Ever slow down on the freeway to see a wreck?
Ever call a Nascar event boring because nobody crashes?
You’re not alone.
We describe chaotic, attention-grabbing events as “train wrecks” for a good reason—like a train going off the rails, you can’t look away.
It’s a human instinct to look upon the morbid. There is perhaps some survival enhancement buried there, a kind of imprinting of doom that pumps up caution and therefore decreases the odds of suffering the same fate. However, like all valid human desires and instincts, they can be artificially hijacked.
Enter the internet age, where at any time of day, you can look at a “recked” thread on one of the big imageboards and watch an endless stream of people getting hurt, killed, or embarrassed in bite-sized webm vids. On the more “acceptable” side, we have TV shows like “My 600-pound life,” which, make no mistake, is viewing the morbid. Then there are the things that make rounds at YouTube, where the most attention-grabbing content gets pushed to the top.
Among the infinite algorithm, we see the morbid of morbid, “Nikocado Avocado” a mukbang Youtuber whose downward trajectory has generated more views just in reaction videos than I’ve ever had on my entire channel.
What is mukbang? Well, it’s best described as ASMR with large quantities of food. Originally from South Korea, mukbang videos depict a person (sometimes more than one), usually with a microphone placed close to the face or mouth, binge eating noisily. It can be anything, but the most popular foods are things like ramen noodles which the subject can slurp down loudly and in impressive amounts.
I’m sure “connoisseurs” of this type of video will say there is more to it than that, but that’s like a porn fan telling you there is more to pornography than people doing sex acts on camera. Sure… but what’s the point of the video for the viewer besides that?
Mukbang is pornographic in its own weird way. It depicts a person engaged in an activity that works as a gluttonous fantasy for the viewer but ultimately leaves them empty and unfulfilled. Our instincts exist for good reasons. Sex and the drive for it exist for the purpose of reproduction. Food and the hunger for it exist so that you can go on living. But that lurid exhibition of the act which sucks the viewer and holds his attention is a hijacking of those appropriate biological impulses to… other ends.
Just as how a man will have a hard time looking away from pornography that is right in front of his face, it’s hard to look away from a mukbang, even if you view it as disgusting. It’s like a wreck, and the compulsion to rubberneck is hard to resist.
Now, Nikocado Avocado…
Nikocado Avocado is meta-mukbang. He makes mukbang videos, but his own life is a kind of mukbang, a perverse, morbid trainwreck happening in real-time, and he knows it. Just look at his video thumbnails:
He didn’t always look like this, by the way:
Making constant Mukbang content, which means constantly binge-eating unhealthy food, has certainly had a profound impact on his appearance and (if he is to be believed) his health.
It’s not just his body he puts up for shock value, he also constantly makes videos about his partner (which he calls his husband) breaking up with him, only to get back together. This partner certainly bucks the gay stereotype of being oriented toward physical fitness in his partner (and himself):
His partner has also suffered effects from overeating during the past 4 years:
Make no mistake, Nikocado is milking this, and he knows that the rubberneckers will only pump up his views and promote what he’s doing. In fact, I wouldn’t know what mukbang even was had it not been for reaction videos talking about Nick.
There is a symbiotic relationship here, and I wonder if all the content makers are aware of it. Greg Doucette is pretty savy on how YouTube works, and his video is pretty on point about what Nick is doing, so I assume he might be aware of the dissonance that arises when he makes a video about Nick, given that Greg’s channel is focused on diet and fitness. He’s gaining views from Nick’s obviously crazy behavior, but at the same time, he’s reflexively driving more traffic to Nick’s channels, which in turn is going to fuel what Nick is doing. Indeed, I am part of this cycle, too, with this very content.
Nikocado Avocado is doing what he is doing because people want to watch it.
But what does the Avocado want from all this, exactly? Well, for starters, he bought a penthouse for 2.3 million dollars, so his meta-mukbang life implosion is paying pretty well:
I can justify some of the reactions based on the white-hat intent. For instance, Greg Doucette, by doing a video, will get to talk about proper diet and nutrition for losing weight and perhaps help some people. With my content, I’d like to impart this message:
Much like Stop Giving Money to People Who Hate You (the message and the book by Brian Niemeier), we should “Stop giving money to people to harm themselves.” Nick will be shortening his lifespan by these sorts of performances, and in addition to the money, I think he likes the attention; otherwise, he would quit while he was ahead. As it is, I think nothing will stop him save death. I don’t believe all the reaction videos telling him to stop will work. I don’t think I will have an impact there, either.
However, that’s not the only reason to stop rubbernecking. Just like how not giving money to people who hate you is good for you, avoiding Nick’s content will also be good for you. That 30 minutes spent gawking at a fat e-celeb as he gorges himself to an early grave could be spent watching almost anything else. Moreover, weaning yourself off the drama content can only improve your mental well-being. You’ve already observed the morbid; you need not focus on it or search for more lurid stimulation. I’ve already watched more of him than is good for me just trying understand mukbang because here I am feeding him, in a way. So please consider turning off the drama.
Also mukbang is gross.
I didn’t even know what this was.
Now I found out that it can also be political.
“Yuka ate 137 Philippine bananas and caused controversy among Chinese viewers. Many Chinese netizens accused her of assaulting China using that 137 bananas because there are 1.37 billion people in China and this episode was posted soon after the South China Sea Ruling.”
This is all too weird for me.
In fairness, that particular example is more about the hypersensitivity of Chinese nationalists, looking under every stone and log for potential insults to their glorious nation.
I always assumed mukbang was supposed to be an attractive female streamer just chatting with a spread of food in front of her. I presumed the intent was to have a dinner conversation atmosphere with the viewers. Perhaps I’m naive for thinking that.
I dunno, the “bang” suffix points to something a little less peaceful. Or maybe I’m just thinking in English and that has an entire different meaning in rooftop.
Yeah its just translates to eating broadcast. I think it was a “just talking” stream before that category existed.
Sweet reference to Stephen King’s “On Writing” to open the article.
Fear not! At least in my case, I feel no urge to go and watch a fag (or anyone) stuffing his face with empty calories. Maybe I got all the rubbernecking out of my system back in my photo journalism days. Maybe all that studying to enter the Franciscan Order as a lay brother is working and I’m being disgusted, instead of fascinated by, sin; something that doesn’t apply to more literal train wrecks where it can just be an accident. Maybe there’s something to be explored in that distinction.
I think that, outside of neighborhood WhatsApp groups, I’ve managed to steer clear of most e-drama, and I’ve only heard about it from trusted creators like yourself in this case, Nick and Vince in the case of vaush or Chris-Chan, and Argent Templar in the case of Davis Aurini the Sigma Supreme. In none of those cases I’ve become a follower or even watched anything by the train wreck.
Also, isn’t it weird how both overeating and oversexing make use of the word “bang”? I seem to remember that there’s authors that pair the sins of gluttony and lust as being different aspects of the same impulse running amok, but i can’t actually remember who was that wrote that. Brian probably does.
I wasn’t aware I made a reference. I haven’t read that book in 20 years.
I do think gluttony and lust are different aspects of the same thing – natural impulses that are overindulged, hijacked, disconnected from purpose. If I remember correctly Dante had both of these things in the same place in hell.
Usually there’s a lot of meat involved, so I certainly wouldn’t call the calories empty.
They were close. I believe that in Dante’s schema lust was put at the top with the comparatively lightest punishment, because at least it involved concern for another. Then again, Dante is also a poet, not a theologian, so this doesn’t say anything about how things actually are.
I’ve vaguely heard about Niko, but I’ve never wanted to watch his “content”. Gluttony is an issue for me, but in a different form. I rarely eat overly large portions, it’s over-snacking over the course of the day that’s my vice. I’m trying to stop, but sometimes the desire to have something can get intense. Anyway, good post.