happen. The dystopian thought we’re reliant on YouTube views instead of competent government for assistance.”
It’s the never ending cycle of content creation that makes Mr Beast feel insidious. The underlying notion that if the camera wasn’t on to feed the machine nothing would happen. The dystopian thought we’re reliant on YouTube views instead of competent government for assistance.
— Kristi YamaGuccimane (@wapplehouse) January 30, 2023
This is not the first time MrBeast’s intentions have been questioned. During the height of popularity for the Netflix series Squid Game, the creator gathered 456 people—a significant number from the show—to compete in a real-life Squid Game. Viewers quickly pointed out that the stunt completely missed the point of the series, which many read as a treatise against capitalism, or at the very least a critique of finding entertainment value in low-earning individuals competing for large sums of money.
Criticism notwithstanding, MrBeast, for now, is seemingly untouchable. His content-ification of good deeds continues to prove its worth in views—it’s up to his critics to decide whether or not to add to their numbers.