Super Size Me is Super-Obvious
Vincent Francone
5/10/2004 1:38:34 PM

Morgan Spurlock, director and subject of Super Size Me, seems like the kind of guy you wouldn't mind having as a friend. A likeable fellow who knows some things and isn't afraid of pulling a few stunts to illustrate a point. The point of his documentary: fast food is making us fat and unhealthy. No new news there, but that doesn't mean it isn't fun watching Spurlock eat nothing but McDonalds and grow soft and sluggish.

To be sure, Super Size Me is a polemic, but a soft one. Taking on McDonalds seems a good idea, but I can't help but wonder if there might have been a better way of going about it then simply eating only their food for a month, three meals a day to prove a point most people already know. It is tantamount to a non-smoker smoking a pack a day for a month or a casual drinker going on a month-long binge. Interesting to a point, but ultimately the only revelation is that such activity is unhealthy. Not really a scoop.

Okay, I am being a touch unfair. Prior to viewing the film I was unaware of the amount of sugar one can consume on such a diet (thirty pounds, about a pound a day) or the relativity of eating a salad drenched in fatty dressing (little difference in fat and calories to a Big Mac,) so yes, there were some illuminating moments. And it was funny watching a man vomit from a super-sized quarter pounder meal. But my only concern is that the film did little to offer alternatives and treated the people who eat fast food with regularity as idiots.

That being the case, it seems that Spurlock's stunt is nothing short of condescending and serves more to get his movie seen (and name on people's lips) than to address a serious health issue. And when it does address the issue, it is (excepting the obese man who lost his sight briefly and then went on to a gastric bypass) mainly to see the extent that Spurlock went to make his simple point. Sort of like stripping naked and jumping into the Arctic Ocean in order to prove that it is damn cold.

We hear his doctors warning him to stop his "ridiculous diet" and warn him of impending liver damage. We see a parade of overweight people and hear statistics that might have just as easily been learned from a 20/20 investigation. We see school children gobbling junk and eschewing anything slightly healthy. We learn of the brainwashing techniques used by McDonalds. We see all these things and yes, it is genuinely disturbing and often difficult to endure. But the overall reaction I had to the film was a feeling of helplessness. Nothing short of a total and scrupulous vegan diet will save me from a slew of food related troubles and love handles. Or so it seems. It might have been nice to understand the alternatives that exist to people outside of Spurlock's New York City environment, a city where one might have an easier time getting organic foods than if they reside in middle America. A young, white male without a wife or children might have the time to conduct such folly but it would have been more interesting to see a working mother of three try the opposite experiment and eat only vegan entrees for a month. Then again, where's the entertainment in that?

The popular book, Fast Food Nation seems a more telling account of the wicked industry than Super Size Me inasmuch as its subject is actually fast food, whereas I still maintain that Spurlock's subject is really Spurlock. Still, some good points get raised and the whole thing goes down as easily as a Big Mac and fries. The point seems to be that corporations are bad and very ready to poison people to make a buck; that fast food will kill you if you eat it with any sort of consistency. Again, tell us something we don't know. But go see Super Size Me as it is a lot of fun and slightly better for you than the big budget Hollywood junk food.


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