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    The Destructive Nature of Mukbang and Food Porn

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    Mukbang culture was initiated by South Koreans and the word itself means ‘eat and broadcast’. We as humans have long standing relationships when it comes to food porn. The phrase was used to describe food that was unhealthy for human consumption thus directly comparing it to pornography and this phrase blew up when Flickr launched a “Food Porn” category in September 2004. Technological advancement and social media has definitely allowed for food related content to be heavily popularized as it transcends the language and geographical barrier.

    According to a 2015 journal Brain and Cognition, images of appetizing food cause our brain to go into overdrive and there will be a spike in the hormone ghrelin causing us to feel hungry and preparing our body to eat. Watching people eat satisfies food cravings and provides satisfaction via visual and audio stimulation (Choe 2019; Gillespie 2019). In modern day we eat with our eyes and quench our visual hunger with digital satiation. Channels such as Food Network have used the concept of food to grasp audience attention for a long time. The formula of eating food has always been more popular than cooking food and it all points back to our psychological nature of seeking pleasure through food.

    Mukbangs originally started in 2010 and it was live streamed on a platform called AfreecaTV. This trend was later popularized in western countries around 2015 when the Fine Bros Entertainment (FBE) uploaded a video reacting to Korean eating shows and at the time the concept was considered outlandish or unappealing to many. The trend later made it’s way to more individual creators when Trisha Paytas had released her own mukbang and this was later copied by other YouTubers. The term mukbang hit a worldwide spike in March 2020 and since this trend has existed for over a decade, a lot can be learnt and dissected from mukbang culture and food porn overall.

    How It All Began

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    This trend of eating food online for an audience to enjoy was first introduced in Korea during the rise of Internet broadband. Kwangjang food market in Seoul which is one of the oldest markets in the country also made Seoul an icon in Asia when it came to the foodie scene. In early 2014, Korean food was making its way around the globe primarily making a huge impact in the United States. However, the trend of livestreaming the consumption of large quantities of food was somehow becoming more appealing in Korea since the late 2000’s.

    Those who participate in the mukbang culture in Korea are known as minor celebrities in the country and they are more commonly known as broadcast jockeys or BJ. Most of these jockeys make their money from fan donations and many earn over $10,000 just by eating for a living. Most of the well-known jockeys have streamed for over 15000 hours to gather over 100k subscribers in order to make a stable living. Some jockeys also happen to be trained chefs and share the cooking experience alongside the eating experience with their fans. Thus, the mukbang culture in Korea originally started out with proportional eating and useful cooking tips.

    Later on as many online platforms became saturated, more individuals hopped onto the trend and were in some ways pressured to appeal to newer audiences by making a grand gesture. In most cases that would be by increasing the quantity of the food or by providing the audience with mild sexual fantasies throughout the eating process. This online eating frenzy spawned due to loneliness and the lack of human connection during meals. Those who watched BJ’s were able to emulate the feeling of having dinner with family and due to the busy lifestyle many Koreans lead, mukbangs were the next best thing.

    The tradition of eating together was fading away and thus business oriented individuals who had knowledge in cooking decided to capitalize on the situation. What started of as a wholesome and brilliant concept later spiraled into insanity due to creators who decided to take it too far. Viewers felt inspired to cook by watching mukbang videos and were less lonely during meal times as they had a companion to occupy time. Some fans weren’t there for the food rather for the people consuming the food and it seemed that maybe mukbangs were just a way for some people to get off.

    Popularity and Controversy

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    As mukbangs became more popular it was evident that the trend would raise a couple of eyebrows and generate a fair share of criticism. Mukbang having been named one of the 2020 words of the year, and the act of eating on camera seemed to garner millions of views on YouTube. Many American audiences seemed to enjoy mukbangs due to the sound of the food and this relates back to another popular trend known as ASMR. The slurping sounds and extreme displays of satisfaction when eating seemed to capture the interest of people worldwide. Based on Google Trends, mukbang is mainly popular in the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Nepal.

    Many criticize mukbangs as disgusting and animalistic due to the means of food consumption that is somewhat unnatural when translated into a video format with an overly sensitive microphone picking up on every grotesque sound. Some believe mukbangs are a gross and depressing view into our seemingly uncivilized society. Eating huge portions of food is not funny nor relatable and the sense of competition that exists causes creators to react in an unrealistic fashion merely to gain attention. There is no authenticity in reactions and everything is played up for the camera, the seductive means of eating food or even the ogre-like portrayal of food consumption are all built up for the sake of the audience.

    Mukbang channels dedicate all their content to eating and this ends up as a full-time job to gain money. Mukbangs gained popularity due to the entertainment aspect on YouTube. In some cases, it can be likened to watching a train wreck and we just can’t help but watch when someone is willing to indulge in insanity. Large quantities and odd foods gain the most views and for the sake of money, many creators are willing to undergo literal torture. The act of eating anything on camera in a dehumanizing manner is likened to the willingness to participate on platforms like OnlyFans as the end goal is merely to make as much money as possible.

    The most popular assumption or criticism when it comes to mukbang is in regards to it being a fetish. Many individuals question the appeal and end up ruling mukbangs as a fetish or kink that is particular to the individual. There has to be a sexual fantasy related to eating in a sloppy or seductive manner. Choosing to consume foods in big bites and purposefully smearing sauce all over or even choosing to make the most provocative sounds are extremely unnatural ways of eating. Sex and eating have many similarities as both have always been in our genetic makeup thus it’s hard to disregard that mukbangs satisfy the pleasures of some due to the presentation of the content.

    Two Way Disadvantage

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    Mukbang on YouTube not only affects the content creator but also the viewers at home. The destructive act of overeating has plagued the internet ever since the rise in popularity of mukbangs. More people connect to this form of content as a way to stimulate their appetites and join in during the eating binge. The creators on the other hand have to stuff their face with huge amounts of food as a way of offering content. This two-way destructive behaviour is the main premise behind mukbangs as the core reason which was to prevent loneliness has become obsolete.

    Content creators seem to be losing themselves for the sake of content and many end up gaining weight during their mukbang journey. While there are some that eat and regurgitate their food out for the sake of maintaining their physique, that approach ends up being even more detrimental to the creator’s health. There are many people who fake their mukbangs with convenient cuts as it can get old having to eat disgusting food for a living. Some channels don’t even have commentary and rely solely on sound effects that leave some people with nightmares.

    Those who choose to view mukbang videos aren’t safe from disastrous eating habits as many people end up being stimulated and hungry whilst watching others eat. Some try to recreate the monstrous quantities that are being consumed due to the appeal that is portrayed through the screen and this goes back to the dangers of food porn that have slowly crept its way into social media. The love of food has strayed away from culinary art and into the realms of disproportionate junk food. Making food look more delicious and appetizing has been a trick in the food industry for years and was first practised for the sake of advertising fast foods such as burgers.

    Those who watch the content for other reasons end up ruining it for others who have pure intentions and that ends up generating a toxic community. There are no restrictions when it comes to content consumption but it should also be important to recognize the type of content that is consumed to prevent a sense of hypnosis that may lead to social or health disadvantages. The content we induce ultimately affects our livelihoods if said content is consumed beyond the purpose of entertainment. The same can be said for the creators who no longer view mukbang as a job by romanticizing the idea of unhealthy eating habits.

    Going Too Far

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    Overexaggerating the taste of food and massive bites somehow seems to be appealing for some. The reason being is that the audience hopes to achieve the goal of eating fantasy foods. Living out binge fantasies through others is the reason why many are willing to watch others eat and this is caused due to the mirror neuron theory. As humans we are capable of satisfying our cravings by watching others perform the task of eating. This is why overplaying certain aspects of eating allows our imagination to hone in on pleasure receptors in our brain.

    Viewers for mukbang videos rely on the sensory aspect of the videos and high-quality shots of food just makes the content even more hypnotizing. The problem with the food lies in the nutritional content of the food. Most people don’t cook for their mukbangs and most of the consumed food is take out. Some of the sweet treats that are consumed in a single seating has a high enough glucose level to make even the healthiest people diabetics. Apparently, healthy mukbangs gain lower views and this goes back down to the fantasy aspect of it all as huge portions of salad may not be as appetizing as 10 buckets of fried chicken.

    Unfortunately, shock value related to spicy foods aren’t good for the digestive tract and eating borderline inedible foods for the sake of a reaction isn’t really a healthy eating habit. Some content creators are willing to eat seafood that hasn’t even died completely and eating food in this inhumane manner seems to gain millions of views. Watching animals writhe for their life before being eaten is the pinnacle of shock value and creators such as 쏘영 Ssoyoung made a name for herself due to her insane love for live octopus and squids. Belle Delphine may like her octopus but at least that one is dead but the ones in Sssoyoung’s content is basically killed as the video goes on.

    Borderline animal abuse for the sake of entertainment may just be a bit of a stretch. Watching someone else eat in a seductive manner would have been considered odd in the past but now it is merely another piece of internet content. Normalizing something for the sake of it should be a questionable thought process and doing something peculiar in the name of money isn’t necessarily an admirable lifestyle choice. It may be counterproductive to watch someone else eat unhealthy quantities of food as those who truly enjoy eating should just indulge in their lucrative habits rather than receive satiation from a mukbang video.

    More Isn’t Always Better

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    Mukbang content has proved that more definitely isn’t better, in fact, it may just be that food content would be much better if done in moderation. Oversexualizing or overreacting whilst eating may be a short bit in a movie but that concept when translated to 45 min long videos seems ever so unappealing to many. Mukbang content has been around for over a decade and its popularity continues to increase in some countries. This content on YouTube has gone through seismic shifts as this genre today is extremely saturated with many new creators unable to break through and make a living.

    Food content will continue to exist in mainstream media but mukbang content may need to take a brand new approach. Eating in an insane manner for the sake of content should be thought out and the consumption of such content may be completely based on shock value. Food content, in general, makes sense and it is enjoyable for numerous reasons but mukbang content lightly threads the line of absolute insanity in most cases. Tuning it down a couple of notches and allowing for mukbangs to exist in a more professional manner may ultimately help in creating a more like-minded community/ fanbase.

    Extreme food content has many negative implications on an individuals health and it is something that should be recognized early on. Watching such content just due to pleasure could lead to health issues such as obesity and diabetes. Mukbang content may be entertaining but it should only be seen as that and nothing more. The eating stunts performed in the videos should never be fucking replicated on the basis that they may actually cause injury or death. Such content definitely sets the wrong precedent for kids by acknowledging unhealthy eating habits as a career option and an overweight physique as admirable.

    Unfortunately, this is an unavoidable matter as the Internet will forever be littered with a variety of content, both good and bad. It depends on the viewer to make an informed decision as the content consumers are the ones that act as enablers for the creators. People online are merely meeting the demands of others who hope to indulge in food porn or mukbang. Over glorification of exorbitant eating paired with a twisted take on body positivity is the perfect ticket to a globally obese society which is basically the prediction of Wall-E.

    We are slowly moving towards a bleaker future in terms of the type of content we choose to consume willingly. Mukbang is just one of the many new forms of content that seem to gain a large following on the Internet, while some may critic it others choose to stand by it until the end. However, it is safe to say mukbangs will not be the future of food content as we know it and it will not replace the traditional form of food media such as Food Network. This genre doesn’t appeal to the food enthusiasts worldwide, rather it just serves as entertaining content to kill a couple of hours.

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