Earlier this week, YouTube star Matthew Santoro posted a video alleging that his ex-girlfriend — controversial YouTuber Nicole Arbour, best known for her “Dear Fat People” video — had physically and psychologically abused him. Santoro’s claims blew up the large community of YouTubers, and while Arbour initially responded with dismissive jokes on Twitter and in comments, on Friday she posted her own video.
Santoro’s narrative of their relationship is that Arbour was controlling and drove him apart from his close friends and family, but that he escaped after an alleged violent incident (a slap in the face). Later, she convinced him to take her back.
Arbour’s side is quite different. She says Santoro repeatedly violated her trust by putting their personal life on YouTube in ways she wasn’t comfortable with, and that she was the one who dumped him. “His lifestyle, and the way he wanted to be a YouTuber and have everything public all the time, wasn’t for me,” she says in her response video, “And I broke up with him, and it was as amicable as it could possibly be at the time.”
She doesn’t directly address the night she allegedly slapped Santoro and kept him from leaving her apartment, but she does accuse him of “taking a tiny little thing and spinning it into something that just didn’t happen,” and asserts that “he didn’t suffer from domestic abuse.”
(Who broke up with whom is a topic of dispute among the former couple and their divided fans. Several YouTube commenters who sided with Santoro pointed to what’s allegedly a deleted video where Arbour asks him to take her back.)
No one outside of this fractured relationship seems to know the truth about what happened, but there’s a lot at stake on both sides: Someone was possibly domestically abused; there seem to be broken hearts and broken pride on both sides; and two YouTube careers potentially hang in the balance. And the whole thing, as dictated by the rules of internet fame, is playing out in the court of public opinion.
While Santoro accused Arbour of trying to hurt him physically and emotionally, she’s accusing him of trying to ruin her burgeoning YouTube stardom. “His video that he just put out is just another way to hurt me, and my career that’s growing quickly,” she says.
Whether it’s because Arbour’s online persona is built on antagonizing people for the hate-views — her most popular videos are rants about overweight people and feminists — because she’s a woman on the internet, or because Santoro just has more subscribers than she does, the comments on her new video are overwhelmingly negative, calling her a liar and worse.
“Of course you, as an alleged abuser and manipulator, would say this. Everything coming out is just, ‘I didn’t do it, he did it.’ Coming from not a kid, but a 24 year old, because the Internet is not inhabited by teenagers,” reads one of the top comments.
“Nicole, u are hurting urself BIG TIME by uploading this especially since ur lying… not cool… no one believes you about this… its REALLY sad u made this. I thought u were a good person… goodbye,” says another.
Meanwhile, on Santoro’s original video, the comments are mostly supportive, with encouraging hashtags like #abuseknowsnogender and #isupportmatthew.
Regardless of the truth of the matter, the breakup and subsequent abuse allegations have put two large and vocal YouTube fanbases in the position of taking sides — and while Arbour has her supporters, it seems like the side most of them are taking is Santoro’s.
What Arbour hates about YouTube, she says in her new video, is “the obsession with manufactured drama.”