YouTube has taken over as the de facto form of time-wasting entertainment, with Jimmy Donaldson sitting atop the throne as the undisputed king of content. Known by most by his internet moniker MrBeast, the 25-year-old has become a household name, especially for anyone with a middle schooler around, with his large-scale, highly-produced videos that are translated into over a dozen languages.
Significant percentages of the world’s population flock to watch him donate millions to charity or throw a train into a giant pit, all in the pursuit of making an entertaining video. Donaldson also uses his leverage (and ability to get millions of views a month) to experience the finest things in life, like renting out an entire cruise ship for his fans or splurging on a $500,000 private plane seat.
But for some reason, the creator with his own line of chocolate bars at 7-Eleven still likes to torture himself and his friends for content. He’s survived Antarctica, the desert, prison, being encased in ice, and now adrift at sea. In his latest video, “7 Days Stranded At Sea,” Donaldson and three of his content cohorts strand themselves on a raft adrift at sea for a whole week. They build their own shelter out of pre-notched wood, get stung by jellyfish, survive a torrential downpour, and subsist on canned chili with a side of Feastables chocolate. And it’s clear that this painful content resonates.
“For whatever reason, the more I suffer the more you guys watch,” Donaldson said in the video. “Some of my most popular videos are when I buried myself alive and spent time in solitary confinement. So I hope you are happy, I’m suffering again.”
This latest video pulled in 46 million views on the first day of the upload, breaking the world record for the most views on a video (excluding music videos) in 24 hours. Out of the dozens of videos on his channel, Donaldson’s third and fourth most popular videos are still of him getting buried alive and surviving solitary confinement.
“I don’t ever want to hear I only get views because I give away money,” Donaldson wrote on X. “We broke the world record with me and my friends suffering and cracking jokes.”
There’s something so oddly personal about watching Donaldson suffer. The man has become an icon of the video streaming platform and has earned millions of dollars, making him a bit hard to relate to. Seeing him suffer allows him to resonate with the common man and seem less lofty than he already is. I’m never going to be on a yacht with a helicopter pad, but I can see myself eating canned chili in a rainstorm.
Donaldson has also faced his fair share of controversies and allegations. In 2021, 11 people told the New York Times that his “demeanor changed when the cameras weren’t around” and “they described a difficult work environment.” Two former editors have also come forward: Nate Anderson claimed in a video that the YouTuber was a perfectionist and that he made unreasonable demands and Matt Turner claimed in a now-deleted post on X that MrBeast “yelled at” him, “bullied” him, and called him a slur for mentally handicapped people.
On top of that, Donaldson is also being counter-sued for $100 million by the company that ran his Beast Burger ghost kitchens after he filed his own lawsuit against the company last month. Though that controversy captures headlines, it does little to affect the views on any of his videos. And even if you were to criticize Donaldson on some of these less-than-salacious topics, his fan base would swarm on you like a plague of parasocial locusts (I know from personal experience). To them, he’s the guy who gives millions to charity and suffers for content and nothing more.
That personal connection is what makes a celebrity successful. Nobody wants to stan a villain, so watching these successful capitalists act like the rest of us allows them to come off as empathetic. To some, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the antihero who forced the DC movies to reboot after acting like a primadonna with his involvement in “Black Adam.” But in the world of MrBeast, the YouTuber donated $100,000 to charity after playing the Rock in a game of rock, paper, scissors at the premiere. Having that shield of normalcy and relatability allows you to protect your image and grow your brand.
Donaldson is a view-focused creator and will continue to give his fans the content they crave. Even if he has to get sleep-deprived, covered in seawater, and miserable for it.