Super Size Me

Morgan Spurlock is a hack.

Incendiary comment, isn’t that? Well, that’s not only my first impression of the documentarian, but it’s also my impersonation of his brand of filmmaking. You see, Spurlock, lick Michael Moore before him, makes his provocative points by as much hyperbole as fact.

His new film Super Size Me is a look at obesity and how poorly Americans maintain healthy diets. Just as the National Rifle Association was the target in Moore’s sites with Bowling for Columbine, McDonald’s faces Spurlock’s scrutiny.

To be sure, Spurlock and Moore are immensely entertaining artists. I love their work. But one must not buy into every claim, no more than a sensible person would of Rush Limbaugh’s radio program.

Of course McDonald’s food is bad for you. So is 5000 calories of health food per day. Spurlock’s premise may not be wrong (people eat badly and never exercise), but the obvious conclusion that people will draw is: McDonald’s is the antichrist. Just like Big Tobacco. We’re all victims and the big corps have to pay!

Moore, too, is one for melodrama. Moore allows so much of his own agenda to force a conclusion on his audience with clever editing. As an example from Bowling: using Heston’s notorious “dead, cold hands” speech at an unrelated rally to insinuate that he was speaking to Denver. Even by his own admission, Fahrenheit 9/11 was made for the express reason of ousting W from office! I have a hard time considering either Moore or Spurlock on equal footing with Errol Morris, for instance. Morris’s Fog of War was a brilliant example of a “fair and balanced” objective documentary.

And just like Moore has encountered staunch opposition in the past, Spurlock too has his own detractors. Case in point: this interview by techcentralstation. Spurlock’s embarrassing inability to defend his premise did more damage to his film than McDonald’s rebuttals (they eliminated the “supersize” menu shortly after his film premiered).

Take ’em or leave ’em, Moore and Spurlock are here to stay. Might as well fire up the popcorn maker and enjoy the entertainment. If you want a good documentary, you might want to check out Morris.

3 Replies to “Super Size Me”

  1. i’ve seen both movies, and liked both movies.

    the difficult thing about any kind of commentary/critique/controversy is how quickly the conversations landslide into a polarized discussion. for some reason, western logic seems to be to pick a side- make someone bad and someone good. find a villain and find a hero. often without the finger ever pointing at us.

    over the last several years, i have learned to purposely try to look at controversial issued as multi-faceted and complex. to me, the problem with documantaries like Columbine and Super SM is that they represent only one extreme. When you present that extreme to a country that is largely not educated to scrutinize information or contemplate complexities, you end up with alot of blind allegience.

    i think individuals have responsibility. i think corporations have responsibility. i think institutions have responsibility. doesn’t it take of them exercising responsibility to maintain a holistic, healthful society?

    last year i was reading a book by Walter Wink about the powers inherent to institutions. He had this to say about what he terms capitalist heresy:

    “Many businesses and corporation executives ignore God’s humanizing purposes, and speak rather of profit as the ‘bottom line.’ But this is a capitalist heresy. According to the eighteenth-century philosopher of capitalism Adam Smith, businesses exist to serve the general welfare. Profit is the means, not the end. It is the reward a business receives for serving the general welfare. When a business fails to serve the general welfare, Smith insisted, it forfeits its right to exist. ”

    i found it interesting that one of the founding fathers of capitalism married the free market to corporate responsibility.

    finally, as an educator, i am troubled by what i believe to be the intentional mind numbing practices of the public education system- how children are systematically uneducated to become irresponsible consumers. too much profit is tied to public education and too many corporatations have their hooks into children through the doors of America’s schools.

    ok. enough. it’s too early in the morning for me to write a dissertation. i’ll need at least another cup of coffee before i can do that.

    ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Patty,

    Great comments! I should have stated more emphatically that I truly respect Moore and Spurlock for their ability to satirize, entertain, and hyperbolize. What I’m not really convinced of, however, is how much weight their films should carry in the political / social arena.

    I’m not a great lover of guns, fatty hamburgers, nor W (sorry, Mom!). But I’m not sure I like the alternatives any more — extreme gun control, mandatory health food, & Kerry. I’m first and foremost moderate in just about everything. I like the occasional junk food, though I like to watch my diet and am quite athletic. I enjoy smoking an occasional cigar but generally abhor chain smokers, though I respect their right to destroy their health. I can’t stand guns personally and dare not contemplate pulling a trigger on another human being. But I respect others’ rights to arm themselves as they see fit within the law.

    If I may, I’d recommend a very good balanced critique of Fahrenheit:
    http://tinyurl.com/2r2zu

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