Almost every child over the age of 7 or 8 knows Mr Beast, the most popular youtuber in the world. The character’s generosity has an undeniable attraction for 10-year-old Paul: “He’s funny, spends a lot of money and hands out iPhones in the street. Nassim, 6: “He is rich and gives people cars. Such extravagant prodigality has the advantage of leaving a strong impression on our little ones, even as we go through a crisis in the cost of living. Who is really hiding behind this new tutelary figure and what does she teach Quebec youth?

Jimmy Donaldson, aka Mr Beast, uploaded his first video at age 13. The now 25-year-old American has amassed over 165 million subscribers on his main YouTube channel. Unlike other internet celebrities who profit from showcasing an opulent lifestyle, Donaldson embodies a certain simplicity. He evokes the good guy without history, the kind to laugh with his friends around a pizza and a video game console. Its wealth is more often explained by donations than by ostentatious purchases.

Some of its largesse seems random, like this private island offered to its 100,000,000th subscriber, while others, more structured, are organized around Squid Game-style competitions. A father, for example, tried to survive 100 days in a red circle drawn in the middle of nowhere for a nest egg of US$500,000.

Donaldson himself takes on challenges regularly and posts a summary of his accomplishments on his homepage, such as donating over a hundred PlayStation consoles, donating millions to charities, and reading the dictionary in entire.

We can rejoice that a celebrity with such an inoffensive modus operandi becomes the darling of young people. After all, Mr Beast’s videos never veer into violence, vulgarity, or hate. The YouTuber only shares his assets by distributing goods or wads of greenbacks, thus expressing a rather uninhibited relationship with money. When he’s not offering his pizza delivery man a house, he leaves his waitress a tip in gold bars. The love for him can also pay off, since Donaldson regularly distributes gifts to his subscribers.

At the heart of this philanthropy of the spectacle, it is the emotional reactions of its recipients that we consume. Because despite Mr Beast’s flippancy about money, his videos “put on a good show” in part because they’re grounded in the inequalities that structure our world. Receiving a wad of cash can bring us to tears precisely because the need for money, or even the lack thereof, shapes our lives. From these brutal economic reports spring Donaldson’s finest videographic moments, such as this heartbreaking scene where two women play rock-paper-scissors while crying their hearts out, taking turns apologizing for the money they may be making. be lose to another.

Of course, Mr Beast never addresses the structural inequalities that make such spectacles possible, not even when he restores sight to 1,000 people and is told by the accompanying surgeon that half of the world’s blind people could sight with a simple 10-minute surgery. Access to health care is not the subject of his video, rather his munificence and the euphoria of those who benefit from it.

Mr. Beast’s success is also due to his expertise: he spent his teenage years studying YouTube in order to be able to identify the principles of a winning video. Result ? The content he produces is perfectly in tune with the platform and its attention economy: his thumbnails are effective, his editing paced and his suspense-filled videos are professionally dubbed into 14 languages, including French, Arabic, Spanish, Hindi and Russian. As Max Read in The New York Times points out: “[Since] on YouTube, audience size is directly related to revenue, Donaldson advertises subscription to his channel as an act of charity. One of the youtubeur’s strokes of genius therefore consists in convincing his fans that they actively participate in his philanthropic enterprise, because the money generated by his views would be reinvested in the production of other videos.

By ignoring the inequalities that arise from the economic system that contributes to his wealth, Mr. Beast teaches us above all to relate to the world through money. Kindness would be a matter of cash. Similarly, being cool and kind would depend on one’s ability to give or spend large sums. Money also dictates its relationship to the environment, which is bought more than it is protected.

Should we stop watching his videos? Not necessarily. They could be the starting point for a family discussion about money and inequality. By contextualizing the philanthropy of the youtubeur, we are forced to reflect on what causes poverty and on our ways of fighting against it.