Watch enough cooking TikToks from Emily Mariko, the beauty YouTuber-turned-food and lifestyle influencer extraordinaire, and a set of motifs will start to emerge: comfortable athleisure, bounties of produce straight from the farmer’s market, the comforting sounds of chopping and sizzling, and, at the end of almost every video, Mariko’s first bite of her perfect-looking food, complete with her signature head nod or eye flutter of apparent pleasure. (The latter has become so associated with Mariko that it has sparked a mini trend of sorts, involving people trying to look as blissfully satiated while delicately chewing their own food.)
But there is one thing Mariko does that I — an initial skeptic who has nevertheless (however reluctantly) fallen completely under her aspirational spell — hate beyond all measure. It’s not the salmon rice, it’s not how her toast always seems too hard, and it’s not even anything to do with the skinny privilege clearly at play in her popularity.
It’s the hunch.
You know what I’m talking about: when Mariko bends almost 90 degrees over her kitchen island so that she can slather on sriracha and mayo, or snap brussels sprouts off their stalk, or split carrots into thinner sticks that she will then store in a jar full of water so that they will last longer. None of these tasks require stooping so far over the counter that her height is basically halved, or leaning in so close to the camera that it looks like she might pop right out of the screen The Ring-style. I would know, because I am also a person who cooks.
And it’s not just Mariko, either. As anyone who is algorithmically served the same amount of amateur cooking videos as I am can tell you, the hunch is spreading on TikTok, almost certainly thanks to Mariko’s impact. Here’s someone unnecessarily hunching while squirting sriracha and while sawing open a croissant; here’s another person doing it while making Mariko’s salmon rice bowl in a precise-yet-not-at-all-satirical imitation of the influencer; here’s one more person stooped over non-stop throughout nearly the whole TikTok, to the point where half of the top comments on the video are about the creator’s posture.
I’m aware that my loathing of the hunch is irrational and petty. There’s probably a simple explanation for why Mariko (and thus her acolytes) selectively hunches. For influencers like her, cooking videos are extensions of the self, the brand, the whole package deal — the opposite of Tasty’s top-down hands-only cooking videos from a few years ago. They want their faces in the shot whenever possible. But not from an unflattering angle, which is what you would get if you were to take your phone from where it’s propped up on the counter and move it farther back so that it captures your entire frame from a lower angle. Hence: the hunch.
But I have a PSA for all the hunching Mariko wannabes out there. You are not her. You will never be her. Keep it up and one day in your late twenties you’ll wake up and realize that you can’t fucking lift your arms above your head because even the simple act of sleeping fucks up your neck, shoulders, and back. So stop giving in to bad posture. Do some light stretches every day. Be like this guy (skip to 00:16) and film your countertop cooking videos while kneeling, back straight, on a stool, so that you can get your face in the frame without having to hunch. Maybe one day, cooking TikTokers will learn that they don’t need to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller.