Internet users in South Korea have given us the unusual phenomenon of “meok-bang,” from the Korean for ‘eating’ and ‘on-air.’ Via the peer-to-peer network Afreeca TV, viewers are able to access a live-stream of their favorite food personalities eating generous spreads of food. Perhaps the most well-known of these figures is the 34 year-old Park Seo-yeon, who is also known to fans as ‘The Diva.’ Regular segments range from around five minutes to nearly half an hour — almost the length of a reality show — in fan-made compilations alone. The live meals are known to last a few hours. Currently, The Diva is Google's top suggested entry for viewers of Afreeca TV, where Park streams her meals.
The Diva, with her hair and make-up done, sits in front of her webcam and chooses from a bright collection of dishes. It’s no small dinner, either- the girl can eat.
The video series allowed Park to leave her job and earn money solely from her live-streams. Fans support her through Star Balloons, a virtual currency that can be converted to Korean won. The strange gig began as a hobby, but now Park feels that she has tapped into a common void that her supporters share. “People enjoy the vicarious pleasure when they can’t eat this much or find that food at night or are on a diet,” she told Reuters before a recent ‘episode.’
In a broadcast during which Park ate yukhoe, a Korean-style beef tartare, a viewer wrote in that they had just picked up the same dish. Park entered the stream’s adjoining chatroom to encourage her fans to eat along with her. Though her new fulltime position is an unusual one, Park told Reuters, “Loneliness is another crucial factor. The show is addictive as you can communicate with thousands of people at home.”
Though the trend hasn’t hit the U.S. in the same way, we can’t help but think of the scene in 30 Rock when Liz Lemon, played by Tina Fey, happily takes over eating a $54 steak for Alec Baldwin’s character, who recently suffered a heart attack. “You want to watch me eat this steak in front of you?” she asks.
“That’s what I want.” And she does.
That’s not to say that American culture doesn’t intersect with celebrity; Hollywood and its hangers-on is replete with celebrity endorsers for all kinds of food products. Jamie Lee Curtis encouraged women of a certain age to learn to love a certain probiotic yogurt, and was then lampooned by SNL. Wonderful Pistachios has an impressive rotating list of celebrity endorsers from Khloe Kardashian to the Harlem Globetrotters and Stephen Colbert. This compilation from Food & Wine shows some of the more unusual endorsements made by celebrities- did you know, for instance, that Heidi Klum has a line of candies called Heidi Klum’s Fruit Flirtations? Finally, there's goop from Gwyneth Paltow, where Paltrow appreciators can find out how to cook and eat like Gwyneth and her fancy friends.