Mukbang videos and the war of raging appetites
AH! It is cold! »
In a Youtube videos which received over seven million views in two weeks, Korean YouTuber Ssoyoung wrestles and cleans live octopuses and mudfish before cooking and eating them on camera. The process is well lit and documented from different angles, and Ssoyoung’s various shouts and yells punctuate the slippery, slimy process. Viewers watch as he struggles to lift the wriggling octopus to show the suckers on its legs and belly; he then pours the (live) mudfish into a glass container filled with water and salt, to clean it, he explains. At one point, the octopus nearly slides off the table, much to her consternation. However, by the end of the video, she has prepared a huge spread for herself. The fleshy pink belly of the octopus, stretched out, occupies almost a quarter of the frame; the mudfish, sprinkled with sesame seeds and arranged neatly in a circle, sits before a row of sauces. “It’s so soft,” he says, before taking a huge bite out of one of the octopus’s tentacles.
The fundamental allure of a mukbang video, then, is the promise of satisfaction through excess.
Ssoyoung’s video is just one of a wide variety of mukbang videos that people can watch all over the internet. A trend where people film or stream themselves eating huge amounts of food, mukbang it originally became popular in South Korea in 2010 and has spread to other parts of the world, including the United States, in recent years. The word mukbang is a mashup of two Korean words, « muk-ja » (meaning to eat) and « bang-song » (broadcast), which means mukbang itself means « eat transmission ». Professional Korean mukbangers stream their mukbangs on a site called AfreecaTV to thousands of viewers every week, using high-quality microphones and cameras to capture the sights and sounds of eating. According to NPR, the most popular mukbangers can earn $10,000 a month.
IIt has only been in recent years that the mukbang has spread into the wider global consciousness of the internet, right into the heart of American YouTube. Famous creators like David Dobrik and Colleen Ballinger, Timothy DeLaGhetto and the Try Guys have dabbled in mukbang videos, while others, like Stephanie Soo, Trisha Paytas and Zach Choi, have become famous for them. The videos themselves may vary in purpose and tone. Some YouTubers, like Choi, don’t speak during their mukbangs and simply eat in front of the camera, recording the sounds in high quality for ASMR (autonomic sensory meridian response). Others film themselves eating and talking about a variety of different topics, simulating a dinnertime conversation, while still others just binge eat on camera while simultaneously providing a running commentary on what’s going through their brains .
The ironic thing about mukbang videos is that the concept itself isn’t inherently funny. There is no story arc or imaginative editing, elaborate acting or high production value, all of which we might associate with the world of digital media and entertainment. (The most elegant mukbang that exists could be this Vogue video of Florence Pugh eating eleven English dishes.) The fundamental appeal of a mukbang video, then, is the promise of satisfaction through excess. “CHEESY FLAMING HOT CHEETOS + CHEESY TAKIS MUKBANG + FRIED CHICKEN & LOBSTER TAIL,” reads one video title. Other video titles include « $100 Worth of Wendys », « JOLLIBEE FRIED CHICKEN + SPAGHETTI & CHICKEN SANDWICHES MUKBANG » and « Every Flavor Cheesecake from CHEESECAKE FACTORY Mukbang ». Other YouTubers eat whole sushi rolls and nuclear fire spaghetti, triple cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets, Cheeto spaghetti and Pizza Hut, oxtail and king crab, Popeyes and Jack-in-the-Box, Alfredo pasta and spicy mushrooms, pad Thai and Sonic. It is a real feast, both for those who eat and for those who watch.
ffrankly, I’m still a little puzzled as to why people watch them and why they watch them so avidly. While not bad in their own right, mukbang videos nonetheless serve as the perfect metaphor for a world of vast overconsumption, a world where we can not only satisfy the most niche desires by tapping a few buttons, but also one where we can turn those desires into reality. into a full-fledged industry. We can order food from home and have groceries delivered to us, take classes online, work from home, call our friends without having to make the effort to be in the same place at the same time, get rid of all the little inconveniences that come with human being. With mukbang videos, we don’t have to dine alone; we can dine with a different person every night. And if we’ve been having rough days and want to binge, we don’t even have to binge ourselves — we can just watch other people doing it in front of us and put ourselves in their shoes. When we have the desire to binge, but we don’t want to spend money or calories, we can watch others do what we ourselves desire to do and, by closeness, in the end, feel better about ourselves in the end, because at least We I didn’t eat all this food.
It is one of the iterations and developments of this Fahrenheit 451 we are creating for ourselves. It also reveals and reflects the emptiness that comes from trying to satisfy our desires with something so wonderful, that God created for us to enjoy, but which is also completely finite. We cook and order food just to eat it. We go to sleep at the end of each day, wake up, feed our bodies, and then go back to sleep, only to wake up and start over. Yet even when we feel most mired in this endlessly mundane routine, God « has put eternity into the heart of man » (Ecclesiastes 3:14). We often try to get lost in something temporary like food in a desperate search for the eternal. But at the end of the day, when the last noodle has been drunk, the last slice of pizza eaten and the plate licked clean, what are we left with?
For even if every desire is satisfied and every craving satisfied, an appetite whose main purpose is earthly satisfaction will never be a truly satisfied appetite.