Over the last few years, the term ‘YouTuber’ has certainly developed negative connotations. Once your humble ‘girl-next-door’ type, YouTubers have obtained near-celebrity status, boasting 8-figure lists of subscribers, exclusive meet-ups and branded merch. YouTube sensation and ringleader Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, for example, has a Twitter following of 13.4 million.
However, said stars have also acquired a surge of critics as they have emerged as an elitist clique of VIPs who earn an impressive fortune by treating viewers to a glossy glimpse into their vapid, freebie-filled lives. Last week’s upload by Alfie Deyes, aka Pointless Blog, is no exception, as he epitomises the stale and self-righteous nature of this wave of vlogging.
In a supposed stroke of bravery, Deyes embarks on a new challenge; one which dares him to ‘survive’ the day with just £1 to spend on food and water. It’s something to be giggled at, to him and girlfriend Zoella, who scoff at the absurdity of it—how will he ever manage on a budget comparable to the lunch money of his school days?! This is just the start of a video that is not only offensive in that it is remarkably boring (35 minutes of mundane errands and try-hard banter), it is also insulting in its ignorance and implicit mockery of the poor.
The video continues with a series of theatrical complaints as Deyes flirts with the realities of poverty for his audience: he even whinges about the disruption to his morning ritual of coffee and protein shakes, which leaves him with no choice but to resign to tap water. Deyes proceeds to further exhibit his lack of social awareness by claiming that this challenge would probably be easier to complete in Thailand, which he has heard is ‘cheap’—by his own, Western standards, perhaps. Unfortunately for Deyes, however, he only has his large Brighton home with nearby Waitrose (which, as he reiterates, is in an expensive area) to work with.
Deyes’ distance from true destitution is clear: his 24 hours on a budget is aided by the privileges that accompany his more familiar standard of living, from a Waitrose loyalty card which offers a free cup of coffee, to deals via the Appstore and a leather-lined car to carry out his mission in. Despite the purpose of the video and his ‘£1 budget’, Deyes still seizes the chance to make some spontaneous purchases, including clothes, a videogame and a beard comb; after all, they’re not food and water.
Not only is the video myopic, then, it is also offensive. Deyes elevates himself, whilst dabbling in elements of poverty for entertainment purposes and ridiculing the poor. He makes the experience seem easy, with brazen plunges into the reduced section of the supermarket and boxes of complimentary Krispy Kreme donuts. In perhaps the climax of stupidity, Deyes toys with the idea of making a follow-up video in which he begs for food with no money at all, all in the name of YouTube. To him, this experience is not only something far from his current lifestyle, it is also comical.
Detractors have also commented on the presence of adverts in the video, exposing Deyes’ attempt to profit from a video in which he essentially caricatures the experience of the poor. Meanwhile, Deyes makes no comment about wider social issues, or the realities of living on the breadline. There is no mention of a foodbank, nor a link to a relevant charity in the video’s description box. Beyond a mindless donation of his remaining seven pence to a supermarket collection pot, charity doesn’t appear to even cross his mind throughout the video. Instead it appears to be shrouded beneath the prospects of his money-making scheme and his smug air of success. In his ensuing public apology, Deyes admits to this, in an attempt of self-awareness, though, to a viewer, this ‘mistake’ is less shocking than it is to him.
Alfie Deyes’ challenge is nothing short of a tasteless and egotistical allusion to poverty which refuses to even consider, let alone take seriously the actualities of those living it. If not already confirmed, Deyes’ video adds a new, more solid layer to the veracity of his alias, Pointless Blog.