Banana Wars: Who Needs TV when You Have Vegan YouTube
Please, save your re-caps of last night's Game of Thrones. I have a more sophisticated form of entertainment: The raw vegans of YouTube. Their shifting allegiances and all-out wars have replaced my need for television and books. I am one of many fans who watch their videos, not for the smoothie inspo, but because I want to be a frontline journalist for the ongoing cycle of potassium-induced madness.
Skip the reasonable people, like Unnatural Vegan — she makes a lot of good points. For maximum entertainment, subscribe to the well-known cadre of wild-eyed banana pushers. A few successful channels have established cult-like followings, and maintain their audience in spite of a few very public hiccups in th epast couple of years. Some of their controversies have resulted in offline lawsuits — see Freelee the Banana Girl vs. Kayla Itsines. For vegans, they sure have a lot of beefs (thank you in advance for my Pulitzer).
To be clear, I think there is a compelling argument for veganism, and there is plenty to be said for eating in a way that discourages animal abuse. If you eat meat, face facts: the animal you're eating probably lived a miserable life and died a gruesome death. But many popular YouTube vegans advocate for something even more restrictive than veganism, and raw veganism is a skinny horse of a different color.
Freelee the Banana Girl is the best known of all the vegan YouTubers. She does not advocate a completely raw diet but does advocate the "Raw til 4" diet, which consists of huge quantities of fruit before 4 PM, which is then followed by a truly shocking amount of pasta or potato. Before a very public breakup, Freelee lived in sticky bliss with another vegan activist, Harley Jonhstone, aka Duarianrider. He's known for his sociopathic levels of vegan rage burbling just beneath his strained sinews.
Durianrider and Freelee found each other right around the time they decided that plant-based carbs are the ultimate answer — for sexy bodies, the health of the planet, and a life rich with meaning. Many of their followers have created their own vegan channels, and they're easy to identify. If you hear the phrase "Carb the fuck up," you know you're dealing with a child of the banana cult. Bizarrely, Durianrider also advocates adding refined sugar to a diet (his descent into full-blown mania is well documented, as are his use of steroids).
Harley and Freelee's oft-repeated nutritional agenda is as follows: Animal products, composed of "corpses and puss," have no place in your colon. Your diet should consist mostly of a shit-ton of bananas and dates. Loading up on all that fiber ensures everything you eat just slips n' slides right out, so that your stomach remains flat and toned and tight and attractive between urgent trips to the restroom.
Here is one of Freelee's seminal videos, where she blends 51 bananas into slop and then eats it.
At the time of writing, Freelee has 720k+ subscribers. Their notoriety even earned them a Portlandia spoof.
Together, they tackle tricky issues, such as what you can do to stay trim over the holidays. It's easy! Watch them do it! Here's a video of Freelee and Harley at Christmas, eating barely cooked potatoes, surrounded by no friends, no family, and discussing how many mangoes they ate that day.
In 2014, Freelee and Harley were disinvited from the fruitarian gathering called the Woodstock Fruit Festival for promoting the consumption of a limited amount of cooked food. So Freelee and Harley started their own renegade fruit festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Chiang Mai is known for its tropical fruits and has become a hotspot for vegan festivals. (Thailand: People Vacation Here for Bad Reasons.)
16-year-old Julia Boer was among the Fruit Festival attendees in 2016. It seems that she went to meet her vegan idols under her own steam, without a relative or a friend. In this disturbing video, she has a candid conversation with Harley where she questions why the high-carb, high-sugar diet hasn't helped her lose weight. Durianrider cuts her off, saying "That doesn't matter. You listen to the directors. The king and queen."
Their dynamic attracted quite a bit of attention. Adults are free to make their own poor diet choices. You realize how especially bad their advice is when teenagers follow it.
Freelee has since had a dramatic, protracted parting of ways with Durianrider. Durianrider was accused by various attendees of making unwanted sexual advances toward other female attendees. (For more on this, and for a really good article on the full scope of 2016's Vegan YouTube drama, read this article.)
Feeling queasy from all the bananas / predation? Not to worry. I have another source of vegan inspiration. Let me introduce you to your new best friend, Fully Raw Kristina. Fully Raw Kristina started out as one of Freelee's allies, but their relationship eventually deteriorated before our nosy eyes.
Freelee offers a searing critique in her video, "Fully Raw Kristina Getting Fat on Fruit?" Freelee has a lot of high-minded objectives, but just like the rest of us, she knows that the worst thing you can be is fat.
Other Fully Raw Kristina critics have mocked her videos on the affordability of a fully raw diet. Fully Raw Kristina has a video where she demonstrates that you can eat only raw organic produce for just $20 per day, saying, "It's possible to live and eat this way on an affordable budget."
$20 per day comes to around $560 for one person for a single month of food. It seems Fully Raw Kristina is Fully Unaware what most people spend on food. She defends the amount of money by saying, "You're saving money on health bills, on prescription drugs, on electricity in your home." Ah yes — the many thousands of dollars I spend to run my oven 24/7, where I cook my endless supply of roast beef.
Fully Raw Kristina makes an interesting series of ludicrous claims, all revolving around the idea that there is some kind of woo-woo mysticism attached to eating raw foods. Her answer to everything is "energy" and "healing." I love vegetables, but her recipes make even me, a strong advocate for fiber-positive lifestyle choices, quake in terror.
Thankfully, she has taken has taken her frustration at negative online comments and turned them into poetry.
Kristina used to run a fully raw food co-op in Houston called Rawfully Organic. It has since collapsed like so many poorly stacked displays of apples. She hasn't given a reason, but many have speculated that it might have something to do with her grossly inflated idea of how much customers are willing to pay for food.
That isn't the only shake-up in the online world of raw veganism. Freelee retired her "Banana Girl" moniker after her split with Harley and changed her channel name to F r e e l e e. Her new channel features a more chilled-out version of her old self, although she still courts controversy and goes after celebrities that in her view aren't carbed the eff up.
When I daydream, it's usually about pork chops. Yet, even for someone as shamelessly gluttonous as I, food doesn't always make a top priority. Once it's in your belly, it's easy to forget. Raw vegans, on the other hand, devote many hours and hundreds of dollars to feed their addiction to total food purity. Their diet isn't just about being incredibly thin. That would be vain at best and an elaborate eating disorder at worst. Vegans will explain that veganism isn't a diet, it's a lifestyle choice, an awakening of the soul, and ultimately an ascension to a higher state of being.
If you're inspired to adopt a raw food diet, you should probably plan to quit your job and attend fewer social events in order to have time for the chopping, shopping, blending, and Vitamin C-induced hallucinations. Otherwise, you would do well to remember what Hamlet said to Claudius.
Your worm is your only emperor for diet. We fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots. Your fat king and your lean peasant is but variable service - two dishes, but to one table. That's the end.
Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 3