July 2004


Super Size Me

Ok, this was a seriously disturbing movie.

I went to see it at the Castleton Arts Movie Theater in Northeastern Indianapolis. It is, to the best of my knowledge, the only place I can see the movie within a reasonable distance of my house in Bloomington. Better yet, I saw it on the way home from the airport, thus minimizing my extra fuel expenditures.

Some how, due to an error on my part, I saw it at 7:00, not 4:00, which gave me ample time to kill after my flight landed. I managed to kill it and show up at the theater, picked up my ticket and was immediately offered the opportunity to buy stuff from the concession stand. The concession stand was offering, among many other things, the #1 combination, which consisted of a large soda and large popcorn. The irony did not escape me or the manager, who suggested that if I ordered the #1, I should be sure to megasize my popcorn.

What was more surprising was that considering the topic of the movie, quite a few of the people watching the movie had chosen to buy popcorn and drinks-which on the face of it seems rather contradictory to the movie’s message: Americans are fat assed people, and eating McDonald’s and food of similar ilk will only make you fatter.

Clearly I am no innocent in this game. I eat more than my fair share of fast food, and its something I really ought to quit doing.

Morgan Spurlock, the man who ate 30 days of McDonald?s was clearly a man with an agenda-every minute of the film presented a clearly slanted opinion that fast food is bad for you-and in his 30 days of eating at McD, he went overboard in his efforts to make McD look bad. He purposely ate foods that were maximizing fat content-per the rules of the game, he had to have each menu item at least once, so when we witnessed him having the Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese for the second time, the game was essentially up: he was trying to hurt himself. The fact that he had the desserts-which were far from healthy-on a regular basis contributed to his health problems.

It would be interesting for somebody to undertake a month of McDonald’s eating under similar rules, but without trying to maximize the caloric intake that Morgan engaged in. I suspect that the individual would get sick, but not nearly as sick as Morgan got during his odyssey.

To this film, I am going to say the similar things to what I said about Fahrenheit 9/11: the film is very well thought out from start to finish, but there are no gaps left for the viewer to make. At the end of this film, you will believe that McDonald’s is guilty of the intentional fattening of America.

To which I say, I don’t think they are entirely culpable-however, it probably wouldn’t hurt if everybody took the time to see this movie. A few sick stomachs might help.

10 comments to Super Size Me

  • koko

    I really wanted to see this film, but unfortunately it’s too far away for me to see resonably…hohum, perhaps some day 🙂

    Dude, I really think that fat america should be required to watch this film…ugh! I just think it’s stupid that they play ignorant and then sue the fast food places because they “didn’t know it was bad for them”. That’s a load of the foulest smelling poo ever. I’m sure the fat is clogging their already dull brains, but give me a break…

    I’m going to sue car companies because they build cars because I bought one and didn’t know you could get into an accident and die and well…I died. *sigh*

  • IUMike

    My impressions of the film are actually pretty good. He makes the case that this is an issue area that is evolving in a similar way to the way tobacco evolved, and its fairly convincing. The weak point in his argument is addiction…he tries to make that case based only on his personal experience, but I don’t see any evidence for it. The info on the school lunch programs was interesting and timely as well.

    As for his McDonald’s diet, I do think you would be hard-pressed to find standard menu items at McDonald’s that are not going to clog your arteries. I always have trouble finding something satisfying when I am there, and even if I do order a salad, I’m still enormously tempted to just chuck it and order the standard Big Mac and fries. And there are people who go in and order the double quarter-pounder (super-sized) day after day. In fact, I think it would’ve been an unrealistic test if he had gone in every day and had the salad for lunch and dinner.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts…

  • MT

    I haven’t seen the movie, but here are my thoughts. I think that a more realistic test would be to eat McDonald’s a few times a week, not every freakin’ meal. Do people really do that in life? I mean, what kind of idiot would really think they could eat McDonald’s every day and NOT gain weight/get sick? Oh wait … the lawsuit bunch. All I can say is: a Darwin Award awaits those people.

    PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY PEOPLE!!! Don’t sue McDonald’s because you pig out there every day. Don’t ask the government to regulate internet pornography because you are too lazy to watch your kids while they surf the web. Don’t b**** about the government and then not vote.

    /MT’s off the soap box …

  • I should have noted that according to the closing titles, he was only offered to Super Size his meal 9 times… out of 90 visits (well, 88 or 89, since there was that blizzard in NY when he bought his lunch and dinner at the same time)

    I think a lot of his early adverse reaction (e.g. that scene on day 3 in the parking lot) was trumped up for show…

  • koko

    MT, my brother eats fast food every day…so yes it’s totally possible. I’m waiting for him to croak so I can laugh. He typically will eat any of the following:

    White Castle

    A few years ago he was eating 2 meals a day out…quite sick actually. Oh well, he’ll die soon anyway.

  • IUMike

    I agree with MT that personal responsibility is important, but I think the film does raise a couple of points relevant for public policy. First, whether information on the health dangers of eating McDonald’s food is easily accessible..that is, does McD possess an information asymmetry. Relatedly (and I think a much harder case for McDonald’s to make), does McDonald’s advertising give the impression that its food is safe to eat on a regular basis? Second, is fast food addictive (and is McD aware that it is addictive)? Depending on the answers to these questions, some form of policy intervention may be warranted on economic efficiency grounds.

  • I suggest that everybody read “Fast Food Nation”–it is an excellent take on the fast food industry in the USA. Quite frankly, it took me several weeks to eat fast food again after reading the book. I should re-read it.

  • Chris C

    Quite frankly people in the USA need to take more personal responsibility for themselves. I’m becomming a bit tired of our homogenized society in general.

    You can’t spank kids anymore, the little buggers have to wear bicycle helmets with warning labels attached all over. Danger: Eating broken glass will result in severe gastrointestinal bleeding. Sticking your head into the blades of a moving fan may result in headache and/or severe head trauma. Duh! Give me a break! 🙂

    We’re raising a generation of disrespectful wimps that don’t have a sense that there are consequences to their actions. And when there are consequences, SUE!

    I need a bumper sticker that reads, “Warning: Life causes death.”

  • MT

    Chris – I want one of those bumper stickers too!

  • Chris C

    Hey MT – A business idea for us? 🙂