Verbally Described: Memes
Season 1, Episode 2
Account Admin Confidential - Gripping Food With Force - Episode Notes
Link to Episode: https://verballydescribed.libsyn.com/gripping-food-with-force
In this Account Admin Confidential we investigate the viral sensation and talk with the judging team behind Gripping Food With Force.
First GFWF Post: https://twitter.com/GrippingFood/status/1279289545075372032?s=20
The Takeout Article: https://thetakeout.com/are-you-tough-enough-for-gripping-food-with-force-1844880508
Munchies Article: https://www.vice.com/en/article/pky93b/grotesque-satisfaction-of-gripping-food-with-force-meme-twitter-account
USDA Food Waste FAQs: https://www.usda.gov/foodwaste/faqs
NRDC Food Waste https://www.nrdc.org/food-waste
POLITICO Article: https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/26/food-banks-coronavirus-agriculture-usda-207215
NRDC 2017 Report on Food Waste: https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/wasted-2017-report.pdf
Interviewees: Alex and Lennie
Host: Wesley Lethem
Mixing, Engineering: Sound Service
Hey! Welcome to another episode of Verbally Described Memes, a podcast where I investigate and critically analyze memes, their history, their function, and their position in society. Today’s episode is another in a series called Account Admin Confidential, where I chat with the people who are behind the meme accounts that create the content we all enjoy.
Meme accounts don’t necessarily have a rock solid definition, but generally are accounts created to post original memes, or more commonly reposted memes. They exist across all social media from Facebook to Instagram to Twitter and beyond. Sometimes meme accounts can have a focus or theme, in the case today the account handle tells you everything you need to know about the content. We are talking about the viral sensation Gripping Foods With Force.
Self-proclaimed the worst account on Twitter/Instagram, the concept was simple, yet contagious enough to gain traction and spread. They post images of people’s hands, gripping food with force. On July 4th 2020 the account was created on Twitter and their first post was just an image of a man's hand hovering above a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, squeezing the shit out of a fistful of cereal, with milk and the spoon caught in the mix. Within 9 minutes of posting the content people were already responding to the tweet with their own bewilderment, encouragement, recommendations for future content, and predictions about their success.
@dragonogon “How does one manage such grip”
@thegooderman “Bruh you do be grabbing that doe”
@foxfan213 “Can you grip a cheeseburger from McDonalds”
@Mattymal_15 “why is this so fucking funny”
@reptilus89 “This account is gonna be 50k followers by the end of july”
It’d gone viral with over 2k retweets and thousands of likes. They followed up with another tweet an hour later recognizing this success: “Can’t wait until Thanksgiving when someone chokes a whole ass turkey for this account”.
The image of the man squeezing the cereal wasn’t their own original content, and It seems as though the account Gripping Foods With Force was inspired by another tweet that was posted just a few hours earlier by user @SNEAKexe. The tweet was an image of a chick fil a sandwich in front of a monitor showing a stream of famous twitch streamer Pokimane, with the text “Nothing like watching my queen @pokimanelol and eating some chick-fil-a on a Friday afternoon sunglasses emoji smiling emoji”. The sandwich was of course mangled, with toppings dripping out of it and the poster’s thumb was stuck directly through the middle. The Gripping foods with force account retweeted this image and the account was rolling.
There was a clear path forward, more content of people gripping foods with force. And luckily enough there was plenty already on the internet to choose from and hordes of enthralled fans who wanted to submit their own grip for the account owner to highlight and repost. The account flourished, and branched into Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram. There’s even a subreddit and Facebook community group where users can submit their own grips rather than submit to the main account admin to filter and only repost their chosen content.
At the time of recording this, about three months later from that first post in July, the account has grown to have well over a million followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. There’s no doubt that they’ve caught lightning in a bottle, or well a handle.
And I’m not the only one to notice, in August Aimee Levitt posted an article for the food blog The Takeout called “Are you tough enough to contribute to the greatest social media project?” In September Bettina Makalintal posted “The Grotesque Satisfaction of ‘Gripping Food With Force’” for Vice’s food section, Munchies.
Why is this account so successful? What is it about pulverizing perfectly good food and posting it online that makes this account a viral hit? What was it like having a meme account have such a meteoric rise? I sought to find out so I DM’d the account owner, and they declined an interview. So I reached out to the account owners for Official Gripping Foods With Force Judge Association. This is an account that comments on the Instagram posts of the Gripping Foods With Force account with scores out of 10.
This interview is from back in September, as of the recording of this episode a month later, the community has grown to almost 750 members. The main hub is a Discord with different levels of administration where the posts get sent, evaluated, and scored. There’s also a ton of carrying on and posting memes of course.
After a certain point the format of the account settled on a two image dialogue, the first an open palm holding half of an order of mozzarella sticks clearly sitting at a restaurant, the second photo the mozzarella sticks have been squeezed with such force that there is no distinguishable individual stick, only a greasy ball. This before and after works especially well in Instagram where you cannot see the second photo and have to swipe for it. there’s a moment of suspense where you know what’s going to happen to the food, but how, that’s where the magic is.
[After Main Interview Audio]
And Alex is right, there are an incredible amount of people who have submitted their own grips to the account that never saw their content get reposted. We have no way of knowing how many get submitted to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram that don’t get posted but for example, If we take a look at the Reddit and Facebook Community Group you can see that there are thousands of pictures of people destroying their own food. Just the Facebook group alone with 26k members it averages 2.9k posts a day. And not every post is tinged with the same kind of wanton destruction that comes from eviscerating an entire can of Cranberry sauce having the contents get wasted across the floor. Some posts from the community are more light hearted and play off of the concept like showing an infant squeezing their food in a tight baby grip or someone lightly pressing down on a gummy burger to subvert expectations. But the content that is the most shocking does the best and gets the most reaction out of people, driving the meta towards one-upmanship and destruction.
The main Facebook account for Gripping Foods With Force is listed as a Food & Beverage business. Because of this, people can list their own reviews of the page, and while largely it’s filled with people exalting the content as groundbreaking and important or as one user put it “Gripping Food With Force is a page that not only grips food with force, but grips the viewers attention as well. Never has a five finger strangle changed the world in such a way that this page does and for that this page should not only be respected, but celebrated. One of the leading voices of our generation.”
The other side of the coin are the people outraged and disgusted at the waste of food and meaninglessness of it all.
And with this being a Facebook page, it trends towards the chaos that I feel is inevitable these days.
I have to say that I see the validity in both sides.
Food waste is a colossal concern, globally and in America specifically. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) 30-40 percent of the ENTIRE food supply is wasted. This equates to one pound of food per person, per day, as of 2017. This occurs because of a myriad of reasons, including farm waste and blemished crops, economic considerations with the varying costs of crops, waste at grocery stores and overstocking, massive discard and over-abundant portions at restaurants, and household rot.
Some of these issues have been recently heightened due to the Coronavirus pandemic. According to a Politico article in April of 2020, “Tens of millions of pounds of American-grown produce is rotting in fields as food banks across the country scramble to meet a massive surge in demand, a two-pronged disaster that has deprived farmers of billions of dollars in revenue while millions of newly jobless Americans struggle to feed their families.” Looking at data from The US Hunger Relief Organization, Feeding America, “Due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 54 million people may experience food insecurity in 2020, including a potential 18 million children.” And even before the pandemic, hunger is an issue for many. The projected 54 million people in 2020 increased from 2019 where more than 35 million people in the United States struggled with hunger as stated in the USDA's latest Household Food Insecurity in the United States report.
And looking at the numbers from a 2017 NRDC report on food waste, in 2015 43% of all food waste happened at the household level. And while the meme page didn’t exist at this point, Gripping Food With Force in a destructive manner would add to this, the largest sector of wasted food in America.
On the other side of the issue however, this is a historically difficult time for people across the globe. Not just in terms of hunger, but also mental health. Memes and content like Gripping Food With Force help ease the day to day dumpster fire we find ourselves within. From a literal pandemic, to increased partisanship, unchecked capitalism, rising levels of hate crimes, massive unemployment, inexcusable economic disparity, a stark reckoning with America’s racist past and racist present, and careening towards the point of no return for our planet’s environmental issues. It’s just a lot to handle and deal with right now. Having to wake up every day with some new awful development and having to stare into the face of a bleak and uncertain future is untenable.
Memes help ease our concerns through escapism. And humor has historically been used to discuss traumatic subject matter in a non-traumatic, sensitive, way. In a time where anxiety is skyrocketing, many are driven to check their Instagram feeds rather than the news in the morning and find respite in humor, the absurd, the satirical, the cathartic. All of this can be seen in a Gripping Foods With Force post where someone palms 7 packets of liquid creamer and squeezes so outrageously hard, with forearm veins bulging, that half and half jets off in a dramatic display of chaos.
And there’s even more to be said in finding solace in a community. The Discord server for the Official Judging Team has brought together almost a thousand people that chat daily, share memes and music, support each other, and engage in a common activity. Themed meme pages that share community submitted content offer a welcoming environment that, unlike the world we find ourselves in, does not discriminate as long as you have some visceral and explosive grip. For example, another recent post shows two people in a bathroom. The first photo shows the victim of the impending grip, a packet of McDonalds mayonnaise. The second photo shows the grip and how the mayo has shot out of the packet and fanned out towards a mirror, which shows two people, smiling and rosy cheeked veiled by aerosolized mayo.
So where do we end up with this? Is one person exploding a packet of applesauce through sheer might going to significantly contribute to food scarcity for impacted people? No. But I can’t really argue against it contributing to a larger systemic problem. Of course the leg work of sustainability needs to be done by our government, corporations, farmers, and restaurants. But should we as individuals resign to nihilism in the face of overwhelming waste due to capitalism? No. it’s ridiculous to think that others’ actions absolves you of any personal responsibility.
Now on the other hand is it worth wasting a bit of food as an act of joy? To create some content and potentially bring a smile to someone’s face who might really need it today? I think it can be, but there’s a degree of ethics and personal responsibility. Want to squeeze some food in a fabulously absurd way to engage in a community? Go for it, but maybe if you’re doing it just for the shock value of wasting something of value, don’t. It depends! I don’t know, It’s not a clear cut thing, it’s not black or white but a murky grey and who am I to say what people should and should not do.
What I do know is that Gripping Foods With Force is hilarious, and the interplay between the content, the community, and the judges is just delightful. And it does seem that by the type of content selected by the main account, they don’t just want to see the most wasteful go big or go home content. As of writing this the most recent post is someone holding some grapes in their hand in the first shot, and then a bottle of wine in the second. So the meta, or culture around the content is evolving and I encourage everyone to check it out for yourself.
In the show notes I’ve included links to all of the articles and research I mentioned. And if you want to see the carnage for yourself, links to Gripping Food With Force and the Official Judge Page. Much love and thanks go out to everyone who listened and contributed to this story. This episode was written by me, Wesley Lethem and produced by Sound Service, which is also me. Production and story support from Savannah Jubic. Music provided by Kevin McLeod. I also create content on my instagram @VerballyDescribedMemes, it started out as flat straight forward reads of memes that I came across on the internet or that people would share with me but now has evolved into documentary-esque deep dives into the constituent parts of modern memes and their origins. So, check it out.
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