Sabrina Plath and Lisa Beikirch created this video essay for a seminar in the Department of film studies at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany under the supervision of Chloé Galibert-Laîné. First published in Notes on Videographic Criticism on June 19, 2020.
One thing that struck me about your essay is that you do not formally introduce the term “mukbang” or offer any definition until the last couple minutes of the video. Why did you decide to do this?
While doing our research we came across many videos of people criticizing mukbang. We deliberately started out without defining the subject. This way we allow the images to speak for themselves and the viewer to experience the content without prejudice. We believe that defining the “phenomenon” too soon would limit the viewer in their approach to the topic. After the sensory overload of videos, the explanation acts like a cool down period. The questions that have come up inside the viewers mind will now (hopefully) be answered.
The montage and layering of images is fascinating. At some points it almost looked like the individuals on camera were in dialogue with one another via video chat. Was this intentional? How did you decide to layer the images?
After finding out how broad the topic is, we realized that we needed to divide the content into different categories. We observed that a big characteristic of mukbang is the social component (as mukbang emerged originally from the wish to have company while eating). To visualize this aspect, we had the idea of editing the videos as if the individuals would be chatting with each other via video call. While starting off with a one-on-one call, which seems like a personal conversation, the call evolves into something more superficial, with people talking over each other and even talking in different languages. Additionally, layering more and more images over each other also exhibits the large quantity of videos posted online with rather “simple” content revolving around food.
The sound design is fantastic. How difficult was this process? Do you have any sound design tips?
Considering that audio plays a big part in mukbang videos and eating in general, we wanted to emphasize these sounds by letting them stand alone in the beginning and end of our film. We also worked a lot with layering of the audio so that it evokes a sense of disorientation. Near the end, with the explanation of the mukbang “phenomenon”, we wanted the audio to flow together, creating a synergy. Through this we were hoping that these partially different statements might create a summarizing overview. The process was not necessarily difficult but involved a lot of playing around.
What drew you to this topic? The essay really allows for the images to breathe and speak for themselves. Why did you take this approach instead of, for example, using text on screen or voice over?
We were interested in working on the topic because we both did not have many connections to mukbang videos and initially did not realize the dimensions of it. It was fascinating that we were able to experience a different side of the Internet. The research would just never stop as there was always another video to discover. Just as we experienced these images, we also wanted others to experience them as unbiased as possible. We did not want to speak over the images or impose our own thoughts on them, the viewer should not be pressured into an opinion. Instead the images should speak for themselves. We felt like there was no need to add any text because the videos themselves had so much to offer. The videos we show are not only interesting in terms of their audio-visual components, but also in the feelings they invoke in a person, whether those may be disgust, fascination, or confusion. That is also why we held off until later in the film to show the more extreme videos, so that the subject will not begin with a possible negative connotation.