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Super Size Me

July 1, 2004 by Katie Ellis

Directed by Morgan Spurlock

I really love documentaries and I wanted to see this film before all the hype, before it hit mainstream cinema. But that's debatable really, isn't it? I mean I did enter a competition at Live to win free tickets. At least I went to an independent cinema and not Hoyts. I actually saw this film at a Talking Pictures session where the audience got to ask the director Morgan Spurlock questions about the production. Sadly, this turned into a major arse-kissing/anti-McDonalds evening where I had to crane my head because I was stuck in the first row. There were that many people there.

Before the movie began we were asked when was the last time we had eaten McDonalds via a show of hands. I hadn't eaten there for over a month, since they got rid of the Caesar salad. But since then I've been to McDonalds quite a few times and eaten the unhealthy stuff. I blame Super Size Me.

In Super Size Me, Spurlock conducts a one man experiment testing whether McDonalds can form a healthy diet. At the risk of sounding Mc-influenced I think the key words missing here are PART OF. While Spurlock sets out on his 30 day one man experiment to eat only McDonalds (3 times a day, 7 days a week) he claims to be taking down a multinational corporation by forcing it to take responsibility. There's no corporate responsibility here argues Spurlock, and that's got to change. I don't think he was very successful on this front.

The scenes of him throwing up his supersized meal 15 minutes after eating it, pacing his living room in the early hours of the morning while having heart palpitations combined with warnings from his doctors and nutritionists that he must stop this crazy diet led me to one conclusion. Spurlock was responsible for his own health problems. Not only that, women copped a lot of the blame too. This film really argues that you are responsible for your own suffering. McDonalds gets off with a warning.

Spurlock is a very charismatic guy and a good lead in his own documentary but I have issues. Although I concede his film is well made, it's funky, it's MTV, its central argument leaves me doubtful, particularly as he perpetuates the same ideology of which he is so critical of when it comes to McDonalds. If McDonalds has to stand up to the plate, so should Spurlock. By starting the film with close ups on overweight people's stomachs, thighs, and arses, he's blaming them for their own problems.

Although McDonalds is his main target, Spurlock tries to squeeze everything into this film. Burger King, Wendys and even the school cafeteria cop a serve. What was with the interviews with the girls talking about social pressure to be thin and beautiful? They just didn't seem to go anywhere but that collage of body parts was fantastic. Now that was forcing society to take responsibility without making fun of anyone.

Spurlock was lucky. His mum made his dinner while he was growing up, and she also drove him and his brothers to their sports. She really enjoyed doing it, it was important to her, it was her job. Now Spurlock is still lucky, his ex-wife's medical insurance covered his many trips to the doctors throughout this film, and his current vegan girlfriend devised a detox diet to get him back in shape following his 30 day trip to the obese side. Pity she had to be on top because he got so exhausted though. After the screening I was given a recipe for a low fat chicken burger that would only take me 15 minutes to make. I got take away instead. What I was really craving was some of those artificial chicken nuggets. Those graphics were really cool.

This film has received great praise for successfully forcing Maccas to get rid of its supersizing in America. Spurlock praised Australian McDonalds for the nutritional information on the packaging and the fact that we do not supersize here. Go Australia! **yay** I went to McDonalds last week and guess what? Supersizing is coming here soon!!

I have no issues with a documentary being manipulative and I really enjoyed the films Spurlock cites as his inspiration including Errol Morris, The Thin Blue Line and Michael Moore's Bowling For Columbine especially because they were manipulative and so obviously biased. Spurlock is biased too and his statistics are doubtful, but that's cool, that's a documentary. I just don't buy the idea that you can force corporations to take responsibility by blaming individuals. Spurlock wants to change the world by keeping it exactly the same.