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Weight-Gain Nightmare Makes for Disturbing 'Super Size' Treat

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Weight-gain Nightmare Makes for Disturbing ‘Super Size’ Treat
 
by Jeremy Mathews
take a bite

“Super Size Me”
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Written and directed by Morgan Spurlock
Produced by J.R. Morley and Heather M. Winters
Featuring Morgan Spurlock
Not rated

(out of four)

“Super Size Me” convincingly argues that friendly faced fast-food corporations like McDonald’s have created an overflow of potential health dangers. In fact, the dangers are so serious that even gimmicky activist stunts can turn out as powerful indictments of the company. Director Morgan Spurlock put himself in the center of an experiment that yielded more-horrifying-than-expected results that will cause reservations for even the biggest Bic Mac lover when stopping in for a quick, chemically manufactured meal.

Spurlock sets forth a series of rules that he follows for 30 days to ensure an accurate evaluation of McDonald’s nutritional status. He could only consume food from McDonald’s menu (luckily, bottled water is available), three times a day, and if they asked him if he wanted to Super Size his meal, he had to say yes. Finishing the giant meals can prove a challenge, as early in his quest he starts off talking about the delicious Big Mac and ends vomiting after finishing his giant drink and gargantuan fries.

I was skeptical that a month’s worth of McDonald’s, while obviously not a good idea to stay fit, could cause all that much harm, especially if you’re eating the right things from the menu, but Spurlock’s results turned out quite scary, especially considering that he had a nutritionist and two other doctors monitoring his health. By the time 20 days have passed, everyone is surprised with the results and wants him to quit early. The doctor’s shock at the state of Spurlock’s liver has to be seen to be believed.

Spurlock uses the opportunity to travel around the country and speak to both ordinary people and health and corporate experts who offer their thoughts on fast food and the current culture of bigger portions of less healthy food. One man he meets believes Big Macs are the ultimate source of nutrition and eats one everyday. While he lives in New York City, Spurlock is from West Virginia and has an everyman charm with the people that’s reminiscent of Michael Moore. He isn’t as confrontational, however, as Moore in his earlier films (not counting the more reserved “Fahrenheit 9/11”), and instead of stalking executives settles for repeated phone calls to the office trying to get an interview with someone about his various concerns about the current trends that McDonald’s is encouraging.

An added level of comedy and conflict comes in the form of Spurlock’s girlfriend, a Vegan chef who begins skeptical and grows less and less enthusiastic about the project as the film goes on. Spurlock’s cameraman interviews her while he isn’t there, and she discusses his new decline in sexual performance as well as his other health problems.

Spurlock delivers his statistical information with little graphic design animation segments that use cutouts of models, corporate logos, and various symbol drawings. The design is primitive and the execution raw and graceless, but a certain do-it-yourself charm comes from the sharp humor of their concepts.

The increase in serving sizes, from McDonald’s to 7-11’s now small Big Gulp, is shown through the Happy Meal fries, once the only size and now but a small fraction of the great Super Size version. It seems that the bigger-is-better phenomenon has gone out of control with the rise of the Double Gulp and Super Gulp and various other items that defy the standard swallow.

While McDonald’s is the biggest company and therefore Spurlock’s main target, he makes it quite clear that many corporations and fast-food chains are to blame. He also contrasts the unrealistic image of women in the mass media with the health of impressionable teenagers likely to be victims of low self-esteem. The meals and corporate contracts that begin in grade school set the kids up for lives of sugary soda and fast food.

Spurlock visits a high school where Subway weight-loss wonder Jared speaks to the students about eating healthy, and simply stands back while the corporate attitude prevails in the educational setting. An overweight girl and her mother discuss their new weight loss method of eating at Subway as much as possible—she wishes she could afford to eat there more. Rather than inform her that she could get make healthy meals from produce available at the grocery store, he just tells her to keep working on managing money so she can eat that Subway food.

So, even the health-minded corporations aren’t blameless. The important thing is to double check the statements they’re feeding us. If nothing else, Spurlock reminds us to think about where we put our money and what we put in our mouths.

jeremy@red-mag.com

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RED Magazine is no longer a publication of The Daily Utah Chronicle. RED used to be published every Thursday in Salt Lake City, Utah. Now it can only be found here, online. Copyrighted material remains the property of the original owner. Web Site Copyright 2004.

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