Sometimes I like to ask my followers to give me prompts and then I pick one for a story. I did that today, randomly picked one, and had NO idea what it was.
"Mukbang," huh? So what is that?
Food streamers... I've seen stuff like this before, and I certainly know a thing or two about streaming, myself. Here we go.
WARNING: The story that sprang to mind grossed me out. But I wrote it anyway.
I used to say that people who work to put food on the table are suckers. I put food on the table for work.
They call it “mukbang.” It literally means something like “eat show.”
At the start, it was innocent enough. My girlfriend Millie and I had already been streaming for a year or so, so when we went on our honeymoon we just let the camera capture some of it. South Korea is a beautiful place, full of such delicious food. Any stream of us eating immediately gave us like ten times the revenue! Out there, it was actually becoming something of a business.
Streaming was never a priority for us, but you’d be surprised how a modest show can pay a bill or two. At least when we got started. I’m not so sure what it’s like for smaller streamers today. Millie would sing on a stream, I’d play some games, and somehow that took care of our gym bill. Maybe even a meal or two, depending on people sending us tips.
But after the honeymoon, we started streaming a meal every week. Sometimes breakfast or dinner. We could only really stream before or after work, you know? Content creators have to create content whenever they can.
Our audience just grew and grew. Some of our fans told us that watching the streams felt like being with friends. I liked that. At the beginning, something just felt really simple and nice about the whole thing. Millie and I were trying new things. Experimenting with cooking and different types of cuisine. Our weekly meals were becoming daily. Clearly there was demand for more.
When I quit my job, I didn’t even know how to explain the reason why. It just didn’t pay to waste our time doing anything else.
Whatever dreams I had, it’s almost a hazy memory. One day all my plans stopped mattering. My bank account was full, and there was more food to eat. Don’t get me wrong, in the early days, we were careful. It all started as a way to pay those gym bills, right? Well we made sure to keep it as healthy as possible. Positive.
Maybe health and streaming don’t go as well together as I thought…
Somehow it felt like we were getting away with something. Millie and I, after a long day of eating and feeding each other, would stay up late in bed, talking about how surreal it was. How lucky we were to be born in an era where you can literally order pizza and call it a job.
And then the pressure started increasing.
It was like an arms race. Some newer channels popped up doing all kinds of crazy stuff. I remember one guy with a deep fryer in his kitchen rating how different candy bars taste fried.
Millie and I suddenly realized how thin the barrier was between our channel’s success and our financial collapse. We’d quite our jobs…given up everything. If our views plummeted because other channels turned eating into a freak show, what would we do?
That was the fear that changed everything.
I don’t know what came first. Millie woke up one morning and said she didn’t feel like going to the gym…
And here we are.
I can’t tell you how many times I thought about resisting the urge to compete. Some days I insisted the eating shows were over. Other days, I felt like a failure for ever considering giving up such a privileged gig.
And what would we do, anyway?
Years and years dripped by. We each packed on the pounds, not that the literal weight was the entire problem.
Streaming is a sedentary job. You’re in that chair, and you’re not going anywhere. When the gig is shoving as much food into your mouth as possible, it’s almost like your muscles just waste away.
Sometimes I break into a sweat getting from my bed to my desk.
It’s funny, right? Fat guys are funny and clumsy, right?
I can’t tell you how much I hate myself sometimes…For doing this to myself. For enabling Millie to do what she’s done, as well. Of course, we’re all responsible for our own decisions, but I think back to our honeymoon, and I don’t recognize who we were. If I’m honest, I think we even started to hate each other.
Everything became for the show. We couldn’t eat without a camera running, then we started holding back talking to each other so we could “save it for the show.” It was as if our relationship only existed for an audience.
The more we ate, the more hollow everything became.
So goddammit, why couldn’t we stop?
Why does the audience love this so much? They would drop me in an instant if anything changed. I’ve seen it happen. It’s food or nothing. And I mean nothing…the degree to which I’ve debased myself online…I can’t imagine anyone taking me seriously.
The stress is what killed Millie. I just know it is.
We’d been learning to cure our own meat, which sounds more educational than it really was. Our views were dropping again. The stress was taxing us as much as our diet.
One morning I woke up, and I assumed Millie had already gotten out of bed. That’s how still she was.
All morning I’ve sat in bed, staring at my wife. I can only hope it happened in her sleep. But I can’t imagine it was peaceful.
I’ve been tortured by the anxiety of the life we built. Exhausted by struggling to keep up with this arms race with other channels eating crazier and crazier foods.
I think I can kiss it all goodbye.
The arms race is over.
Call me crazy, but Millie is onto something. Her death is just what our channel needs to get the numbers back on track. I picture the thumbnail and headline. The announcement itself, and then the meal that will follow. If she can’t be a content creator anymore, at least she can be the content itself.
I think tonight, I’ll announce Millie’s death with the world’s wildest mukbang of all time.
Good luck topping this one.