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Super Size Me
A film of epic portions.
Directed By
Produced By
Morgan Spurlock, Dave Pederson (associate)
Written By
Morgan Spurlock
Cast
Morgan Spurlock (as himself)
Alexandra Jamieson (Morgan's girlfriend)
John Banzhaf
Distributed By
Country
Language
English
Release Date
May 7, 2004
Runtime
100 min
Rating
PG-13 (USA)
12A (UK, cinema)
12 (UK, video)
Budget
$300,000 (estimated)
Gross
$11.5 million (USA)

Super Size Me is a 2004 documentary film, directed by and starring Morgan Spurlock, an independent U.S. filmmaker. It follows a period in which he eats only McDonald's fast food, three times a day, every day, for thirty days—and stops exercising regularly—and it documents the physical and psychological effects this has upon him. In addition, Spurlock explores the corporate influence of the fast food industry and how it encourages poor nutrition for its own profit.

Spurlock, age 33, was healthy and slim, with a body mass of 185.5 lb (84.1 kg). Spurlock's height is 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m). After thirty days, he gained 24.5 lb (11.1 kg), an increase of 13% of his body mass. He also experienced mood swings, sexual dysfunction, and nearly catastrophic liver damage. It took several months to lose the weight he gained and return to normal.

The driving factor for Spurlock's investigation was the increasing spread of obesity throughout US society, which the Surgeon General has declared "epidemic", and the corresponding lawsuit brought against McDonald's on behalf of two overweight girls, who, it was claimed, became obese as a result of eating too much McDonald's food. Spurlock points out that, although the lawsuit against McDonald's failed, much of the same criticism of the tobacco companies applies to fast food franchises.

The film opened in the U.S. on May 7, 2004, and was very successful for a documentary film, staying in the top ten of the box office for two weeks. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.

The experimentEdit

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

At the start of his "McAttack", Spurlock is physically above average, as attested to by the three doctors he enlists to track his health during the month-long binge. All three predict the McMonth will have unwelcome effects on his body, but none expect anything too drastic, one citing the human body as being "extremely adaptable".

Spurlock starts the month with a McBreakfast near his home in Manhattan, where there is one McDonald's per ¼ square mile (0.6 km²). The month also sees an increase in his use of taxis, as he aims to keep the distances he walks in line with the 2500 steps walked per day by the average American. Spurlock has several rules which govern his eating habits:

  • He must eat three McDonald's meals a day;
  • He must sample every item on the McDonald's menu at least once;
  • He cannot purchase anything not on the menu;
  • He must "Super Size" his meal whenever the option is presented.

Day 2 brings Spurlock's first Super Size meal, and also his first "McStomachache", as he calls it, characterized by "McGurgles", "McTwitches" and "McGas". The food eventually causes him to vomit.

After five days Spurlock has gained almost 10 pounds (5 kg). It is not long before he finds himself with an inexplicable feeling of depression, and not much longer until he finds his bouts of depression, lethargy and headaches are relieved by a McDonald's meal. One doctor describes him as "addicted". He has soon gained another 10 pounds, putting his weight at 203 lb (92 kg). By the end of the month he weighs about 210 lb (95.5 kg), an increase of almost 25 lb (11 kg) which takes him five months to lose again.


Because he could only eat McDonald's food for a month, Spurlock refused to take any medication at all (McDonald's needs to start selling "McDrugs").

Spurlock's girlfriend, Alexandra Jamieson, attests to the fact that Spurlock has lost much of his energy and sex drive during his experiment. A vegan chef, Jamieson supervises Spurlock's "detox diet" immediately after the diet is over. It's not clear at this time if Spurlock will be able to complete the full month of the high-fat, high-carb diet, and friends and family begin to express worry.

Around day 20 Spurlock experiences heart palpitations. Consultation with his concerned general practitioner, Dr Daryl Isaacs, reveals that Spurlock's liver is "turning into pâté", and the doctor advises him to stop what he is doing immediately to avoid any serious heart problems. He compares Spurlock with the protagonist in Leaving Las Vegas who deliberately drinks himself to death over a similar time period. Despite this warning, Spurlock decides to continue the experiment. He later stated in an interview that he was inspired to do so by his brother who, when Spurlock confided his doubts about continuing, responded, "Morgan, people eat this shit their whole lives!"

Spurlock makes it to day 30 and achieves his goal. In thirty days, he "Supersized" his meals nine times along the way (five of which were in Texas, the state with the highest number of "fat cities' in the U.S., according to one somewhat controversial study). All three doctors are surprised at the degree of deterioration in Spurlock's health.

After the completion of the project, it would take Spurlock several months to return to his normal weight of 185 pounds. His girlfriend, Alex, began supervising his recovery with her "detox diet," which became the basis for her book, entitled The Great American Detox Diet (ISBN 1405077719).

Summation Edit

Alongside Spurlock's personal travails are interviews and sections detailing various factors that could account for the USA's high obesity rates. Discussed is the lack of healthy food available in many US schools, the "luring in" of youth by advertising and McDonald's kid-friendly play parks and clowns, and the relationship, if any, between food companies' stockholder profit and their customer health concerns.

Like Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, the film is about the dark side of the fast food industry. It suggests that prolonged consumption of fast food may be very unhealthy, at least if, as in the movie, one does not eat anything else besides that. The lack of exercise is only partially addressed, and critics claim this would change the overall tone of the piece.

SummaryEdit

This movie "SUPER SIZE" is about a person who sets up an experiment to test how much you can reduce weight by eating to much fast food. This gives people an idea that too much fast food isn't a good choice because it is bad for your health. Obesity causes damage to your body and it could put you in the risk of getting sick.

ImpactEdit

Subsequent to the showing of the film at the Sundance Film Festival, McDonald's phased out its Supersize meal option, and began offering healthier menu items in addition to its customary fat food, though McDonald's denied that this was in reaction to the movie.

The film received the highest-ever opening for a documentary in Australia and, within two weeks of release, sparked a massive negative ad campaign, with an estimated cost of US$1.4 million, from McDonald's of Australia. CEO Guy Russo described the documentary, on television commercials which aired on all major Australian networks, as being "about a person that decides to overeat", and attempted to minimize Spurlock's claim of the unhealthiness of fast food] by agreeing with it. Russo stated to News Limited that customers had been surprised that the company had not addressed the claims. McDonald's placed a 30-second ad spot in the opening trailers of all viewings of Super Size Me and also offered to pay movie theatres to allow McDonald's employees to distribute apples to patrons as they exited the film.

Incidentally, country music singer Gretchen Wilson announced a commitment to eating at McDonald's at every stop along her world tour.

In the United Kingdom, McDonald's placed a brief ad in the trailers of showings of the film, pointing to www.supersizeme-thedebate.co.uk. The ads simply stated, "See what we disagree with. See what we agree with".

ControversyEdit

Several critcisms of Spurlock's film have been made.

  • Firstly, Spurlock makes no attempt to provide concrete sources for many of his "facts" such as his claim that the average "American" only walks 2500 steps a day.
  • His experiment includes forcing himself to eat three meals a day, even when not hungry. His diet was also between two and three times the Recommended Dietary Allowance of 2000 to 2500 calories (8,400 to 10,500 kilojoules).
  • He performed no exercise, stating once again that the average American does not do it, yet provides no source for this claim.
  • He made no attempt to eat alternative, healthy foods, such as salads, offered by McDonalds and readily available on the menu
  • Finally, his sexual dysfunction may have been natural consequences of his forcing himself to change his self-image to what he considered a negative one.

Though Spurlock does not offer specific data to support the above claims, it should be noted that the effects of unhealthful diets and little excercise in the United States are common knowledge: health officials frequently assert that Americans too often eat poorly and do not have enough physical activity. [1], [2]. Furthermore, the growing proportion of Americans who are either overweight or obese has repeatedly been described as an epidemic with far-reachng consequences. [3], [4]

Similarly, many of Spurlock's critics also concede that the corporate production, distribution, and advertising of food does in fact make higher levels of food energy consumption possible.

In popular cultureEdit

The phrase "super size me" has become a synonym of "big and useless." For example, in an article in the New York Times, the author writes: "[ Even though some smaller companies are quality-oriented, ] large corporate construction companies still rule the sites, with their supersize-me approach to building." (Full article here, may require subscription) It is additionally used as the representative for the entire artificial culture (e.g. Coca-Cola, McDonald's, etc.).

The usage of so-called McWords is a testament to the influence McDonald's has on popular culture, akin to the frequent use of "Mc-" as a prefix, as in McJob, McMansion, McChurch and McDojo.

Rebuttal experimentsEdit

• In the Netherlands Wim Meij, a reporter with the Algemeen Dagblad (a reputable Dutch newspaper), did a similar experiment. However, instead of choosing just any meal from the menu, he carefully chose his menu. He actually came out at least as healthy as he was before he started his 30-day experiment. He lost 6.5 kg (14 lb) and also other things (like his blood pressure) were affected positively.

• In New Jersey, USA, documentary filmmaker Scott Caswell also did a similar experiment. The results of his diet can be seen in his movie, which is titled Bowling for Morgan. It can be seen for free at BowlingForMorgan.com

• Soso Whaley, of Kensington, New Hampshire, made her own independent film about dieting at McDonald's, called Me and Mickey D. The film follows Whaley as she spends three 30-day periods on the diet. She dropped from 175 to 139 pounds, eating 2,000 calories a day at McDonald's.

Raleigh, NC, resident Merab Morgan went on a 90-day diet in which she ate McDonald's exclusively, but she limited her intake to 1,400 calories (5,900 kilojoules) per day. She lost 37 pounds in the process. Article in Detroit Free Press

• Tom Naughton produced a documentary called FATHEAD (You've Been Fed A Lot Of Bologna) tracing the sources of Spurlock's dietary claims. He also ate a fast food diet for a month and managed to lose weight.

From his movie's website "Comedian (and former health writer) Tom Naughton replies to the blame-McDonald’s crowd by losing weight on a fat-laden fast-food diet while demonstrating that nearly everything we’ve been told about obesity and healthy eating is wrong. Along with some delicious parody of Super Size Me, Naughton serves up plenty of no-bologna facts that will stun most viewers, such as: The obesity “epidemic” has been wildly exaggerated by the CDC. People the government classifies as “overweight” have longer lifespans than people classified as “normal weight.” Having low cholesterol is unhealthy. Lowfat diets can lead to depression and type II diabetes. Saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease — but sugars, starches and processed vegetable oils do."

Naughton also questions the actual daily calorie intake claimed by Spurlock. Even with Super Sizing 2 meals and adding 2 desserts per day, it is very difficult to get to the 5000 calorie mark. Video Clip

See alsoEdit

In Wikipedia:

External linksEdit

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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Super Size Me. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with MOVIEPEDIA, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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