Nicole Arbour is at it again with another video entitled “Dear Black People”. Now, I’m sure you can manage to find this video and I’m sure that me stating the name of the video in this piece will seem a bit ironic, but hear me out:
As a YouTuber who occupies the niche that I occupy, people are always very eager to see me “drag” fellow youtubers and say all of the things that they want to say. I have a platform and I absolutely do believe that i should use it to call out problematic content. In fact, I want to make it clear that I am not against the idea of calling out problematic content and you will, for sure, see me do it quite a bit on my channel. However, I’ve already been there and done that and there are a lot of things that I’ve learned in the process of calling out other YouTubers.
One of my biggest and perhaps most emotional call out was when I called out Arielle Scarcella for her transphobic content. The setting off point was when she uploaded a video called “Butch Les or Trans man” that was essentially inviting her audience (mostly cis) to determine whether or not the people she showed were Trans Men or Butch lesbian. The general point here being a good one, that gender expression and gender identity are not the same things and should not be conflated. However, the way it was presented was quite poor and potentially triggering to trans men who are often mistaken and invalidated as butch lesbian women. Now, while I am not trans masculine, again, I have a platform and decided to take her on. So what I did was I wrote, filmed, and edited two very polite videos explaining to her how she mishandles transgender topics. I took my time and I made sure to be through because I looked at her channel and thought that it had such a capacity to do something good. She seemed receptive, we spoke outside of YouTube and she at least pretended that she was interested in creating better, more inclusive content. Even going as far as to send me a video she finished filming with a trans man as to say “hey look, i’ve done better!”. For a moment I had hope. I was really thinking that I got through to her and that she would user her platform, which is far larger than mine to do some good work….then she uploaded a video entitled “Would you date a lesbian with a penis”… The topic, of course, being trans women who are lesbians (a very large percent of trans women). I was honestly baffled that after all of our conversations and all of the work that we did she still would create a video like that with that title and that topic. I was frustrated because discussions about transgender women who are lesbians should absolutely be on a lesbicentric website, but of course, as she always does, she relied on shock titles. Several trans antagonistic social media posts later, I had lost it. I felt an extreme emotional sense of distraught knowing that I had a conversation with this person, they acknowledged what they did was wrong and then continued to do it anyways. And they’re still going.
I learned a lot about this situation. I learned that, at the end of the day, YouTube is a business. At that time in my YouTube career, I don’t think I really saw that. I mean, sure I was earning income from youtube, but I certainly hadn’t earned enough to write home about. I would make a hundred bucks if I were lucky in a month. It wasn’t really something I took seriously, but the videos I made directed towards her were the foundation for the format of my current videos. Ultimately, Arielle continued to exploit the transgender community and one of the last things she said to me was this vague threat that I was to work with her or else. After all that, she wanted me to work with her. Arielle was fascinating to me. She’s, presumably, part of the LGBT community and like many of the more normative members of the “community”, she has this thing about people who criticize her just being “too sensitive” and will often discuss how people are just “too PC”. She has this mindset that people need to just shut up and get over it and grow a backbone because of course that’s what she’s had to do as a feminine cis white lesbian. It’s so easy to hold that position when you’re part of a majority group. Ultimately what I learned is that it’s easier and more financially beneficial for her to create content that exploits the trans community and frames them as freaks,than it is to create honest, frank, educational content about these issues.
But do you know what? That’s smart and there’s a method to this madness.
When you look at her content and you look at the titles of the videos and the thumbnails, everything, you WANT to click on it. You want to click on something like “How to Cure Anxiety” or “Twat Smack” or something generically titled like “Lesbian Lap Dance”. This is the way the game is played and it’s really quite simple and obvious. While a title like “from cis gay man to trans lesbian” is offensive and wrong and some could argue, oppressive, it still gets you curious and you still want to click on it. And what do those clicks mean? More money and higher google adsense earnings.
Now, these methods are really something that works on a casual viewer. I discovered that while a lot of my videos are viewed by subscribers, most people who watch my content are actually not subscribed at all to my channel. So it’s in a Youtuber’s best interest to create content like this where the subject matter is risqué or bizarre. That’s going to get the most clicks, the most likes, the most shares and the most viewer retention. So it doesn’t really even matter if the content itself is lacking, people still click and give it a chance and will often share it. One thing that shocked me a bit about the few Arielle Scarcella videos I’ve bothered myself to watch is this sense that they’re so close to being really great and informative videos, but they almost always leave me feeling like I ate a bunch of empty calories. I’m full, but I’m not nourished. Part of me reaching out to her was to say she can educate while still having these relatively short videos… but realistically her views are more important to her than her actual content. To be fair, however, unlike a lot of the people I criticize on YouTube, I know Arielle does put a degree of time and organization into her videos. So it isn’t like she isn’t trying to do something, I just don’t think – at least when it comes to trans stuff, that she’s really doing something that we need or want. I think her channel is great for some things, but I could do without the shock titles about trans folk.
So, back to Nicole Arbour. I see right through it. I’ve yet to watch Dear Fat People and unless I’m watching a video that somehow plays clips of Dear Black People, I won’t be watching that either. Why? Because I know exactly what it is. I know this is a situation where someone with a platform is occupying a mindset that is common among certain people, latching onto it and using it as her position. Yelling at fat people is what we already do in society. Pretending that we just all want fat people to lose weight and be happy is just a reflection of how fat people are viewed in society. She takes the mindset of the majority and amplifies it in a way that i’m sure she hardly believes in but is convincing in pretending that she does and people eat it up. I haven’t seen the Dear Black People video but I can almost tell you what it’s about exactly. It’s your typical, white, conservative rambling that establishes its grounds on “well hey, I’m really cool with black people” and “i’ve got a ton of black friends who love and support me” or “I really love black culture” and after phony compliment after phony compliment it ends with “but you people need to stop complaining and join us in the real world” and the coons rejoice and white people high five each other because “Finally someone’s said it”! Why anyone would think a white woman could possibly comment on the black American experience is baffling to me. But even more baffling to me is how much space people give her.
I was on a panel for Google a few months ago in Charleston with other black creators. Something said on that panel sticks in my head to this day and it’s haunted and illuminated me so much. Quinta from Buzzfeed was discussing the tragedy that was Daisha getting her skin white washed by a white makeup artist. Now, Quinta knew it was foolish as did every black woman in the room. But do you know what she said about Buzzfeed? That at least people were talking. That ultimately that is the final conclusion and goal of Buzzfeed. To get people to talk. And HONESTLY? As a content creator… I not only understand that but I think it’s smart. When we think about stories, what stories are more interesting? Stories where everything is happy and there are no conflict, or stories about dysfunction, journeys and over coming adversity? Ultimately the controversy keeps us talking. Ultimately the bad the comes out of a piece of content still has positive returns. While sure, there are aspects of Nicole Arbour’s life that are altered because of what many see as negative videos, she now has everyone, including me talking about her and I didn’t even know who she was until this. What I need people to understand is that this is the end conclusion and goal to these types of videos. You click, you watch, they get paid, they get promoted and it works. Raven Symone may say some terrible things on The View, but more people are turning in to see her say those terrible things. The companies still get paid and it’s in their best interest to keep them on. NBC isn’t getting rid of Raven any time soon for that reason. There is more of a good financial reason to keep her. The same can be said for so many situations.
At the end of the day, I want for everyone to be more aware of this and realize that you reacting and sharing the videos with your long drawn out criticisms of it… are a waste of time. These people are not ignorant. They are educated and they know what they’re doing not only on a very shallow and easy money level, but also on the level of utilizing social media to it’s largest potential. These people are strategists, trust me and it’s working for them. Rarely do they believe everything they say, but they’re willing to put themselves in a bit of an uncomfortable situation because, well, it pays.
Start being critical of the media that you digest. If you know it’s created to hurt you, do not consume it. Do not swallow it. Spit it out and digest something that is created to uplift and enrich you. I do not believe in ignoring or over looking your challenges, but understand that tapping into the text book hatred of the majority group is not something done to have real conversations about what’s at hand. Don’t waste your time trying to explain your humanity to someone who knows better, but doesn’t care.
I made a video about this on my channel. Check it out.