In honor of dead week, I wanted to talk a little bit about one of my favorite ways to procrastinate: mukbangs. Anyone that knows me knows that I love food, and watching these videos is almost natural for me. However, a lot of people don’t know much about them, or how the word is said (“mookbang?” “mukbahng?”). A lot of different genres seem to have also popped up as people work to put their own spin on the viral concept.
The mukbang first came onto the scene in South Korea in about 2009. In 2010, however, it began to pick up steam and became a popular trend. People would mostly live stream themselves eating food with often little to no talking. Most people credit the Fine Brothers with introducing the trend to a wider American audience with their video “YOUTUBERS REACT TO MUKBANG (Eating Shows),” which was published April 2nd, 2015. It has been viewed about 6.7 million times. Most of the creators in the video were bored and also a little weirded out by watching people eat, and they were shocked and a little angry after hearing how much mukbang-ers make.
A few weeks later, as possibly the beginning of an era, Trisha Paytas published her first mukbang. The video is preceeded by a quick screen warning viewers that if they don’t like to watch people eat, then maybe they should skip that video. It was published April 24, 2015 and currently has almost 2.3 million views. Of course, Trisha has gone on to make tons of more mukbang videos in her own style, which defines the American mukbang. In this style, people just talk to the camera about crazy stories in their life or just chat to the camera. One of my personal favorites is Stephanie Soo, and she tells the story of a true crime every episode. These videos tend to range from someone sitting in front of the camera with a huge spread of food, or they may just eat in their car.
Another type of mukbang becoming more popular lately is related to ASMR. Most of the time, these also have little to no talking. These shift the focus back to the food, and oftentimes they focus on the sounds of the food and include noodles, vegetables, and honeycomb.
So why are these videos so popular? In my opinion, it’s like having company. Oftentimes it saves me from feeling like I’m eating alone, as weird as that may sound. Other times I may feel like I’m eating vicariously through the person, whether I’m on a diet or they’re eating a food in a foreign country. I enjoy seeing what 7/11 is like in Japan, for example. Plus, it’s a little pleasing (and incredible) to see people take down a huge amount of food. It doesn’t have to be weird, and most videos aren’t. Eating has a large social aspect in our culture, and sometimes it can fill that void.
So this dead week, catch me watching mukbangs.