June 10, 2004  
Volume 98, Issue 04  

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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Would you like to Super Size that?


Super Size Me
Directed by: Morgan Spurlock

By David Lee
Gazette Staff

I used to enjoy eating at McDonald’s. After seeing this independent documentary, such a proposition is highly unlikely — for the short term, at least.

As a film that bills itself as being of “epic portions,” Super Size Me never takes itself too seriously. Much like Michael Moore in so-called “mockumentaries” like Bowling for Columbine, writer/director Morgan Spurlock is also the star of the film. In addition to conducting interviews and asking tough questions, Spurlock becomes a human guinea pig.

The premise of Super Size Me is simple: Spurlock starts on a month-long diet of nothing but McDonald’s products. He cannot eat anything that isn’t on the menu and he only gets the super sized fries and drink if asked to do so. To help document his “one month McDonald’s binge,” Spurlock enlists the help of various doctors and dietitians. Though they continually warn him to stop the diet — and thus, the film — Spurlock sees his mission through to the end.

The effects of the diet are shocking. Not only does Spurlock gain 25 pounds, he becomes depressed, his libido declines and he only feels comfortable while he’s eating. Worst of all, his liver starts to show extreme symptoms usually associated with the livers of alcoholics. All of his doctors are shocked that a fast food-only diet could cause such harm.

Ostensibly, a documentary tries to remain objective and refrains from editorializing. Super Size Me never tries to hide its intentions — this is McDonald’s bashing, plain and simple. Shot selection includes Spurlock vomiting from a car and a late-night confessional about depression. If you want fair and objective, try Ken Burns.

That’s not to say the film is without its positives. One of the film’s highlights arises from Spurlock showing a group of primary students faces on flash cards. While nobody recognizes George Washington and one child mistakes Jesus Christ for George W. Bush, the one face that everyone recognizes is Ronald McDonald.

Not surprisingly, McDonald’s has already fired back, claiming that Spurlock is trying to shock instead of inform and that his extreme diet was not indicative of what one of McDonald’s heavy users (the name given by the company to its frequent customers) would actually eat in a month.

No matter what you think of the film and its biases, perhaps its greatest effect is that it acts as a springboard to discussion. Leaving the theatre, you’re likely to hear other moviegoers saying things like “I’m never going to eat fast food again” and “I didn’t realize there was so much sugar in pop.” You’ll even find people (yours truly included) who are instantaneously spurred to exercise more, eat right and take better care of themselves.

For anyone interested in McDonald’s or fast food culture in general, Super Size Me is definitely worth seeing. While objectivity may fly right out the window, the film is nevertheless an entertaining ride. Just make sure you arrive on an empty stomach.

 

 

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