Sunday, September 06, 2015

Ranting On...Nicole Arbour and Body-Shaming

Despite the occasional article about my YouTube Pet Peeves or me being annoyed at a specific YouTubers' attitude or position on an issue, I will admit that I am definitely more of a lover and not a hater with the YouTube community.  I have been a devoted fan of the YouTube world since I first discovered JacksGap over two years ago, and found this wonderful little world of creative, original content on a site that I thought was principally for cat videos and movie trailers.  And since then, I've loved so many different content creators as a result.  I genuinely squealed this morning when I saw photos from Jim and Tanya's wedding, was intently proud and devoted when Grace Helbig jumped from Daily Grace to It's Grace a few years back, and have about forty channels that I watch with utter regularity.  I can tell you pretty much every British YouTuber's greeting and can literally quote entire episodes of You Deserve a Drink and Tobuscus Adventures.  As a result of this, I am aware that what keeps the YouTube generation going, and maybe this is true of Generation Y/Z in general, is positivity.  For a generation that prides itself on being anti-bully, anti-discrimination, and accepting of pretty much every facet of humanity, positivity, sometimes to a fault, is something that resonates throughout the YouTube community.  Even some of the edgier or tougher-sounding YouTube comedians like Shane Dawson or Jenna Marbles are at their own core extremely kind and understanding personalities that occasionally just need to get something off their chest.

So I wasn't sure if I should try and tackle the Nicole Arbour situation on YouTube or not.  Generally, when a YouTube controversy comes up, I try and find a way to discuss it here because it's such a big part of my entertainment-consuming life (I watch almost all of my channels, or at least all of the new videos that look good, right before bed every night).  I will admit that up until a couple of days ago, I (like most of the YouTube community, let's be honest here) had never heard of Ms. Arbour or her schtick.  Claiming to be a comedian, she has a channel that appears to be a run-of-the-mill clone of Jenna Marbles, YouTube's ruling queen.  However, Arbour's channel seemed to have a streak of nastiness that Jenna wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole, which was highlighted in a video she recently made called "Dear Fat People."

The problem with the video, initially for me, was that I kind of agreed with her.  One can discuss the merits of Ms. Arbour's comedic timing (she landed one joke very well in my opinion about shopaholics and getting to park near the front of the parking lot, but that was about it), but her message in the first half of the video has a definite point.  Body-shaming is wrong, end of story, because it's coming from a place of cruelty and not generally meant to be something that is supposed to help another human being, but the reality is that body positivity can have a potentially damaging side effect where a person embraces a body shape and weight that is not healthy for their own personage.  I say this as someone who has struggled with their weight for pretty much a decade, gaining and losing 30-40 pounds a couple of times during that run, and someone who is aware that my current weight is not medically ideal.  I know this, however, because I talked about it with my doctor.  Ms. Arbour has absolutely no medical or nutritional training to speak of (or at least there wasn't any referenced in the video), and while of course you can be a spokesperson for something you aren't an expert upon, it would have made more sense for her to, if she was truly being sincere in her hopes that people take her "call to action" in a positive way, make a point of a real game plan rather than just saying "stop being fat."  Had Arbour tried to mock the occasionally dangerous side effect of "accepting everything" even if occasionally that may be damaging to your health, and then encouraged people to look into their weight with a medical professional, we wouldn't be having this conversation.  Hell, you could do that with it still being comedy and be able to get the message across, and that would have been a worthwhile discussion.

Instead, though, Arbour's actions in the video, and in particular her inconsistent reactions post-the clip going viral seems to make me think she was disingenuous in her message in the original video.  Arbour talked about how she didn't want to body-shame and that overweight individuals aren't discriminated against, but proceeded to point out a story where she did body-shame someone who actually didn't have a lot of control over their weight and where she in-fact discriminated against them.  Arbour's video contained a story about an overweight child that she had to sit next to on an airplane, and Arbour essentially chastised him in the video for being overweight, never-minding the fact that the child is not responsible for the food that his parents buy and feed him (he is, after all, a child), and that her chastising him over his weight is an actual example of discrimination.  And the reality is that overweight people are indeed discriminated against both by the media and by the public.

To pretend that overweight people are not both subjected to discrimination both by other people and the media is ludicrous.  Using my own purview, I have been called fat and gross to my face men that I had a blind date with or even by perfect strangers.  Studies about eating disorders and their links to unrealistic and impossible body images have become so commonplace we take for advantage the fact that they are true, and they are in fact damaging to our psyche.  This doesn't end when you become an adult, for the record-I have to frequently mentally check out of depictions of perfect gay models in television and movies because they are so alien to my gay experience that I feel like I'm doing something wrong, and I am a confident grown-ass man.  I can't imagine what this is like for people in middle school (except I can, because I'm not that far removed from that era, and it was awful).

So I don't agree with Arbour, and her reactions afterwards, making an inconsistent defense of her video (it's comedy! it's satire! you're all too PC! #trollthetrolls! I'm the victim!), along with going after well-known YouTube personalities like Tyler Oakley seems to me like she was simply making this video to get subscribers and go viral, which is awful though Sam-and-Nia probably already took the "worst people on YouTube" title in that regard for 2015.  Still, before I go though, I do want to say that if the rumors are true that Arbour's account was taken down by YouTube, which seems to be relatively true from what I'm seeing on Twitter, this is also wrong.  I have watched Arbour's video and her reaction to it twice, and there is no copyright infringement and nothing particularly dangerous, sexual, or violent that would normally warrant it being taken down.  If we're taking down every video that we find non-PC, the only thing left on YouTube is going to be "Charlie Bit My Finger" and probably the "Sneezing Panda."  Arbour's channel should remain, as should her voice as long as she's willing to put it out there, even if what it's saying lacks empathy or understanding and is full of hate.

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