“Dear Fat People” – What Would You Do to Go Viral?

How cool would it be to go viral? How cool would it be to turn into a temporary mini celebrity and then all of a sudden get invited onto The Ellen Show? Whether it’s a little kid singing Bruno Mars, a girl accidentally burning her hair off while doing a curling iron tutorial, or Alex from Target, something can blow up overnight and the next thing you know, your video’s got 1 million views on YouTube.

Now, the 3 cases I presented above are all pretty funny or cute and it simply makes you smile. However, what about on the other end of the spectrum – when you go viral for outrageous and offensive reasons?

I mentioned in class that a YouTube personality, Nicole Arbour, has recently uploaded a video entitled “Dear Fat People.” I’ll provide you with some of the things she said in her video in case you don’t have time to watch the video or just can’t stand to watch it.

  • “Fat shaming is not a thing; fat people made that up. That’s a race card with no race. ‘Ya but I couldn’t fit into a store, that’s discrimination.’ Uh, no, that means you’re too fat, you should stop eating.”
  • “If we offend you so much that you lose weight, I’m ok with that. You are killing yourself. Yup, I’ll sleep at night.”
  • “Fat people parking spots should be at the back of the mall parking lot. Walk to the doors and burn some calories. Why are we helping them?”

So…are you getting a little uncomfortable? Irritated? Upset? I’m guessing that’s how most people felt after watching this video. Nicole Arbour has raised some pretty controversial statements, and because body image has long been a sensitive topic, how can a video trash talking positive body images not cause strong reactions?

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 1.46.15 AMAs you can see here: this video has had over 6.5 million views so far, and I’m sure people will continue to talk about it for a while. Not only has the video been viewed many times on YouTube, Nicole Arbour also appeared on The View, which undoubtedly gave her more attention. So she’s done it…she’s gone viral! But did she go too far? Nicole Arbour mentioned that she knew people would be very offended by her video. In fact, that’s one of the first things she says in her video. So maybe she was more or less expecting the video to blow up and so begins her rise to fame. Except…would you want to be known as the one who calls people who are overweight lazy and smelly and fat shames them for the entire video?

The video has led to many emotional responses in the forms blog posts, video responses on YouTube, etc. The comment section in “Dear Fat People” has been disabled, but she released another video entitled “Most Offensive Video EVER” responding to other people’s responses. This video has gained 2 million views and numerous comments – which I find strange as to why she left the comment section in this video enabled. Before she changes her mind to disable comments, let’s take a look at some of the top comments.

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Pretty harsh comments there. In addition, Nicole Arbour was fired from her gig in the film Don’t Talk to Irene as a result of her video.

Does this sound like a bit of a familiar story? Like we’ve heard it somewhere else before? Well, last week we took a look at Jon Ronson’s TedTalk about online shaming and what happens when it spirals out of control as in the case of Justine Sacco, whose life was changed forever after she shared on Twitter what she thought was a harmless tweet. While she thought it was no big deal, the rest of the world really took charge in condemning her and were openly expressing their distaste and hatred towards her.

Nicole Arbour seems to be in a pretty similar position right now. However, the harsh responses haven’t stopped her from making other videos on YouTube. She’s not too popular with the mass majority right now, but will she face a similar fate to Justine Sacco as the online backlash continues? Or will people realize that while she is fat shaming, they are also online shaming her?

Everyone has opinions, and Nicole Arbour reasonably has her own and has the right to express them. However, I don’t think she should’ve made the video with the intention of becoming (in)famous. She knew that it would offend people, yet, she uploaded it anyway. While she has the right to express her own opinions, her video was publicized in an aggressive tone and uses “comedy” to argue her case and make it ok to publicly ridicule people who are overweight, as well as the body positive concept.

I won’t go on to share my thoughts, but let’s just hope this doesn’t get any worse. Maybe Nicole Arbour will come up with better, non-offensive content for her YouTube, and maybe the audience will cut her some slack before it turns into another Justine Sacco mishap. While I would love to meet Ellen, in the end, going viral is definitely not worth getting fired from a job and having the rest of the world turn on you.

11 comments

  1. Great post. I think that you bring up some very valuable points. Was she a “Youtube Celebrity” or at all popular on Youtube before she posted this video? I feel like she had to have had some following or it would not have spread this rapidly. I think that she is definitely free to express her opinion, however I am very curious how this will effect her future. Just think, most of the time the first thing employers do is Google an applicant. Imagine googling her name and that video masked with many media articles covering the controversy popping up first on Google… Yikes! I would not want to be in her position while applying for a job!

  2. Wow this was a very interesting post. Its crazy to see what people are willing to do to become “famous”, even if it means being hated at the same time. Personally, i think Nicole is wrong for posting videos like this. Yes, she is absolutely entitled to her own opinion but i really doubt many people are that interested in what you think. She got famous because she was so harsh to a group of people that really did nothing to deserve it. I personally would never do anything of this magnitude to become famous or to gain attention. Everyone has a story and you never know if you’re going to hit that one nerve that puts them over the edge. I really enjoyed this post and all of the references you used. Overall, i think Nicole’s video is completely unnecessary and this is a video that shouldn’t have gone viral.

  3. I’m glad you covered this video. A few weeks ago when it went viral, my newsfeed was covered with YouTube thumbnails. In this day and age, it’s not surprising to see people become “instant celebrities” from an Instagram photo, a tweet, a Facebook status, a Vine, or, in this case, a YouTube video. In some ways, I feel like there is such a strong desire to get those 5 seconds of fame because sometimes, it just seems TOO easy. In this case, Arbour used her already steady position as a YouTube personality to an extreme. She was well aware of the possible consequences, yet took the risk anyway to get attention. Was the amount of negative attention really worth it to her? Probably. Especially since she proceeded to make a video response to all the comments that she got towards her original fat shaming video. This is just one of the many videos that really challenge us to rethink the power of social media and how it can go very, very wrong.

  4. I couldn’t bring myself to watch this video, so I’m glad you gave us the highlights here. I think your criticism is very fair because you tell both sides of the story. While the people who say cruel things to her certainly aren’t any better than she is, her post was not justified at all. What is the point of going viral if you are essentially going viral for being a bad person? I would rather leave no legacy than a bad one. I hope we don’t see more people attempting to go viral through her approach…

  5. A friend of mine showed me this video just last week and I was astonished as to the flip side of viral videos gone wrong. If there’s anything I have learned from social media it’s that anything and everything can be deemed offensive. However posts such as “Dear Fat People” are just blatantly controversial and offensive. This brings up an interesting point mentioned in another blog, and that is whether any publicity is still good publicity. Yes PR agents and the Hollywood scene will always claim bad publicity is still good publicity. Yet to what extent are you willing to go to reach your 5 seconds of fame when that includes being denied any future job position due to the negative image you’ve drawn to yourself. Whether or not Nicole Arbour learned from her mistake after being fired from “Don’t Talk to Irene”, no one knows. However this serves as an excellent example for social media users and how important it is to sensor and monitor your use of free expression.

  6. While I agree Nicole Arbour could reasonably have expected the negative backlash, I’m not sure if this is a strong case for self-censorship so much as a cautionary tale about the meanness of online crowds—and the problem appears to be Youtube’s. One structural flaw with the platform is that it creates the illusion of a conversation. Meanwhile, the comments it produces are often quite one-side. Were Arbour reasonably able to respond to every comment, a balance debate might start up, but Arbour’s views are effectively crystalized in the video medium. And with that, her stance is unmovable. As a result, the feedback she’s getting on the video is incredibly reactionary, rather than constructive.

  7. acoulombe13 · ·

    Loved your post. However, I don’t think this case was as “innocent” (I’m sure there’s a better word for this context but I’m having a hard time finding one) as say Justine Sacco. She was known before this Youtube video and should have known many people would be watching her, regardless of the topic being controversial. Maybe it was to keep herself relevant?

  8. I think the online community needs to begin to take some responsibility for stuff like this going viral. Just because we’ve been provided a platform for everyone to voice their own opinion, doesn’t mean they’re actually worthy of a response. The internet can be a very dark place and I would like to see the us begin to remedy this by not passing along blatantly offensive content clearly looking for shock value to assist in developing their pseudo celebrity. I don’t believe this will happen any time soon, but I hope the fun/lighter stuff like the most recent Viral Fish Guys from Boston (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9lnQyGWXLc) have more presence than the negative content.

  9. Dani, I really liked that you chose to embellish about this “fat shaming” video that you had mentioned in class last week because I had not yet heard of it. You brought up a very interesting point when you mentioned that while Nicole Arbour is guilty for some cruel and unconscionable words, the people who are harassing her back are also guilty of “online shaming,” as was the case with Justine Sacco. It is so easy to post a comment in response to seeing something so abhorrent, but at the same point, when does that comment cross a line of being no better than the initial culprit themselves. It makes me wonder if the vicious cycle of shaming will ever end because if its not one person, its another, and the cycle seems to be one continuous in nature…

  10. Interesting post. I hadn’t seen this. Seems to be bit different than Sacco, as hers was (presumably) unintentional. This seems a bit more deliberately engineered for a reaction.

  11. unfortunate that people use the internet for this, but isn’t it still better to have a place to share your feelings (right or wrong) than not?

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