Super Size Me is not the scathing and factual indictment of the fast-food industry that creator Morgan Spurlock wants it to be. He has a point of view and the film itself skews to promoting that perspective, even in the face of contrary evidence. The film itself proves that it is possible to eat irresponsibly at McDonalds and live a healthy, normal life. The example of a guy who has eaten nothing but Big Macs for years kicks Morgan’s reaction in the gut. However, it is still a greasy wake up call to the American way of eating and slacking off. It may not be the opening battle cry for an all out attack on evil corporate empires, but it is an assault on our increasingly flawed way of life.
I’m a willing participant in that flawed way of life, eating fast food as often as I can and exercising as little as possible. Strangely enough, I’m not a huge fatass, but I’m not particularly fit either. Still, you might say Morgan’s pseudo-documentary is aimed right at me, the regular McDonalds consumer… which according to the numbers is not just me, but almost all of you too.
The premise is simple. Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock will eat only food sold at McDonalds for one month. He’ll eat at least three meals a day and must agree to super size it when anyone asks him if he wants to. He won’t exercise. The average American takes only a few thousand steps a day, so he’s got a step counter and now he’ll do that too. Along for the duration is a team of monitoring doctors and nutritionists, subjecting Spurlock to everything from blood samples to weigh-ins which track the effects of his new special sauce diet.
His doctors predict little change in health and Morgan seems to be enjoying his eating binge. His girlfriend is a Vegan chef, so you can imagine the sort of bland delicacies he normally endures at home. The results though are stunning. Morgan’s weight gain is massive, his drop in health rapid. Some of it seems to be overboard mugging for the camera, but there’s no denying his doctor’s warnings about his health. They’re shocked at his decline and warn that the damage may be irreparable. Spurlock soldiers on, through mood swings and obvious addiction, cheerfully eating Big Macs and talking to people about eating and fast food.
I’d have been happy to simply sit and watch Morgan eat for a few hours, but the guy has a point to make. So he intersperses his month of eating with man on the street interviews and boring pie charts which seem more suited to a High School health class than a theatrically released documentary. He interviews lobbyists, talks to teachers, does a great bit of investigation on school lunch programs. All of it proves simply that Americans are really fat, we like being fat, and its killing all of us. We’re the fattest country in the world, and apparently my state and city in particular is filled with the biggest herd of cattle on the planet. Everything’s bigger in Texas.
Spurlock is an obvious self-promoter who thought up a ridiculous premise designed chiefly to get people’s attention. But unlike some documentary carnival barkers of recent years, he manages to avoid going so far into demonizing big corporations and government that he muddies what is in itself a very good point. His adventures in eating serve best as an entertaining wrapper to get us all to sit through important facts about our culture and maybe somewhere in there get us all to realize that hey… maybe we should change.
You won’t stop eating cheeseburgers just because Super Size Me says so. But it may help you consider getting on a treadmill. Ultimately, whether Spurlock intended it or not, the message of his movie is that we have to take responsibility for keeping bad food out of our mouths. Super Size Me does an entertaining job of pointing out a serious cultural flaw rotting American society away from the inside out. Spurlock’s way of doing it may not be unbiased, but if you sort through the propaganda you’ll discover that bias doesn’t mean he isn’t right.