The Aftermath Of Nicole Arbour's "Dear Fat People" Proves Freedom Of Speech Isn't Freedom From Consequence

11 September 2015, 13:45 | Updated: 17 July 2017, 12:11

We the Unicorns

By Liam Dryden

When your offensive viral video costs you your channel, a job, and a ton of internet credibility, is it maybe time to step back and reassess your actions? Not according to Nicole Arbour.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past week, you will no doubt have seen the drama surrounding the Canadian "comedian" and her body-shaming vlog "Dear Fat People".


In a 6-minute rant dressed up as "satire", Arbour goes off on people she deems to be inconveniencing her life with their body type, singling out a family of overweight strangers she encountered at an airport once, and shrouds it all in the guise of a "tough love" approach to encouraging people to become "healthy" (please picture us using a lot of air quotes). You can find the video across the internet, but due to both the nature of the video and her positive reaction to all the press, we've elected not to help give her any more monetised views.

As expected, the reaction from the greater internet has poured in. And amidst a sea of venomously fatphobic cries of support for the video and its message, there has also been a lot of amazing responses from many different creators; some are deconstructing the video, some are encouraging body positivity, and almost all are essentially blackballing Arbour from the YouTuber community.

(gif: TLC's Whitney Way Thore in response to "Dear Fat People")

After the first wave of criticism hit, a lot of people got their wishes for a brief spell, as the video - and Arbour's entire channel - suddenly disappeared from YouTube. Nicole took the opportunity to spin the negative backlash into a conversation on censorship.

Cards on the table: I am completely for YouTube pulling videos as they see fit. "Free speech" means that you can't be arrested for your opinions, but that doesn't mean that other people or a private body have to put up with them. A large company like YouTube is, I believe, perfectly within their rights to pull a piece of content (or a whole channel) if they find it to be damaging to their brand or community.

That said, Arbour does have a point in making note of the other inappropriate content that is allowed to quietly sit on the site for a long time unremoved. There is a larger conversation to be had about how consistent YouTube need to be in their "censorship", and how it often seems to directly correlate with the size of the YouTube personality involved, but this misdirection takes away from the most pertinent issue: calling out someone problematic on their remorselessly problematic behaviour.

The video and Arbour's channel were quickly reinstated after pushback from Nicole and her management, but the consequences haven't stopped there. Director Pat Mills released a statement last night, revealing that he almost hired Arbour to choreograph a "body-positive teen dance movie... about a sixteen year old girl who dreams of being a cheerleader, but she is constantly bullied for being fat." Somebody didn't read the script.

"Bullies like Nicole Arbour are the reason I am making this movie," writes Pat. "I’m tired of body shaming. It’s everywhere."

"This nice choreographer I met turned out to be the reason I wrote this movie. Her video added an offensive twist to the development of this film."

Arbour has quickly denied any involvement with the film, but the internet remains skeptical.

Unfortunately, it seems as though the press (good and bad) is fuelling the fire for Nicole, and instead of adopting a shred of self-awareness, she appears content to tactfully ride this wave of controversy for as long as possible. There has been no ounce of remorse from Arbour towards the hundreds of thousands of self-conscious people whose lives have just been made a little bit more difficult from her video's virality; instead her time has been dedicated to Retweeting a mixture of all the people willing to praise her toxic views, and almost every media publication that has something to say on the story.

Well, Nicole, in the off-chance you catch this post, I'd like to draw your attention to a Tweet that summed up this past week for me: