Last week saw one of the year's biggest stories end in tragedy, when the search for OceanGate's Titan submersible ended with confirmation it had imploded, killing all five people on board. OceanGate's tourism business had the craft making repeated trips to the Titanic since 2021. But the incident prompted deeper investigation into the company, revealing how fast-and-loose it had been with safety.
One of the most surreal aspects of watching this event unfold was the repeated links people made to tech and gaming. Iron Lung, a horror game about being stuck in a submarine, became one of the points of comparison in the moment, with its creator remarking on Twitter "this feels wrong" as he saw sales for the game spike suddenly. There was chatter about Gabe Newell's investment in a submarine, or the Logitech controller used to pilot the Titan, and then perhaps most bizarre of all the tragic outcome was first confirmed by a relative sharing a message from the president of the Explorer's Club: Richard Garriott, aka Lord British, creator of the Ultima series.
Now Jimmy 'MrBeast' Donaldson, one of the most popular influencers on the planet, has claimed he was supposed to be taking a trip on the Titan. "I was invited earlier this month to ride the titanic submarine," said MrBeast in a tweet, sharing an image of a text message. "I said no. Kind of scary that I could have been on it".
The text message is from an unknown sender MrBeast calls "a friend" and says: "Also, I'm going to the Titanic in a submarine late [sic] this month. The team would be stoked to have you along. I'm sure you're also welcome to join."
MrBeast has 162 million YouTube subscribers and is known for essentially big stunts, often involving big money. He's done his own version of Squid Game, he's been buried alive, and recently he even used his money to cure the blind—an act some decried as "charity porn". Either way he is an emblematic figure of the age, and arguably one of the most recognisable faces on the planet.
Or to put it another way: "Zoomers just got their "Big Bird declined an invite to ride the Challenger space shuttle" moment," said Iron Spike, referencing a proposal that Sesame Street's mascot travel on the ill-fated Challenger shuttle in 1986. "This is Seth McFarlane not taking the 9/11 plane for the modern era," said Tonberrette (McFarlane said in a 2019 interview that he was hungover and missed his flight by about 10 minutes).
I was invited earlier this month to ride the titanic submarine, I said no. Kind of scary that I could have been on it pic.twitter.com/bQUnaRiczAJune 25, 2023
Some on social media haven't taken Mr Beast at his word, mocking or dismissing the message as opportunistic self-promotion. Adding to this lack of belief was how Mr Beast presented his claim. The eagle-eyed will notice that the text message MrBeast posted is not only oddly cropped, but blue: Meaning it was sent by the phone's user. This realisation has led to plenty of accusations that the star is lying simply to insert himself into a huge news story, and using a tragedy to farm clout.
"My friend sent me the screenshot of when he invited me," MrBeast would subsequently explain. "Didn’t think to scroll up and screenshot our old texts myself."
Plenty of folk remain unconvinced, for various reasons, with one persistent question being why the friend didn't go on the trip. The format of MrBeast's original tweet also became something of a meme with users posting texts inviting them, for example, on the maiden voyage of the Titanic.
You think that’s lucky? I declined a trip on the actual Titanic back in 1912! Here’s the text to confirm this as 100% true! https://t.co/FS7bNASBzs pic.twitter.com/8Q5i0EynAlJune 25, 2023
I was literally invited to the white house earlier today but I said no I gotta stream https://t.co/zx7dJUVpBf pic.twitter.com/BjlUe5Q0xDJune 25, 2023
I was invited to 9/11, I said no. Kind of scary that I could have been there https://t.co/6nmc1S4VFW pic.twitter.com/jyNYv7Bi6aJune 25, 2023
Whatever the truth, one of the most popular figures on the internet doesn't really have a need to make this up. And a back-channel invite from OceanGate would make complete sense for MrBeast's stunt-based brand, particularly given the context that founder Stockton Rush had been casting around for prominent clients to win endorsements for the operation: "He could even convince someone who knew and understood the risks," said Patrick Lahey, president of Triton Submarines. "It was really quite predatory." As one of the biggest influencers on the planet, MrBeast would have been an obvious target. Maybe someone up there likes him.