Sex, fries and videotape: the bizarre food porn of S Korean web sensation Showry

Showry is South Korea’s biggest YouTube phenomenon since Psy, the creator and star of unsettling videos that mix food and sex with disgust and fascination

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 January, 2016, 5:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 January, 2016, 9:04am

In one of a series of bizarre videos that might have popped up on your social media feed lately, an attractive Korean woman is seen wearing a crop-top revealing ample cleavage, with a bobbed haircut and impeccably applied lipstick. At first, it seems as if she is simply flirting with the viewer, but the video soon takes a bizarre turn.

She empties a large bag of McDonald’s French fries in front of her and starts squirting tomato ketchup over them – as well as into her mouth. But she’s just getting started. It turns out that she’s sitting in a huge tub full of ketchup, and as she screams “More? More? More?”, she starts smearing herself with the sauce and then scooping and finally shovelling it over the fries as she teases the onlooker.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Showry, South Korea’s biggest viral social media sensation since pop singer Psy won over the web with his infectious hit Gangnam Style.

In her videos, which involve everything from chocolate sauce and soft drinks to squid and even raw chicken, the 35-year-old sensation presents a bizarre combination of hammy hyper-sexuality, in-your-face cleavage and grotesquely handled food.

Some viewers have been outraged by her over-the-top videos, but many more have been won over by her absurd, joyful nihilism. But most of all, the question on most people’s lips has simply been: why?

Showry, who was born Seo Ae-jin, is often described as a feminist shock comedian parodying mok bang, a Korean internet phenomenon in which performers, also known as broadcasting jockeys, stream footage of themselves eating for paying customers .

It’s voyeuristic, as well as a way for viewers to live vicariously through the broadcasting jockeys, so it’s seen as a form of food porn.

However, Showy says she has been misunderstood. “My work does not satirise [mok bang]. I have just done another type of work. I have made something new using food and strange ingredients,” Seo says during an interview with the South China Morning Post.

“And sometimes I am a feminist, sometimes I’m not. I’d rather be me than be defined as anything else. I want to be free from all labels. If I had to describe myself, I’d say I was a creator.”

While the internet seems to be divided over her significance, Showry’s online presence is indisputable. Her official Facebook page has more than 1.1 million followers , while her YouTube channel has a sizeable following of 100,000 subscribers and more than 21 million collective views of her work. In an age where clicks, views, likes and followers mean everything, Showry has more than cemented her status in the online community. She is a bona fide internet celebrity.

“It’s seems my page suddenly blew up outside of Korea,” Seo says. “I’m a little embarrassed by all the attention and enthusiasm from outside of Korea. I’m also puzzled as to why they are so interested.”

Showry emerged on YouTube early last year. Her first video, titled “How to Take a Bath”, shows the performer in a bathtub, dancing and singing as she squeezes tubes of paint over her face and body. But her popularity exploded when she introduced the food videos, such as “F***ing Fruit Juice”, showing Showry dancing and spitting fruit into a blender, and “Making Combination Pizza”, in which she piles pizza toppings onto a tray and blasts it with a blowtorch.

However, Showry first appeared on the internet in 2008 on Afreeca TV, a peer-to-peer realtime internet broadcasting and chatting platform that enables broadcasters to live-chat with viewers. Afreeca is the most popular platform for mok bang broadcasters, who can earn tens of thousands of US dollars per month, but Showry was instead doing comedy skits.

However, Showry outraged audiences in 2014 when she allegedly acted inappropriately with a high-school-aged male guest star online and, after weathering a storm of criticism in South Korea, Seo switched platforms to YouTube and continued with her work.

“I still get tonnes of criticism [from South Korean viewers] because I started this kind of work early. Now, people have gotten used to it, but there are still lots of people who are shocked by it and then insult me for it,” Seo says.

“[But] I think my imagery educates viewers. They learn about different subjects through something sexy like me. People get bored by repetitive images and need to find new ways of sexiness.”

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Still, when it comes down to that important question, Seo still demurs when asked to explain the purpose of her videos.

In a recent tweet, an obviously exasperated Seo posted “My videos don’t need grand a purpose or message. They are not understood, they are just for fun. if you find personal inspiration, good for you.”

Asked about her future plans, Showry tells the Post: “I don’t have any. It’s like how you and I just met and we are doing this interview now. You never know where things will go. But obviously, it will be fun.”