Super Size Me is an interesting look at the culture of fast food, particularly large chains like McDonald’s, and the mechanisms used to protect their image and their label.
Morgan Spurlock is an strange bloke – how else can you describe someone who decides to eat only McDonald’s for a whole month, just to prove their claim that it’s healthy wrong?? Fortunately he is also charming, witty and intelligent, and he is able to carry this documentary on his shoulders. Were the protagonist less likeable, the effect the ‘diet’ has on him would be less important to us. Spurlock’s charm and bravado make us care. He manages to set himself up as the man against the odds – someone who simply must succeed in this absurd challenge – and the audience falls in behind him, willing him on to eat more and more, revelling in the worsening of his health.
The negative health impact was demonstrated adequately, although I would have liked some more hard data, instead of commentary – the family doctor looking after him tells him he may cause permanent health damage, but not to what… I can see why the lack of specific information would be appropriate for the majority of the audience, but I just found it frustrating.
I am surprised that McDonald’s Australia have taken this film so seriously, and their response has been instructive in several ways. Firstly, it shows they realise that a documentary film really can impact people’s views, which is a relatively new phenomenon in film. Secondly, the blatant manipulation of the situation by McDonald’s here reinforces their general approach, and shows that much of what Spurlock alleges is true. The television ads currently showing point proudly to the nutrition information on the burger wrappers, and say that Spurlock is wrong when he alleges that information isn’t available. This follows only a few weeks after the introduction of this information, with much fanfare. It is unsubtle, and surely the public can see straight through this ruse?? Let’s see… McDonald’s is aware a major documentary criticising the lack of nutritional information is coming out, so they put nutritional info on their product, then when the film comes, they point to it and say “look, we are doing this, so Spurlock must be wrong”! Give me a break.
Super Size Me isn’t perfect, far from it. There are sections that drag, other sections underdeveloped. The basic premise borders on absurdity. McDonald’s reaction however makes this film much more important. In the same way as Eric Schlosser’s ‘Fast Food Nation’ catalogued the iniquities of the fast food industry in print, Spurlock’s film may well be remembered as an important milestone in the fight against obesity.Rating: