2004. Dir. Morgan Spurlock.
Super Size Me states the obvious—eating fast food regularly is really, really bad for you—but is amusing enough that you don’t mind. Director Morgan Spurlock decides to document a month in which he eats only food from McDonald’s. We’re given a sense of his condition before the binge, and follow the physical dissolution of his body.
We expect what happens, but don’t expect it to be so drastic. He puts on 25 pounds in a month, and develops continual chest pressure. Ugh. It’s easy to dismiss this, but many people (myself included, in some weeks) consume fast food once a week; for many, including someone I work with, it’s a once-a-day habit. Spurlock, instead of sticking with his individual story, branches out to study how fast food corporations are infiltrating school cafeterias, feeding the young, and helping to lead us to an obesity epidemic.
Spurlock does his best Michael Moore impersonation, juxtaposing images from maximum wit if not maximum clarity. He pulls some cheap shots. An interview with a food-corporation lobbyist is ingratiating, and the poor (okay, very rich) man is shot at an unflattering angle in glaring light/ Spurlock’s response to honest enquiries (“Would you like to supersize that?”) are sometimes smug enough that he obscures his valid points.
Still, his argument, which is that we’re indoctrinated into fast-food culture, and that corporations and governments keep this culture strong by squelching viable and vigorous opposition, is strong. Throughout, he skewers common assumptions—that nutrition information can be easily acquired at fast-food restaurants; that fast food isn’t addictive; that getting fat is all the consumer’s fault; that the financial assistance McDonald’s gives to communities is worth the health risk—with a sharp wit and a clear head. Relying on his doctors, nutritionist, and vegan chef girlfriend for grounded info, and on rigorous (if slanted) research, Spurlock provides a more accurate picture on America’s enlarging belly than a dozen TV specials.