Critics of ContraPoints Keep Missing the Point

Projections of affluence continue to impair critics’ ability to duly judge.

Class disparity has a tendency of creating undue tension between the poor and rich, wherein one side claims they’ve won the lottery of life and are therefore entitled to keep its spoils, and the other wants but a paltry sum to satisfy their most basic needs. Where things go often awry though, is when the projection of richdom and poverty from one side to the other is used to justify contempt, contributing further to a general sense of distrust between the two groups.

This epitomizes the latest round of controversy surrounding ContraPoints. After she put out a video about “Opulence” and the emulation of lavishness, many took to social media to protest Buck Angel’s cameo as performer for one of the many voiceovers done for quotes featured in the video. The main issue of contention here, is the presumption that Natalie Wynn is consciously siding with a transmedicalist — the term denoting those who believe in rooting trans identity around medical procedure — as a response to a previous round of controversy surrounding pronouns where parts of the fringe political left on Twitter claimed that Wynn misunderstood the implications of compulsory pronoun-announcement in public spaces, leading her to momentarily deactivate her Twitter account.

Because controversy is rarely short-lived, it was only a matter of time before ContraPoints would find herself midst the thick of another one. The Buck Angel stuff though is bizarre to say the least–ContraPoints’ commentary on opulence concludes that being materially rich or poor more often than not doesn’t emulate the appearance of poverty and richdom, and for those familiar with the anti-ContraPoints discourse so far, ardent critics of Wynn seem to conceive of her aesthetic sophistication as a perfect representation of the amount of wealth she has. Wynn argues that’s not the case, and that in uttermost beautiful displays of trans culture from people of color where they’re least visible, the extravagant wardrobe and makeup choices are performed in aspiration rather than true material fulfillment. And since Wynn’s viewers lean decidedly towards the white variety — something both her dissenters and fans seem to agree on — they’re more susceptible to perceiving what is cultural adulation at its core, as a sign there’s an even bigger closet and an even deeper well of riches where the flashy apparel comes from.

General discomfort with Wynn’s portrayal of trans aesthetic isn’t nearly the end of it though–some appear to fundamentally misunderstand how content creators allocate their budget, and it gives off this illusion that a lengthy Patreon credit segment is enough to foot the bills of an entire production operation, with leftover excess. The notion that YouTubers are rationing as much of their alternative funding methods to maximize profits is a compelling miscalculation to make from a Marxist point of view, but it doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense when you look at the reality of the medium.

There’s been ample coverage on creative burnout that internet creators experience when feeling the pressure of having to constantly churn out content, and that extends from smaller players, right down to the very top. PewDiePie, Jacksepticeye, and Ninja are only among some of the most notable names to have publicly broken down because of undue amounts of stress, and that emanates from the fact that even though YouTube likes to aspire towards sustainability with the subscription feature, the truth is you won’t make it out with enough ad revenue or Patreon following if you even slightly falter from a steady upload cadence as the unpredictable winds of the algorithm would sweep the rug of financial stability from beneath your feet before you can even react.

The script often goes “Contra has had it too easy”, “She stumbled into success” or “She doesn’t do nearly enough to amplify marginalized voices”–and while those statements are all true to a certain extent, their convergence into one single cohesive narrative isn’t as intuitive as Wynn’s critics might think. To assert that Natalie Wynn has been hostile to non-binary people, that she’d cozied up to transmedicalists, or that she’s as not lenient on leftist interpretations of trans identity as some of her colleagues are, are all easy points to make independently–though Wynn’s critics like to claim that there’s a sinister causality behind it all, and that’s where general skepticism starts to veer into conspiracy land, and the parameters of the debate move into speculative territory. Natalie Wynn being who she is, will likely continue to stir the pot, with her detractors continuing to take the bait even as she continues to carve herself out a more favorable spot in the debate.

ContraPoints’ commentary on the aesthetic of lavish life versus its true incarnation, and how old wealth doesn’t don nearly the same characteristics as its fresher counterpart is an interesting contrast to draw in an era where it seems that just about anything she says could be twisted to mean something she has no cursory interest in endorsing. The fact she continues to receive flack for it is perhaps an indication that criticism that extrapolates its meaning from small slivers of a public figure’s life is an ill-advised endeavor no matter the circumstances.

Natalie Wynn warming up to other public trans figures regardless of passif was sure to ruffle some feathers. But such is artistic endeavor–directors of movies often don’t get to dictate the terms of their work relationship with actors beyond what happens on set, and to venture beyond that would be borderline unprofessional. To expect that ContraPoints relying on Buck Angel for a quick quote read implies a broader alignment of ideas is accordingly just not worth entertaining.