Mr. Beast, a YouTuber known for his extravagant gifts and philanthropic stunts, paid for 1,000 surgeries to treat “curable blindness” in his most recent video. Though many viewers praised him, the stunt drew mixed reactions on social media.
Some critics questioned whether Mr. Beast’s acts of kindness are just for the views. Others wondered why the surgery is so inaccessible, using Mr. Beast’s video as a catalyst to discuss health care in the U.S.
Mr. Beast — whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson — did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In his video posted Sunday, Donaldson said that many people who have cataracts could be “cured” with a 10-minute surgery. Cataracts, which can obscure vision by clouding the lens of a person’s eye, are one of the leading causes of vision impairment and blindness, according to the World Health Organization.
“We have all the technology to fix it,” Mr. Beast said, by replacing the clouded natural lens with a clear artificial one.
“Unfortunately, nearly half the population with curable blindness doesn’t have access to this surgery,” he said. So I wanted to provide this to as many people as possible.”
The creator’s video is the latest in a string of extravagant — and widely criticized — stunts.
In 2021, he hosted a “real-life Squid Game,” inspired by the South Korean Netflix drama, that followed impoverished participants as they competed in life-or-death “games” for a chance to win a fortune. Winners of Mr. Beast’s competition contended in nonfatal challenges in hopes of winning $456,000. Though his video received hundreds of millions of views, many criticized it for missing the point of the show, which was a critique of the wealth disparity in Korea.
Donaldson is also known for his charitable videos. His second channel, Beast Philanthropy, donates all of its revenue to various charitable causes.
His latest video, however, has prompted some online to accuse him of being “charitable for views.”
“There’s a realization that we’ve moved to the native advertising model of charity,” a Twitter user wrote. “We can never again untangle acts of kindness from brand building.”
“It’s the never ending cycle of content creation that makes Mr. Beast feel insidious,” they Twitter user in a separate tweet. “The underlying notion that if the camera wasn’t on to feed the machine nothing would happen. The dystopian thought that we’re reliant on YouTube views instead of competent government for assistance.”
Others online did not criticize Donaldson directly, but expressed frustration over the fact that the video even exists.
Twitch streamer and political pundit Hasan Piker called it a “deeply, deeply frustrating concept” in a recent stream.
“I watched the video and I’m filled with rage, that we shut off access to a 10-minute procedure because we paywalled it and decided that some people just simply can’t get it,” Piker said. “It is so insanely frustrating that it’s up to, like, one YouTube guy to decide to make content out of it, that people who are too poor just can’t … see.”
Artist Brandon Bird tweeted that he believes that in a “healthy society,” such a stunt would not need to exist.
“People would simply get surgery when they needed it,” he wrote, “neither misfortune nor acts of kindness would be paraded for views, and (something I think is being under-remarked upon) you wouldn’t need to be megarich to do something good.”