YouTuber Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson has sparked an interesting bit of discourse online because of his latest video. Maybe this is the fate of a content creator when they become, as in MrBeast’s case, the “King of YouTube.” However, the ire that the feel-good creator has drawn out is, while accurate in critique, completely misguided in the direction.
With some 131 million subscribers on Google’s video-sharing platform—and millions more across TikTok and Twitter—MrBeast has become the new “King of YouTube” as of November 2022, surpassing even the astronomical subscriber numbers once held by creator Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg. Spend enough time on the site and, regardless of whether the algorithm has your number or not, it’s possible a MrBeast video will appear on your Home page. And even if it doesn’t, his videos garner millions of views, showing up in the Trending pages across categories such as the “Now” and “Gaming” sections. And with that many eyes comes nearly as many comments and thoughts.
This is exactly what happened with MrBeast’s latest video. Uploaded on January 28, the video, titled “1,000 Blind People See For The First Time,” has already racked up more than 62 million views. It’s third on YouTube’s Trending page at the time of this writing—and for good reason! Re-read that title. The dude helped people get their vision back. “In this video, we’re curing 1,000 people’s blindness,” MrBeast says at the start of the exactly eight-minute-long video. “It’s gonna be crazy.”
Crazy was right! As MrBeast and an unnamed surgeon in the video explained, the folks chosen for the “10-minute surgery” seem to have a form of cataracts, which is a clouding of the normally clear eye lens. Regardless of age, the protein in the eyes can break down and clump together, creating that blurriness some people experience. By using a “tiny vacuum to suck up the clouded lens and replace it with an artificial one,” known as an intraocular lens, folks are able to see again. And MrBeast’s video makes it a point to illustrate just how life-changing this “simple surgery” is. He gifts people $10,000 as they roll on the ground and, in some cases, cry through clearer, saltier eyes. I mean, MrBeast gave one patient a Tesla and another $50,000 towards college after the successful procedure. Hell, MrBeast even took the surgical operation abroad, helping blind folks in Brazil, Honduras, and Mexico because “nearly half of the population with curable blindness doesn’t have access to this surgery.” To say it’s heartwarming is an understatement.
While many folks online applaud what MrBeast has done with this particular video, myself included, not everyone is happy with his philanthropy. The main crux of the criticism is he’s exploiting disabled folks for clout and, ultimately, revenue. Because he’s doing charity work, folks say that MrBeast shouldn’t try to capitalize on that work by creating content that generates more eyeballs on him. He should be doing this in secret, the consensus goes, not blasting it everywhere.
But that completely misses the point. As some have pointed out online, including streamer Hasan “Hasanabi” Piker, the real issue isn’t MrBeast’s philanthropy but rather the pay-walled access to a simple surgery that could have healthy, long-lasting, positive effects on an individual’s eyesight. Consider that, according to the nonprofit organization MyVision.org, the average cost of cataract surgery in the U.S. is anywhere between $3,500 and $7,000 per eye. That’s not including any sort of insurance benefits, which, as someone with the often-uninsured eye condition called keratoconus, I know means folks could be saddled with a hospital bill in the tens of thousands of dollars. If anything, MrBeast’s tear-jerking video is an indictment of our failing, ultra-capitalist healthcare system. The fault shouldn’t be with MrBeast. It should be with Big Pharma.
MrBeast is aware of that, asking on Twitter why don’t “governments step in and help.” He seems to have internalized some of the criticism, though, tweeting that folks on the Bird App are mad because he’s helping others with his money, something he acknowledges people expect from the wealthy. He even polled his followers about voting for him if he ran for president, with nearly 70 percent saying “Yes.” Clearly, people enjoy what MrBeast does with the money he makes from YouTube.
Kotaku reached out to MrBeast for comment.
Further, recording his philanthropic works and sharing them on YouTube where they can rack up millions of views likely funds MrBeast’s charitable actions. While relying on the wealth of a single person is nowhere near ideal, it’s a temporary bandaid on a fundamental problem with wealth distribution as our publicly funded institutions, such as libraries and schools, are extremely underserved and grossly underfunded thanks to government inaction and pathetic legislation. It’s extremely frustrating, especially since there are ways the broken system could be fixed to benefit more people than it does currently.
At the end of the day, though, the real issue here is capitalism. Because everything’s for profit, there’s no way for anyone to do anything when money’s on the line. Even if MrBeast were to become the president in some alternate reality, until we uncouple our society from the ills of capitalism, until we learn to do things simply because it’s the right thing to do and not because it’ll generate views and revenue, nothing will change. MrBeast isn’t infallible, and criticizing either him or his philanthropic efforts is totally fine. But we should just make sure we’re criticizing the right thing, and in this instance, what deserves ire is our dumb, privatized, for-profit healthcare system.