I saw Super Size Me at thePickfordthis week, after looking forward to it for months -- and it didn't disappoint. I laughed, thought about stuff, and squirmed uncomfortably in my chair during the gross bits. When we left the theater, I wanted a martini and Paul wanted a hamburger. He settled for a beer.
The film can be (and probably has been) described asJackassmeetsMichael Moorewith a little Mythbustersthrown in. Why accept what McDonald's says about its food, or what nutritionists say about its food, when you (the filmmaker, Morgan Spurlock) can find out for yourself, first hand, what an all-McDonald's diet does to an otherwise healthy individual? And commit it to film?
The results are not pretty.
In fact, he astonishes his doctors by just how ugly they are -- skyrocketing cholesterol, liver turning to pate, more than twenty pounds of weight gain in just one month. Everything they can think to measure about his body is going down the tubes faster than anyone would have thought possible, plus, he feels rotten most of the time, and shows definite signs of addiction.
The question he set out to answer was, "where does personal responsibility end and corporate responsibility take over?", inspired by an (unsuccessful) lawsuitleveled by overweight teenagers against McDonald's. In order to answer that questions, he travels across the country, exploring many McDonald's along the way, with diversions into related topics such as the horrific nutritional void that isschool lunches, and theaddictive qualities of cheese.
(Which I have to claim some skepticism about. Because, while I certainly am addicted to cheese, I am not addicted to fast food cheese. I find fast food cheese a pretty sorry excuse for cheese, and the mere fact of its having cheese on it does not make me want a cheeseburger. Mmmmm...cheese. Now I want a cheese sandwich, made with homemade bread and sharp cheddar in a cast-iron skillet. Or possibly pizza. All right, maybe there IS something to the cheese addiction theory.)
So, does he answer the question?
In a way. He concludes the film with a call to action directed at the audience, which says, essentially:
"McDonald's and other fast food companies produce food that is terrible for you, addictive, and heavily marketed, especially toward children. But if they're going to change, it has to be because consumers demand it. You are a consumer. Demand it!"
And I would echo that. Because on the one hand I think Big Food is basically a bunch of evil corporate pirates who don't give two fries about the health or happiness of the average person, with a legion of spokesmodels and lobbyists who claim the food is actually good for you, and another legion of (presumably unpaid) "personal responsibility" shillsblithely declaring that, since everyone knows fast food is bad for you, the companies that develop and agressively market it bear no responsibility whatsoever for any ill effects their product might cause. And their food is dreadful too.
(Don't even talk to me about the Center for Consumer Freedom, an advocacy group for junk food manufacturers masquerading as an advocacy group for sarcastic libertarian junk food eaters.)
But, on the other hand, I think any kind of top-down legislative effort to improve what people eat is going to be expensive, weird, misguided, half-assed, and much too late. Remember, you can survive without McDonald's, but McDonald's can't survive without you.
Typical exchange between large corporation and public:
McDonald's: Our food and pricing structure are not detrimental to health.
Public: But what about statistical data directly linking fast food consumption with obesity in children?
McDonald's: There is nothing wrong with our food.
Public: Here is a popular, humorous documentary called "Super Size Me" in which a filmmaker eats nothing but McDonald's food for a month and bad things ensue, healthwise.
McDonald's: There is still nothing wrong with our food.But, we're phasing out super-sizing.
And by the way it hasnothingto do with that film.
A McDonald's spokeswoman said that the menu changes are not related to any impact of the film on public awareness. 'They had no connection whatsoever,' said the spokeswoman, Lisa Howard
And, finally, if you want perfect greasy fries served in the proper size container (the tiny one, duh!), go to Dick's Drive-In.