SUPER SIZE ME
Written and Directed by Morgan Spurlock
Super Size Me looks at the effects fast food has on individuals and society. Morgan Spurlock, the filmmaker, is a man driven by a large amount of conviction and determination to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, there are times when he is so dedicated to his cause that he forgoes logic and fairness while making his argument. This causes him to lose some credibility even when he makes valid points.
Rather than having the film be a visual essay about the evils of fast food and the corporations that make and sell it, Morgan breaks up what would have been a monotonous collection of facts and interviews by putting himself on a “McDonald’s menu only” diet for a whole month and tracking the results. That’s right, for 30 days he was only able to eat something that was on the McDonald’s menu. Another rule that he had to observe was whenever he was asked to super-size, he accepted.
Over the course of the month, Morgan went in for regular check-ups with a series of doctors. He started to put on weight and his blood tests showed him becoming very unhealthy. Morgan refused to get off the diet when the doctors cautioned him about his health being at risk. This was foolhardy because he had shown that the fast food was hurting his body because it couldn’t process the high fat content, so a goal was accomplished after roughly three weeks. What was the reason to continue? What would a few more days accomplish? He didn’t seem to care that he was upsetting his mother and his girlfriend, who as a vegan chef had trouble dealing with the whole concept from the outset.
Another problem I had with Morgan’s methodology is that a dietician he was working with asked him to stop drinking soda and stick with water. It was on the menu, so it seemed like a viable option. Again, for some unknown reason, he refused the request and continued to drink sodas he knew were bad for him. While I was sympathetic to his purpose, he seemed to be forcing the results that he wanted to get.
I’m not sure what his diet accomplishes. Eating McDonald’s all the time was shown to be unhealthy for him, but is that really McDonald’s fault? I would challenge Morgan to make himself hamburgers and fries at home and eat them to see if there’s any difference. What if he picked another restaurant, say Taco Bell, what would those results be? He needed some other test subjects, but to be fair, he does point out that what he does is in no way scientific. And it is intriguing to see food have such a dramatic effect on his body over so short a period of time.
Repeatedly, Spurlock places blame for America’s obesity problems on the consumers and the choices they make, but McDonald’s and other fast food chains are not without fault. They shamelessly sell to kids and do very little to provide health information. McDonald’s obviously feels some sense of being in the wrong; they have removed super-size items from their menu. McDonald’s is given opportunities to present their side of the story, but refuse. The film could have been called Ronald & Me, harkening back to another popular documentary that dealt with corporate responsibility.
All and all, I found Spurlock’s diet entertaining to watch with its reality television components. Also, his information about the food industry was interesting and well researched, but I wasn’t shocked by any of the facts that were presented as some of the other members of the audience seemed to be. Much of the same ground had previously been covered in a book I had read: Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, which came out in 2001. Schlosser covers a wider range of subjects in his expose and does a better job of presenting the story of how fast food has shaped America. It is a great read and I highly recommended it. If you don’t have the time for the book, Super Size Me, will satiate like fast food, but it won't be as good for you.