Super Size Me (2004)
Starring: Morgan Spurlock, Alexandra Jamieson, Dr Daryl Isaacs, Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, Dr. Stephen Siegel, Ron English, Jared Fogel
Directed by: Morgan Spurlock
I finally got around to watching this last week when it was on Movie Central HD. I wasn’t that interested in it when it first came out, since I’m a big fan of McDonald’s, and thought the premise was obvious and silly. But since then, I’ve become a big fan of watching documentaries, so it was time to give it a chance.
As a documentary, Super Size Me, director Morgan Spurlock‘s examination on the effects of eating nothing but McDonald’s three times a day for an entire month, is very entertaining and delivers a strong message about our ever-expanding society. As an experiment, it leaves a bit to be desired.
The ground rules for Spurlock’s McDonald’s diet were that he could only consume things sold at McDonald’s (including water), had to eat three squares a day, try everything on the menu at least once, and only super size his meal when asked. Also, to better approximate the routine of the average American, he had to stop exercising and limit his walking to 5000 steps a day.
The first problem with his experiment is that before the diet, Spurlock was a fit individual who didn’t eat a lot of fast food as a part of his ordinary diet. His girlfriend is a vegan chef fer cris’ sakes! So, he isn’t exactly the ideal candidate from which to observe the effects of such an experiment. His body hasn’t built up the necessary tolerances and is accustomed to a more active lifestyle. So the changes that happen to him throughout the movie are far more drastic than they would be in an individual more accustomed to eating poorly and exercising little. It would be like a life-long vegetarian going on a meat diet all of a sudden. The meat itself might be healthy, but their system hasn’t adapted to it.
Not that I’m saying fast food is healthy, because it’s not. I have no doubt that going on an all McDonald’s diet would wreck havoc on most people’s systems, if not as badly as it did Spurlock’s. Which gets me back to my original problem with Super Size Me: the results of the major part of the movie all equal a big DUH. I don’t need to watch a 100 minute movie to learn that it’s a bad idea to eat nothing but McDonald’s, and I’m not sure that doing so effectively proves that eating it in reasonable amounts is bad for you. McDonald’s is probably my favourite fast food joint, and I still couldn’t eat there twice in a day, much less three times for a whole month.
However, the experiment is merely the movie’s hook, something to grab people’s attention so they’ll watch a documentary. The strength of the movie is the footage in between Spurlock’s meals and trips to the doctor. Super Size Me has important things to say about ever-growing portion sizes in America, how obesity is second only to smoking in causing preventable deaths, and the pervasiveness of unhealthy eating in schools across the nation. The portion size thing I completely understand, because I was fucking shocked at how much food I get served when I go to the States. It’s pretty disgusting y’all. When my wife go to McDonald’s here in Canada, I’ll often get a Super Sized meal so we can share the fries, instead of ordering two orders of fries. So when we went to McDonald’s in Anaheim on our honeymoon, we did the same… and our minds were blown by what Americans call Super Sized. I had to take a photo, because I couldn’t believe they considered that fit for single meal consumption. In Canada, our Super Sizes are what Americans get as part of a regular value meal (our mediums are their smalls). I’ve heard that this has since changed, and I should hope so. (In Europe, our mediums are their largest size).
Understand, I am no health fanatic, and would classify myself as overweight (but not obese). So I understand that it isn’t that easy to make healthier choices, and I like lots of food that isn’t good for me. But no one needs to drink that much pop in one sitting, or perhaps in one day. And it isn’t just McDonald’s either. When I went to restaurants, I was shocked at the size of the food, so much so that I made an icon of me trying to eat a sandwich served to me in Anaheim (I didn’t get through half of it). If the only thing this movie accomplishes is to make people think about how large their serving sizes are, then it will be a worthwhile experiment.
As an experiment, the movie offers some interest and is certainly entertaining in a voyeuristic way, but is less than convincing. But, as a call to arms to change the way we eat, the way we view fast food empires, and, most importantly, what we feed our children, Super Size Me is a worthwhile, important venture that should be seen. Obesity is a growing problem threatening our world along with smoking, climate change, and terrorism, and people really need to think about what effect it has on us as a whole (especially for those of us with universal health care). It even gave me a few things to think about. That said, when the movie was over… I really craved a Big Mac.