In the new documentary “Super Size Me,” filmmaker Morgan Spurlock confirms what any reasonable person already knew: Fast food is terrible for your heath. But why do Americans specifically keep going back for more Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets everyday – sometimes more than once? Are there any addictive substances in those golden french fries we all love?
In a gutsy and dangerous experiment, Spurlock decides to use his body as a test ground to reach an answer. Prompted by the recent surge in lawsuits against fast food companies, he decides to eat McDonald’s food for every meal, three times a day, for an entire month. Spurlock calls it “every eight-year-old’s dream.” Over the course of the month, however, his experiment turns into a fascinating and revealing nightmare.
The man putting his body on the line introduces himself as a normal white thirtysomething living in Manhattan. Like many other Americans, Spurlock enjoys a great piece of beef. At the beginning of the film, he talks with his vegan chef girlfriend about the massive amount of damage he could be doing to his body. He seems amused, but she has fear in her eyes.
Before the experiment begins, Spurlock takes some precautionary measures to help monitor his progress. He smartly enlists the help of three doctors to assess areas of his body being directly affected, specifically his liver and heart. Also, he sets up rules to abide by over the course of the month. He has to eat everything on the McDonald’s menu at least once and can only “supersize” when asked.
At the fateful first dinner, Spurlock takes his a bite of a juicy, picturesque Big Mac and quickly states with utter glee that “it looks exactly like the one on TV.” But over the course of the experiment, his amusement turns into discomfort, including early moments of bad gas and projectile vomiting. As the days go by, Spurlock begins to have mood swings, up when he has ingesting all those carbohydrates and sugars only to crash down right before bedtime. By day nine, he has gained a huge amount of weight. By day 20, the doctors advise him to stop. They cannot guarantee his safety if he continues.
But he does continue, and along the way Spurlock interviews students, teachers, nutritional experts and lobbyists for the fast food companies. Imagine Michael Moore but without the brazen political agenda underneath.
Over the course of these interviews, some frightening trends come to light. Not only are our children being fed junk food at school, but no one seems to care. One lunch lady at a school in Pennsylvania did not even realize the food she was warming up – not cooking – was bad for
the kids, nor did she seem to want to change anything.
Spurlock brings a playful nature in revealing such contradictions in American institutions. But the overall tone of “Super Size Me” remains urgent throughout. On one level he is turning his body into a wasteland for all to see, but at the same time he is calling attention to what many of us do not feel is very important. We are all getting fatter every year, with no end in sight.
America is now the fattest nation in the world, but for many, obesity does not feel as important as issues surrounding smoking and drug use.
“Super Size Me” wants to make our nationwide health epidemic equal to these other debates. Since hundreds of thousands of Americans die each year from obesity-related diseases, it is about time we start to take notice. Spurlock eats so much McDonald’s that his body and mind change right before our eyes. While extreme in nature, the film is an entertaining and horrifying example of our current attitude toward health. In attempting to remove the flab from over our eyes, “Super Size Me” works as a cleansing experience, showing the mind-boggling effects of indulging in too many late-night snacks.