BY: NADIA ZAIDI
People all over the Internet are posting videos of themselves eating big, sometimes lavish, meals. Sometimes they don’t say a word; other times, they engage in table talk, as though you are actually sitting beside them. These videos are called mukbangs.
A mukbang is an audio-visual broadcast in which the host sits in front of his/her camera and eats. It originated in Korea and has made its way to North American audiences, with popular bloggers documenting themselves eating. It’s often called an ‘eating show,’ and consists of large quantities of foods. The word ‘mukbang’ comes from the Korean words ‘eating’ and ‘broadcast’. Some YouTubers have even been able to generate a living from posting the videos online. According to NPR, the top mukbang earners can earn as much as $10,000 a month by some accounts, not including sponsorships.
I’m not convinced that mukbangs should warrant the attention that they receive. At the same time, why didn’t I come up with this? I mean, if I can earn money by posting videos of myself eating, why not? Jokes aside, what type of message does this send about health and eating habits?
Truthfully, I don’t know what side of the fence I am on when it comes to this, but admittedly, I did sit through a few mukbang videos, and boy, was it painful. For the sake of this piece, I came up with a list of popular mukbangs. Watch them and see for yourself.
Mukbangs are popular ways of satisfying viewer cravings by the sheer viewing of another person indulging in your favourite munchies.
According to Metro, these videos have become popular in America for a number of reasons, one being that some people simply don’t like to eat alone and enjoy the company of eating with another person, even through a screen.
Others have their own personal reasons for watching the videos, including those who watch to stimulate an appetite because they struggle to eat enough on a daily basis. On the other end of that, some people who are trying to lose weight will watch the videos while eating diet food to “trick” their minds into thinking their eating something delicious.
I don’t know whether this triggers or facilitates unhealthy, or in some cases healthy, eating, but it’s problematic because it makes us believe that the key to happiness is on our dinner plates. The majority of people watching this might feel like they can’t achieve a similar level of projected happiness because they cannot afford to buy the showcased food, or feel they cannot eat it.
I also worry that these videos portray overall unrealistic expectations about food. In the above videos, the hosts tend to glorify fast food and make other people feel that they are reaching peak levels of satisfaction by consuming them. The videos may also pressure bloggers into purchasing unhealthy foods for the sake of filming, and then be forced to eat those unhealthy foods. It’s showcasing the negative side of indulgence and gluttony. I’m not denying that I enjoy a good meal, but this seems to cheapen it.
While the videos might be entertaining, they may also do more damage than good. Eating extremely excessive amounts of food is not healthy, and it can also trigger negative responses in people who suffer from eating disorders or issues.