I am told that there are some people who make thousands of dollars a month by being filmed as they eat their way through vast amounts of food on camera. These videos are uploaded to platforms such as YouTube, with some of them drawing in millions of viewers. Nothing happens in the video apart from the act of eating – although I am told that the performers usually eat as though they have been starving for months.
What went wrong with us, as a race, that such a thing should quality as ‘entertainment’ in this day and age?
Food means fuel needed for continuation of existence, and to exist means to ‘be something’ rather than nothing. To exist is to have cheated death and annihilation. To watch someone eating is to watch someone consuming the very source of physical power. We enjoy it because we enjoy power, for it is power which enables us to function. And to function means to be. And being is preferable to non-being.
But it is far more profound than that. Being is bittersweet, for it is always tinged with the disturbing threat of non-being. Power is craved not for its own sake, but because it eradicates our sense of powerlessness and, for a few short moments, make us feel ‘full’ – full of being – and thus in a sense invincible. And yet the threat of powerlessness is always there, built-in to the experience of power as an ever-present reminder. Food is meaningful only because there is hunger, and power is meaningful only because there is weakness. The act of eating both fascinates and disgusts us: it fascinates us because we are watching the near-miraculous transformation of hunger into fullness, and it disgusts us because we know that in a few hours’ time, the digestive system will do its job and the waste products will be expelled from our body, in process that reminds us only too starkly of our corporeality, our physicality, our animality.
As for the banality of these videos, the overwhelming sadness and futility that comes with the idea of watching someone else chew and chomp, gorge and guzzle, this is down to the severe crisis of meaning from which our modern ‘civilisation’ suffers. For such sad spectacles of ‘power absorption’ to draw in viewers by the million demonstrates how devoid of meaning our civilisation has truly become.