Photo by: Charlie Martin
MrBeast curing 1,000 blind people and putting a spotlight on the issue of global blindness is far better than no one being cured—on top of bad systems staying in place and in the dark.
Jimmy Donaldson, better known as “MrBeast,” is known for his outrageously expensive and large-scale video concepts and execution. His YouTube catalogue, which includes videos such as “Hydraulic Press Vs Lamborghini,” “I Ate $100,000 Golden Ice Cream” and “I Spent 50 Hours Buried Alive” have amassed Donaldson a whopping 131 million subscribers on his main channel alone.
These types of videos, which are produced purely to entertain Donaldson’s viewers and draw in new ones, are not the only thing that he is known for. Donaldson has attained a massive portion of his success thanks to his philanthropic stunts. In these videos, he gives those who are selected to appear opportunities to win massive cash prizes, large diamonds worth $38,000, Lamborghinis and even private islands.
Another channel run by Donaldson, Beast Philanthropy, is dedicated purely to his goal of helping those in need. While the videos on this channel are not nearly as high production as many of the elaborate concepts created for his main channel, it has attained 11.7 million subscribers of its own.
MrBeast’s philanthropic work has undoubtedly spawned a major portion of his viewership.
Unlike other individuals of immense wealth, Donaldson pours his earnings back into his work, much of which is given away to participants. “I’ll use my money to help people and I promise to give away all my money before I die,” said Donaldson in a tweet on Jan. 30.
While he is not obligated to follow through on this claim, Donaldson’s actions prove that he takes this idea seriously. In an interview with Colin and Samir, Donaldson revealed that his videos have forced him to take out loans in order to continue, and when a video performs well, he uses the money it makes to make the next one even bigger.
For Donaldson, it’s not just his wealth that makes him famous—it’s how he uses it.
On Jan. 28, MrBeast uploaded a video that performed especially well: 1,000 Blind People See For The First Time. In the video, Donaldson pays for the eye surgeries of 1,000 individuals who have lost their vision so that they can once again see the world clearly.
Donaldson made sure to extend the reach of the project beyond the United States by paying for the surgeries of blind individuals in other countries in which this type of medical operation is usually inaccessible. The video highlights the support provided by the MrBeast team to people in Namibia, Mexico, Honduras, Indonesia, Brazil, Vietnam, Kenya and Jamaica.
Jeff Levenson, the ophthalmologist and surgeon who worked alongside the MrBeast team to create the video, revealed to CNN that they began by calling homeless shelters and free clinics to produce a list of patients who required the surgery but could not afford it. Levenson also got the MrBeast team into contact with SEE International, for which he is the chief medical officer. This additional outreach helped Donaldson to find and support more blind individuals, and the 1,000 surgeries were done in about three weeks.
“I just haven’t been me for the last 62 years,” said one man in the MrBeast video shortly after his surgery. “I can actually see your face,” he then said to Donaldson.
Another man was brought to tears when Donaldson surprised him with the presence of his son immediately after his surgery, honouring the man’s request that the first thing he would like to see upon his vision returning was his child.
The video is certainly one of Donaldson’s most touching—well, at least, MrBeast fans certainly seem to think so.
“This man is what keeps me believing that we are all capable of great things. This man is genuinely a kind person,” Karim Hussain commented.
“I usually don’t comment, but this man is literally the definition of kindness. I admire you [so] much. I’m crying,” read a comment from fdciabdul.
For further evidence, simply visit the video’s comment section, which currently stands at well over 250,000 comments.
To assume this would be the response of the average viewer would be logical. After all, Donaldson is using his wealth to restore vision to 1,000 people, giving them a new sense for the world. One individual whose vision was restored had never been able to drive a vehicle, so Donaldson made sure to surprise him with a Tesla after his surgery.
But it’s not all perfect for MrBeast. Donaldson has learned, especially in recent years, that fame comes with certain individuals who will attempt to burn his media empire down.
A major starting point for the backlash occurred when Twitch streamer HasanAbi (real name Hasan Piker) made a point during a stream that it is unacceptable that it should be up to one wealthy individual to provide surgeries for the blind. Instead, he argues, everyone should have access to these medical procedures.
I completely agree.
Such a surgery should be completely accessible to anyone who requires it. As Hasanabi states, it is entirely unjust that there is a “paywall” placed over life-changing procedures. To deny that this is an issue would be to place money above the betterment of human life.
Where this critique takes a dark turn, however, is when hate began forming towards Donaldson himself.
Before long, to the surprise of absolutely no one, certain Internet users-–largely stemming from Twitter—started voicing their disdain towards the video.
“Rich people are so funny [because] they already have all the money but they think they’re also entitled to have everyone love them,” wrote one user.
“LOL and here, we have a possible example of a communal narcissist,” wrote another, in reference to Donaldson.
Others began referring to the latest video from MrBeast as “charity porn,” referencing the idea that content creators like MrBeast only stay relevant because the work they do for others is deeply satisfying to watch.
“It’s the never ending cycle of content creation that makes [MrBeast] feel insidious,” wrote a fourth user. “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 [a] competent government for assistance.”
“The rich are inherently bad, doesn’t matter what you do [or] what you do with it,” wrote a fifth.
Certain users went so far as to call the video’s concept “demonic.”
A major point of contention is that MrBeast should have simply completed this act without filming or uploading it, and that he is “using” disabled individuals as a result. What these critics fail to recognize is that MrBeast must profit off of viewership in order to gain the funds to help even more people in future projects.
As previously stated, Donaldson reinvests virtually every dollar earned from a video into making future ones even better. If he were to do major, expensive acts of kindness without monetizing the process, then his cycle of revenue, much of which is used to support more people in need, would be cut off.
In other words, while it would certainly be noble for Donaldson to pay for 1,000 surgeries without global viewership, it means that he would not be able to help as many people in the future. If having cameras roll is the price to pay in order to provide help to tens of thousands of people, so be it. I would rather these people get the support that they need with cameras on, than not get the support at all.
It is worthwhile to mention that Donaldson is not filming anyone who isn’t aware they are being recorded. Every person featured in the video is aware that they are participating in a video project, but to them, I bet regaining their eyesight is a worthwhile trade-off—the pure ecstasy that many of them emit in the video certainly gives this impression.
Another point that critics should take notice of is the conversation that this type of video creates. Donaldson’s project has undeniably spread awareness about the massive global blind population. Inadvertently, he is also raising awareness about problems with capitalism, as the claims that we should not have to have this kind of video exist are legitimate.
“Why would anybody criticise this work and raising awareness of it through film and social media channels?” questioned Andrew Hodgson, president of the National Federation of the Blind of the UK in a remark to BBC Newsbeat. “Anything that puts a spotlight on such treatable eye conditions like cataracts and provides funding for people to undergo surgery to restore their sight should be welcomed.”
Even Donaldson himself recognizes the absurdity of the situation. “I don’t understand why curable blindness is a thing,” he wrote in a tweet on Jan. 30. “Why don’t governments step in and help?”
But Donaldson is not to be blamed for the existence of this flawed system. He did not create it, nor does he even support it as a concept—he is simply making use of it through his wealth to help others because it is the only system available. If the choice is between Donaldson taking advantage of an unethical system to help 1,000 people (through his own strategy of reinvesting what he makes into helping others), or simply not helping people at all, then I would certainly advocate for the former. It doesn’t mean I think this “paywall” is good, it just means I support MrBeast in his mission to help as many people as possible.
It’s going to take a lot more than one MrBeast video for this flawed system to get a much-needed revamp, but one thing’s for sure: had Donaldson not created the video, something that wouldn’t have changed are the lives of the 1,000 people that would continue to be blind.