Wolfing down food on TV for fun?

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Wolfing down food on TV for fun?


You may find this an absurd question, but I am really curious. Do people really enjoy watching celebrities wolfing down food on television? I don’t watch television much, but lately I’ve noticed that the big trend on television is food. We have gotten used to seeing skinny female celebrities opening their mouths as wide as they can and filling them with food. The scene is almost always followed by a caption like, “Eating up a storm!” Those who can finish a bowl of cold noodles in just two bites are praised as “gods of eating.”

Many programs show people enjoying delicious food, and variety shows about restaurants - almost without exception - focus on customers who eat up their food and present a thumbs up even before they swallow. Celebrities like to share photos of themselves enjoying food. Songs like “Ice Flakes With Beans and Rice Cakes” by Akdong Musician - a teenager duo who won the second season of “K-Pop Star” on SBS - are celebrated as “food songs.” No doubt TV programs are increasingly filled with food and attractive food stories.

Of course, people are interested in new cuisines and enjoy a vicarious thrill from seeing celebrities eating delicious food. Appetite is an undeniable part of human nature, and great food is always an charming subject. Even I have tried recipes featured on a popular variety show.

But some these programs praise gluttonous consumption, overwhelming audiences with the sheer quantity of food and emphasizing how many dishes were emptied in a very short time. Some programs even have people play a game of eating noodles while on a roller coaster ride. In an overly affluent society that demands control over our instincts, our appetites seem to have finally found an escape.

However, I also get quite uncomfortable when I see this fixation on appetite leading to excessive - and sometimes sadistic - scenes. In addition, food shows collide with another one of our favorite subjects, dieting. These days, people who successfully lose weight are frequently celebrated as heroes. Just because one lost weight, he or she gets to appear on television and share the experience with audiences eager to follow in their footsteps.

Television programs and products about diet have now become an industry. We all know that diet begins with controlling food consumption. But, as diet and fitness are being emphasized at the same time, so is voracious consumption and gluttony. Our society is incongruously divided over its perceptions of food.

Food - and the eating of food - on television is a general trend, and interest in those subjects will not die off easily. So, at the risk of showing how conventional I am, I would argue that all human instincts, including appetite and sex drive, should be controlled in a healthy society and that it would be courteous for people to savor food, not wolf it down.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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