What are mukbangs and why are they so popular?
Aggressive Avocado (a pen name)
A young writer from Kenya
Mukbangs loosely translates to "eating broadcasts." Essentially someone will sit in front of their camera with a meal (usually a ridiculously large portion) and eat as they interact with the audience. The first mukbang video can be traced back to South Korea around 2010. A wave of mukbang content creation on all social media platforms gained traction, especially with the Gen Z and millennial group leading to a need for creativity and viewer appeal. Mukbangs have garnered millions of views since their introduction to the creative market.
Why are mukbangs popular?
The popularity of Mukbangs, as discovered by researchers at the Seoul National University, is because they alleviate the feelings of loneliness associated with eating alone. As much as I don’t fully get the hype behind mukbangs, this makes sense. How so? Well, as a good friend of mine would put it, "why cook for hours only to sit on the dining table or on the couch alone to devour the meal in under thirty minutes?"
Watching people broadcast themselves eating alone makes the mukbangs very relatable and consequently very popular. I admit that I may have watched a few hundred mukbang videos, for “academic purposes” of course, and I was surprisingly very comfortable eating my homemade lasagna with my dog, Kina.
Popular mukbangers are actually able to make a living off eating large quantities of food for an audience. They are usually funded through ad revenue, sponsorships and viewer donations.
With time, just like any craft, mukbangs have been modified to several variations, with the most popular of the interpretations being Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) mukbangs. In this style, the creators purposefully exaggerate noises to amplify the sounds of biting, chewing, and drinking. One of the reasons ASMR mukbangs gained popularity is because sometimes ASMR is associated with sexual pleasure. I bet you are wondering, just as I was, how does watching someone gorge on large amounts of food in one sitting bring sexual pleasure? Research showed that ASMR sounds might trigger Sitopholia (arousal centered around food). However, some people just like ASMR because they find it relaxing.
What are the dangers associated with Mukbangs?
The short-term effects may include physical discomfort, bloating, stomach pain, and fatigue. However, the long-term effects of participating in regular mukbangs are much more dangerous. Through high caloric intake, “mukbangers” often become overweight and eventually obese. Obesity may result in health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, among many more.
What are the repercussions of mukbangs to the viewers?
Mukbangs may lead to eating disorders such as bulimia. There has been speculation that most "mukbangers" are bulimic, and their loyal audience may imitate this. Additionally, Mukbangs may encourage overfeeding to the younger impressionable viewers as their content is centered around one individual eating food enough for a whole football team! Moreover, mukbangs may also trigger people recovering from eating disorders such as binge eating, which may cause them to relapse.
Are there any healthy mukbang, and are they as popular?
In my opinion, watching someone eat weeks’ worth of broccoli in one sitting would never be as satisfying as watching someone devour seven buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken in one sitting. However, there are sometimes when the creator eats a small amount of a delicacy.
Ironically, many of the “mukbangers” have maintained a slender frame, which begs the question, how do they do it? Do they have a high metabolism? Do they fast for days post a mukbang shoot? Do they have a green screen showing us that they are eating while in the real sense they aren’t? These are questions yet to be answered.
I could never be a "mukbanger." I can almost prove, scientifically even, that I gain five extra pounds every time I see fried chicken, and I am just seeing it, not eating it. My Mukbang career would be over in two days. Despite all I have said about mukbang, my overall view on it is "to each their own". I don’t think I could ever get into the content as some other viewers do, but if it helps bring them joy as they enjoy a meal, then there’s no harm in that.
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