Mukbang Culture

Dear Asian Youth,


I used to stay up late watching mukbangs to satisfy my midnight cravings. As I watched YouTubers engulf enormous plates of tteokbokki, fried chicken, and cheesy corn dogs in one sitting, my snacking desires subsided.


What is Mukbang?

Mukbang, which translates to “eating room,” are popular videos that feature individuals eating copious amounts of food. Mukbangs originate from South Korea; Muk-ja means eating and bang means show. For some, mukbang videos elevate hunger and cravings. Others find that there is something incredibly satisfying about the crunch and the gooey textures that seem to melt in their own mouths. And for those eating a meal by themselves, watching mukbangers can make their dining experience livelier.


Gillespie conducted a study where 36 mukbang videos by nine female creators from the USA, Canada, and South Korea were analyzed to understand the impacts that mukbang videos have on body image. According to Gillespie, viewers enjoyed watching mukbang videos due to society’s disapproval when women eat large amounts of food. Nearly 80% of teenage girls are discontent with their bodies whereas 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and turn to dieting. Watching skinny mukbangers eat copious amounts of fast food satisfies viewers because they want to eat unhealthy foods but cannot bring themselves to do so due to a want to become fit and feed into diet culture. In this way, the mukbanger is accomplishing what audiences wish to accomplish themselves, thus many feel fulfilled in watching someone complete such an extreme task.


Though “mukbangers” make money from gorging, rituals of excessive intake of food eventually take a toll on their health. Mukbangers can consume up to 3,000 calories in one sitting, leaving obesity as a threat. Dr. Bates, the assistant professor of surgery in the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, claims that even mukbangers who retain their weight may struggle to maintain their blood sugar levels. As these creators are constantly in a “fast or feast” mode, it can be difficult for their bodies to adjust to such erratic eating patterns. Mukbanger Nikocado Avocado stated that he “puts his body through hell for most videos” and that he saw an 80-pound weight gain after starting his mukbang journey. Because mukabangers indulge in massive amounts of food in short time frames, binge eating habits may develop, furthering health complications and putting them at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease.


Controversies

Mukbang videos have become an increasingly popular way of earning money on YouTube. This fame does not come without controversy. Mukbangers have been accused of faking their mukbangs and utilizing their large platforms for profits without true efforts. Some mukbangers appear thin despite eating generous portions in front of their audience and have thus been suspected of editing their videos and cutting out footage of swallowing food. Meesh La, a popular mukbanger, was accused of not eating in her videos as footage of her swallowing foods rarely appeared. Additionally, in one of Nikocado Avocado’s videos, he supposedly finishes 10 packs of nuclear fire noodles in the span of just 14 minutes, a scary “accomplishment.” Soon after, fans began to speculate whether Nikocado actually ate the noodles due to footage of him swallowing the food in his mukbang videos being omitted. Mukabang controversies are especially destructive for mukbangers because they make their living off of eating and being accused of not eating essentially indicates that audiences do not believe they are doing their job. Thus, it is easy for these mukbangers to become “canceled” and quit making videos altogether. Making content behind a screen can accommodate a mukbanger’s desire to conceal reality, but it is, in fact, difficult for them to regain audiences’ trust after rumors and evidence emerge. These controversies, however, do little to get in the way of audience appreciation of mukbangs.


Effects of Mukbangs

Even with past controversies and accusations, mukbang videos connect viewers and emphasize the importance of shared meals that are often lost to busy schedules and stressful workloads. Meals are often a time of conversation and family bonding, for other times of the day may be piled with appointments, school, work, etc. Home is also associated with having meals because one usually eats in a familiar environment with those they care for. Think of eating while watching a mukbang video as a facetime date; you eat your meal while watching your date do the same and hear them talk about their life or piping tea in the media. You get to know them better and just having some company can easily subdue loneliness and anguish. So next time you’re feeling you feel lonely or tired, try grabbing some snacks and eating with a mukbanger!


- Josie