This week’s out-of-touch guide brings us gifts from Asia, including the Korean craze of “mukbang” videos, American appropriation of ancient Chinese martial arts, and a Japanese video game series that some people really like… but only some people.
Weird things kids watch on YouTube: Mukbang videos
If I have to know what mukbang videos are, so do you. The name is a Korean portmanteau that means something like “eating broadcast,” and the videos live up to the name. They feature hosts eating obscene amounts of food. Sometimes they talk to their fans while they chow down, and sometimes they just eat…and eat and eat.
Top mukbang streamers like Banzz have millions of subscribers; check out this video where he gobbles up like three pounds of raw salmon, or this ASMR (ASMR is a YouTube rabbit hole for another day) mukbang video from Bokyoung. Over 14 million people have watched the YouTuber prepare and eat an unholy amount of Lobster, abalone, octopus, shrimp, squid, and mushrooms while making ASMR mouth noises. YouTube is weird place, man.
The popularity of Korean mukbang videos inspired American knockoffs, which expand the genre by featuring piles of fast-food instead of the squid and fish common in Korean mukbang—for example, check out this video where Hungry Fatchick happily chows down on a week’s worth of food from Jack in the Box, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King.
What does it all mean? Man, I don’t know. While there isn’t anything overtly sexual about any mukbang videos I’ve seen, watching someone happily engage in full-on gluttony definitely has a transgressive, fetishistic appeal—these people are publicly doing everything polite society says they shouldn’t, and they seem to be enjoying themselves. It’s probably not a healthy hobby, but hey, I’m not gonna judge, so rock on, mukbangers.
Internet rabbit hole of the week: Fake martial arts
Karate and other Eastern martial arts have been a part of American kid-life since at least the 1970s. While I assume that most of the 20,000 or so American dojos provide a healthy form of exercise, some dojos and martial arts disciplines are, simply, fake AF. The martial arts world is full of scam artists who practice “bullshido,” the ancient art of selling a dream of mystical Eastern power to gullible kids and adults who desperately want to believe Dragon Ball Z is real.
Martial arts hucksters say you can stop multiple armed attackers with simple-to-learn techniques, learn to paralyze someone by simply touching their “pressure points,” and even harness your “Ki power” to knock people out without even touching them. It’s funny, in a way, until you imagine someone using them to attempt real-life self-defense.
Luckily, exposing fake senseis is not only a public service, it’s also hilarious, so YouTube is packed with awesome, fake martial arts exposés. Start with this overview and history from Super Eyepatch Wolf, then check out TotallyPointlessTV, an up-and-coming channel with a ton of fake martial arts takedowns, then check out these actual MMA fighters trying out (and thus debunking) ridiculous women’s self-defense tips, then watch a trained MMA fighter ring the bell of a “Tai Chi master” (warning: brutal violence), and finally, wash it all down with Joe Rogan and Jon Ronson cracking up over some of the internet the most ridiculous martial fartists.
Oh, and make sure you do some research on your local dojo before you sign your kid up to study under one of these fools. Or be on the safe side and teach ‘em to box.
This week in music: Shmurda free, Daft Punk defunct
I haven’t listened to any new music since Edgar Winter released “Frankenstein” in 1972, so I asked my 13-year-old son what’s happening in music these days. He tells me that the top stories that kids-who-like-music care about this week are: 1) Rapper Bobby Shmurda was released from prison, and 2) Robot-dressing electronica duo Daft Punk broke up.
The Brooklyn rapper’s “Hot Boy” was just blowing up when Bobby Shmurda pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree conspiracy and one count of weapons possession in 2016. Now that he’s done his bid, Shmurda promises he has “projects” in the works.
Daft Punk, on the other hand, is from back in my day, but my son assures me that kids actually care that a couple of French dudes known for house music are defunct as a creative unit. The third tip my son gave me is that everyone is listening is to a YouTube group called 100 Gecs, but I think he was making fun of me.
Viral video of the week: If Apple made a restaurant
I really like Kyle Exum. The young YouTuber steadily posts little comedy videos and is generally not annoying, and after gorging on mukbang videos and fake martial artists, I needed a palate cleanser. Exum’s latest, “If Apple Made a Restaurant,” takes the unique corporate culture of Apple and imagines it applied to a fast-food restaurant, including massively overpriced burgers, $20 “Apple Water,” and that special Apple-arrogance anyone who has ever been to a “genius bar” recognizes.
This video is not going to change the face of comedy or make you rethink your life, but “If Apple Made a Restaurant” has been viewed over three million times in the past couple of days and you can’t argue with success like that.
This week in gaming: Final Fantasy news
The Final Fantasy series of video games are a little like the movie Napoleon Dynamite: The people who like the Japanese RPG series are crazy about it, but the people who don’t can’t even understand what there is to like. I’m firmly in the second camp, but I respect the tastes of Final Fanatics even if I don’t understand them. All this to say that three pieces of FF news dropped this week.
Sony announced that Final Fantasy VII Remake is getting a PlayStation 5 upgrade that includes a new “episode” centering on Yuffie Kisaragi (I don’t know who that is, either.) As if that wasn’t enough, Square Enix, publisher of the Final Fantasy games, is putting out two games for Android and iOS: Final Fantasy VII The First Soldier, a “battle royale game set in Midgar before the events of FFVII” and Final Fantasy VII Ever Crisis, a pocket-size version of Final Fantasy VII.
It occurs to me that “final” fantasy is the most misleading franchise name ever, since there like 73,000 titles have had that name since the first, final, one came out in 1987.