Because someone asked, here’s the scoop on Super Size Me, which showed yesterday at the Philadelphia Film Festival. It was a sellout!
Super Size Me is a documentary about the health effects of a fast food diet. Inspired by a 2002 lawsuit against several fast food chains, Morgan Spurlock decided to find out what would happen if he ate nothing but McDonald’s food for thirty days. I was pretty skeptical, expecting a preachy, in-your-face, Michael-Moore-type film.
Short version: entertaining movie, good for awareness and discussion, doesn’t prove that McDonald’s is the root of all evil.
I wasn’t the only skeptic. A commenter pointed out that it’s pretty unbelievable for a 6’2″ 185 pound man in good physical condition to gain 25 pounds in thirty days. Also, someone over at Tech Central Station (alert: read this site with a grain of salt) did the math and concluded that “obesity is a serious issue, but Super Size Me is pretentious, unscientific fantasy.” *
Did Spurlock engage in outright trickery to put on all that weight? No. Did he deliberately indulge in the worst items on McDonald’s menu–within the rules–to make the movie more dramatic? Of course. However, you can’t argue that the movie is a fantasy because “no one eats dessert at all three McDonald’s meals.” No one eats three meals a day at McDonald’s, period. Intelligent audiences should be able to recognize that Spurlock exaggerated reality to make a point.
So did he make his point? In between shots of Spurlock eating Big Macs and gulping Super Size sodas, the movie discusses school lunch programs, body image, grocery store lobbyists, advertising budgets, eating out habits, fast food lawsuits, dwindling resources for school physical education programs, gastro bypass surgery, and obesity versus smoking. I’m not sure what the original hypothesis was, but by mentioning so many variables, Spurlock dispels any notion that McDonald’s is to blame for the obesity epidemic. Obviously, it’s more complicated than that.
Overall, the movie is entertaining and a good tool to provoke discussion. We need to consider the impact of our hectic lifestyles and figure out how we got here. McDonald’s is a red (and yellow) herring.
* This article accuses Spurlock of lying about his original weight since he wasn’t able to get back down to 185 after the experiment. Update: Spurlock said yesterday that he has lost his remaining four pounds and is back to 185.5.