SAG Bears the Mark of the (Mr)Beast

CREATOR NEWSLETTER


It’s not been a great week to be the world’s most popular YouTuber, Jimmy Donaldson, aka MrBeast aka probably not the antichrist, who may or may not also be a scab? 

I mean sure, I MAY be inclined to think the worst on hearing that there are devoted acolytes all over the world so obsessed with an internet celebrity who rose to fame with a channel called MrBeast6000 that they’d buy any product stamped with his mark and pour over his videos with religious zeal in the hopes of deciphering secret messages. An incredibly wealthy young man known for hobnobbing with society’s elite but still makes time to tend to its lepers. All while still finding time to perform false miracles like giving eyesight to the blind, feeding the hungry with ($10 million dollars of your private data’s worth of) Feastables, tending to the Tesla influencers, and turning a one-dollar yacht into a ONE BILLION DOLLAR YACHT (FT. TOM BRADY).

It’s weird Q-Anon has not clocked this guy yet, right? The truth is out there

But whatever lucky (morning)star MrBeast was born under may have just flared out: Despite (or because) of a net worth estimated at over half a billion dollars and 287 million subscribers and counting, Donaldson has become the Internet’s main character.

“Wake up honey, a new MrBeast referral scam just dropped,” was the takeaway from Monday’s “Rolling Stone” expose on the recent round of fraudsters impersonating the Beast’s signature giveaways to gain access to victims’ bank accounts; Later that day came the news that the YouTube star was shutting down his ghost kitchens with VDC for selling “inedible” MrBeast hamburgers in over 300 locations across the world. This is not to say that he wasn’t aware of the problem back when he inked the deal with VDC in 2020, after tweets went viral showing raw foodstuff bearing his name. Or after it happened again in 2021. But when you’ve sold over a million burgers in the first three months, maybe it’s not a big deal that some of your chicken sandwiches were ripe breeding grounds for salmonella.

Tuesday, rumors began circulating that Guinness World Records’ now-suspended crackdown on their “World’s ___” trademark was behind the recent change-up of Donaldson’s oft-imitated thumbnails

You’d think all this flack would be enough reason to lie low for a bit while enjoying the $3 million a month he makes on YouTube ads alone. (MrBeast holds the Guinness-approved title of highest-paid YouTuber, earning a record $54 million dollars in 2021 alone.) But no…as they would never say at a MrBeast burger joint…let him cook.


THE COMMENTS SECTION


While most of SAG ire this week has been dedicated to “Arrow” star(?) Stephen Amell’s comments about not supporting the strike—and his subsequent attempts to double-down on the statements harder than a casino app settling a $415 million class action lawsuit—MrBeast had entered the chat. Having landed a breakout role as “Times Square Guy” in the new “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem,” MrBeast promoted the film on his Instagram, with a #sponsoredbyParamount hashtag. Which is…ugh, do I even want to get into it? I guess so.

People called out MrBeast for scabbing, and he responded with a tweet saying: “False, this is a contract I signed pre strike and was legally obligated to promote. This falls under the exceptions they have outlined.” 

Now: DOES IT? Because of the nebulous gray area between actor and influencer MrBeast currently occupies, it’s unclear if the outline he’s referring to actually applies to his unique situation. Since he’s not only in the movie but DEFINITELY in the movie, Donaldson is eligible for SAG membership. He’s not in the union, necessarily. But should he want to continue appearing in Hollywood productions, he will need to join SAG as an actor.

But Donaldson is arguing that he’s bound by SAG’s Influencer Agreement, which is a separate part of the union. In the FAQ for Influencers, SAG states: “If an influencer is already under contract to promote struck work, then the influencer should fulfill their work obligation.”

Now, blegh, here’s what makes this just the worst story to try to unpack: that #Sponsoredbyparamount tag. You’ll never see an actor promote their own project with a sponsorship post: Those are reserved exclusively for influencers, of which MrBeast is arguably one of the biggest in the biz.

So: Is he a scab or not? Part of me wants to say, “No, and all you little snitches out there trying to force solidarity by shaming non-union creators into not doing their job for fear of online harassment or future SAG eligibility should mind your own damn business rather than interpreting a union’s vaguely-termed edicts.”

But another part of me thinks this is EXACTLY why SAG is having such a hard time parsing its own language around influencers. Because MrBeast got paid to be in the movie, and then he got paid a separate amount by the studio to do a sponsored post about it. Those are two wholly distinct deals; Actors like Margot Robbie and Cillian Murphy inked their Barbenheimer contracts before the strike, but they’re not doing press for it because that’s crossing the picket line.

But MrBeast gets to be in “Mutant Mayhem” and claims he’s allowed to take money to promote it. It’s saying your status as one privileged group (SAG Influencer) negates your status in another type of privileged group (union-eligible actors) instead of compounding it.

If MrBeast wants to have his raw cake and eat it too, fine, but don’t expect me to be cowabunga’d by your show of solidarity in the form of another super problematic tax write-off.

Drew GrantManaging Editor


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