Nothing in the world has been spared by COVID-19. As the deadly virus spread, people across the world were put into lockdown. It was for the first time that people were restricted from stepping out of their homes, flights were abandoned, and we couldn’t meet our friends and families. To fill the void created by the absence of regular life activities, people started looking for substitutes to keep their mental health in check. This was the time when Mukbang was born. AlShorts, news in 30 seconds, tells you how this fun overeating became a life-threatening expedition for trendsetters who have tremendous virtual fan-following.
Mukbang is a byproduct of ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response). It not only helped people forget the troubles of lockdown but also allowed them to find peace and relaxation by watching stimulating videos.
While the term ASMR may seem daunting, it is anything but that. ASMR, as the full form suggests, is simply a response generated by our sensors when we see or hear some particular kind of sights and sounds. While some describe the feeling as ‘tingles’ down the spine, others call it immensely calming as well as relaxing. The term first came into use in around 2010, when Jennifer Allen created a Facebook group to know more about the phenomena.
For different people, ASMR is triggered by different events. Some of the popular examples include sounds of whispers, spraying water, tapping, stirring a bowl of soup, and listening to echoed sounds. However, most of the trending ASMR videos today contain uncommon activities like the sound of a haircut, rubbing of brush bristles against the human skin, and people eating and stuffing hot and spicy food in their mouths.
Videos of people, especially from South Korea, Japan, and China, stuffing their mouths with hot, spicy, and various kinds of food broke the internet in 2010. A Korean YouTuber started the trend ‘Mukbang’ when he ate lots of food while interacting with his viewers on the video-sharing platform. Soon after, starting from 2016, videos of people chewing, binging, and slurping food started gaining a high number of views as the term ‘Mukbang’ began to trend. The contrast between thin and attractive Southeast Asians and the way they stuff their fairly small mouths with a truckload of food has further helped these videos attract viewers.
‘Mukbang’ is a portmanteau word comprising two words ‘muk-ja’ (eating) and ‘bang-song’ (broadcast). When combined, the term stands for ‘eating broadcast’. Interestingly, it is not pronounced as ‘muck-bang’. In Korean, Mukbang is pronounced as ‘mook-bong’ or ‘moak-bahng’. Searches for Mukbang on the internet went further up in 2018. Furthermore, lockdowns in 2020 gave people ample time to sit back and watch people eat recklessly, putting both their mouth muscles and health at risk.
ASMR and Mukbang go hand in hand courtesy the sounds produced while eating in a hasty manner. Additionally, the hot and spicy nature of food makes these YouTubers form faces and generate ASMR sounds. Today, people are spending hours watching others eat unhealthy food rashly to experience relaxing sounds.
Eating 10 to 15 packets of noodles at once cannot be healthy. Well, those are the perils that Mukbang brings along. In the name of entertaining people, YouTubers have started eating anything they find in the fridge. Adding extra chillies and oils is also a common practice to make Mukbang videos entertaining.
‘Mukbang Challenges’ are good at providing the audience with entertainment, ASMR, and a fun-filled time on the internet. However, Mukbang celebrities are pouring too much in their plates, and then in mouths to accomplish the same. The activity is a calorie feast, something a human body doesn’t need. With that said, let’s have a look at some of the goods and bads of Mukbang.
Entertainment and ASMR for audience: Watching people eat recklessly is giving immense pleasure to a lot of people in today’s world. Many claim to feel calm, relaxed, and a tingling feeling while watching these videos. All of these tingling sensations, relaxing feelings, etc. are examples of Mukbang videos inducing ASMR in people.
Money: Many YouTubers make as much as USD10,000 a month by making Mukbang videos. Besides several Mukbang stars such as Banzz have millions of subscribers on YouTube, giving them high viewership and ad revenue on the video-sharing platform. Following are some of the popular Mukbang YouTubers:
Zach Choi ASMR: 10 million subscribers
Banzz: 2.29 million subscribers
까니짱 [ G-NI ]: 3.62 million subscribers
Dorothy: 4.06 million subscribers
푸메Fume: 3.18 million subscribers
N.E Let’s Eat: 3.4 million subscribers
[햄지]Hamzy: 4.9 million subscribers
Eat with Boki: 4.8 million subscribers
Health: Eating so much food at once is never good for one’s health. When you consume a ridiculously high number of calories on a daily basis, things are expected to go wrong. While an average male requires around 2,000-3000 calories in a day, a woman, on the other hand, needs 1,600-2,400 calories per day. In the case of Mukbang, one meal accounts for 4,000 to 10,000 calories or even more on some occasions. Mukbang YouTuber Banzz stated he has to exercise for up to 12 hours a day to keep his weight in check.
Deaths: On 8 April 2019, a Japanese mother choked herself to death in a bid to complete the ‘Onigiri Challenge’. In ‘Onigiri Challenge’, people are given a task to eat a full Onigiri within 30 seconds. Also, they are not allowed to drink water while eating the dish. The woman went unconscious for 20 minutes before one of her live stream viewers called an ambulance.
On another occasion, a Chinese man Wang gained 40kg in just six months while making Mukbang videos. His fans would often send him gifts and donations. Wang died after spending a week at the hospital. Many more deaths were reported as Mukbang creators tried to eat live fish and octopuses.
To make hay while the sun shines, many YouTubers like ‘Hunger Diaries ASMR’ from the Middle East have started making Mukbang ASMR videos. Moreover, Mukbang YouTubers from around the world have begun making videos on food from the Middle East.
Irrespective of the region or food, Mukbang videos remain the same, with people creating havoc in the name of entertaining, pleasing, and making people feel calm and relaxed. Mukbang videos in relation to the Middle East include dishes such as Shawarma, Falafel, Lamb, and more.
ASMR, something that was meant to soothe people and offer them relaxation, has become nothing but an activity of ruckus. Mukbang has, over time, turned from a fun eating activity into an unhealthy and harmful movement hiding behind the veil of peace, relaxation, and entertainment.
We have to decide for ourselves if a movement that is causing deaths and affecting people’s health can even qualify for something that soothes people. Mukbang continues to take the internet by storm, people keep stuffing their mouths with 1000s of calories, and the audience sits back and tries to relax while someone is playing with his/her health, and probably, life.