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Chronicles of the Internet: Mukbangers

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

Art by Geena San Diego

Food. It’s something that differs from culture to culture, person to person, and can bond people. Food is something that we live off of, both emotionally and physically. Some people love food so much that they eat three times a day, well they eat the amount of food you’re supposed to eat in a day in one sitting. And some have even made a career out of it.

Many cultures of the internet have been popularized through Youtube, and one such genre is mukbangs. Having originated in South Korea around the late 2000s, Mukbang translates to “eating broadcast.” Videos range from a couple of minutes long to hours of a person eating 3,000 calories in one sitting. Multiple individuals have made a living for themselves from it.

YouTubers such as Zach Choi, Veronica Wang, Stephanie Soo, Nikocado Avocado, and Eat with Boki have made an image for themselves in the community, being some of the most prevalent creators for people within this niche. They make upwards of $10,000 a month just for eating food in front of a camera. But how does eating appeal to millions of people on Youtube?

“We eat with our eyes.” You’ve probably heard that phrase before, or at least a spin on it, and mukbangs are the epiphany of that. The food featured in mukbangs is presented in a way that’s extremely satisfying for our eyes.

Let’s look at Zach Choi’s Filet Mignon and Stretchy Cheese Mukbang. In all of Choi’s videos, he has a clean, sleek, black background, and this one is no exception. The steaks are plated beautifully on a hardwood cutting board next to a freshly picked rosemary. Meanwhile, the cheese is in a skillet, cutting the table in half. And the way the food is presented isn’t the only thing that’s appealing, but also the way Zach takes his bites. He is aware of the camera that’s pointed at him and as a result, isn’t a mess while eating it, yet he still enjoys the food he has made for himself.

Another appeal of mukbangs is the ASMR aspect that they incorporate. The autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR, is a tingly sensation that flows from the top of our heads and down our spine. These tingles are the result of soft noises, whether that be voices, tapping, or in this case, eating. Watching ASMR inducing videos can subdue a person into a calm state. ASMR mukbangs are extremely popular and continue to play a huge role in the popularity of the genre, where the eater speaks in a soft whisper or not at all.

A great example of an ASMR mukbang can be found on SAS ASMR’s YouTube channel. In every video, she doesn’t utter a single word, and instead, she takes the time to explain her thoughts on food through captions. This prevents the video from feeling disconnected and reveals Sas’s positive and bright personality. Each video is a new type of food, varying from being crunchy to soft or squishy. Listening to the sounds of her chews definitely leaves me with that signature feeling of tingles down my spine. The most popular foods that her fans “eat” up with her are crunchy tobiko eggs, crunch sea grapes, melt in your mouth salmon, sticky honeycomb, and soft aloe vera.

The ASMR aspect of mukbangs definitely helped in the popularization of the genre, providing both satisfying and calming experiences for those that aren’t interested in the eating itself.

But some people desire the complete opposite for their mukbangs, and that’s conversation and dialogue from the person.

In South Korea, where mukbangs originated, eating out is a social activity. However, with the rising population of Koreans living alone, mukbangs seemed to satisfy that disappearing norm. Not only that, but it provides a glimpse of the person’s personality, whether or not that means learning about the interesting opinions that they hold. Today, social mukbangs aren’t just made by Koreans, but people from all over the world.

Stephanie Soo is one the most influential mukbangers out there holding 2 million subscribers under her belt. Her style of mukbangs is energetic, lively, and engaging. When she started, her main focus was on describing her meal to her audience and expressing her opinions about it. As her channel continued to pump out mukbangs, she became more comfortable and grounded in her style.

Today, her videos consist of her talking to her fiance and audience about what’s on her mind. From expressing her opinions on the news to talking about the latest episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, it’s no question why Stephanie Soo is such an icon in the community. These contagious (no pun intended) personalities keep people coming back for more and more.

But for me, none of these aspects really got me into the mukbang world. Rather, the more laughable, dramatic aspect of it did. The popularization of mukbangs, especially in America, has introduced a new component of ASMR, and that is fake drama and steadily decreasing health for views.

Shock value: it keeps old viewers watching and attracts new ones. Many Youtubers have started using clickbait as a way to gain views and money. You’ve probably seen clickbait titles such as “CALLING THE BOSS BABY AT 3 AM” by people such as ImJayStation and Morgz. Faking drama and tension will always guarantee clicks, and mukbangers have caught onto this trend.

Nicholas Perry, also known by his internet persona Nikocado Avocado, is an American mukbanger and is one of the most infamous figures in the genre. He started doing mukbangs 3 years ago after he quit his vegan lifestyle with his boyfriend. His mukbangs started innocent enough; he ate proper amounts of food and had a kind and endearing personality.

However, if we look at his mukbangs today, he has developed the personality of a spoiled child and the body of a person on My 600 pound Life. Nikocado Avocado has resorted to the power of drama to attract people, and eventually money. He has faked a divorce with his husband, Orlin Home, he has pretended to cheat, made a ruckus in public, and even claimed he was pregnant with his new boyfriend’s baby. He has even dragged other mukbangers such as Stephanie Soo into his mess.

But even though the attention he is generating is so toxic, so disgusting, people just can’t get enough of it. The drama generated by people such as Nikocado Avocado is incredibly entertaining because of how ridiculous the problem is. People such as myself love this content, it makes us laugh, keeps us amused, and gives us a healthy amount of anger towards people like him.

Looking at mukbangs, I often wonder how people can eat so much without having any underlying health issues. I wondered how they could stay so healthy, so skinny. And it makes me think, “are mukbangs really that healthy?”

In short, no, mukbangs are not healthy. We can see the impacts of the mukbanger diet on people such as Trash Tammy and Nikocado Avocado. Ever since they started doing mukbangs as a full-time job, they have gained upwards of 150 pounds. With their diets being thousands of calories above the average and consisting of Burger King chicken nuggets and crispy shell Taco Bell tacos, it’s no question that their physical health has depleted.

But all the junk food has caused a decrease in mental health as well. A key part of having a healthy mindset is by keeping your diet balanced. Eating copious amounts of food will definitely cause a dramatic decrease in mental health. Looking at Nikocado Avocado’s vegan days versus today–he has become more unhinged. His kind persona has been wiped, and in his own husband’s words, “Eating all that junk food, it’s ruined his head. He’s not the person I fell in love with.”

The explosion of mukbang popularity has made the competition to stay relevant fierce. People who rely on this genre as a job have been trying desperately to stay on top of the hill by eating more calories or starting the most drama. No longer did the lean Asian (specifically Korean) food that mukbangs started to attract attention, but now it was American fast food and spicy Korean fire noodles that topped the charts. People that were desperate to be successful ignored the health issues that came as a side effect.

But there are still plenty of healthy mukbangers. Even if they don’t exactly eat the healthiest foods, they still keep their body and mental health in check. Zach Choi is a prime example of this; he posts a mukbang every 2 weeks and displays his workouts on his social media too. Not only that, but he avoids the drama that other mukbangers start and stays in his own little bubble. Over the two years, he’s been doing that, his content has stayed consistent and high quality, just like himself.

Quarantine has been a weird experience for me. I find myself on a road that just keeps going or a train track that keeps going in circles. But sometimes, I find that monotony shattered by the strangest, confusing, and surreal things that exist on the world wide web.

Finding these abstract masterpieces has led me down multiple rabbit holes, rabbit holes so deep that I find myself exploring them for days on end. Discovering these weird subcultures of the internet has certainly polished my rather dull life in quarantine.

Mukbangs are no exception to this–as I explore the chaos of Nikocado and his gang, and watch with my mouth agape as people eating thousands of calories, I know the world of mukbangs is a bizarre one.

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