‘Super Size Me’: He’s not lovin’ it

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‘Super Size Me’: He’s not lovin’ it

Like many great ideas, the one behind Morgan Spurlock’s documentary “Super Size Me” was both simple and perverse: For 30 days, the American filmmaker would eat nothing but food from McDonald’s and film the results.
By Day 5, Mr. Spurlock has gained 10 pounds. By Day 21, he’s waking up in the middle of the night with shortness of breath and heart palpitations. All three doctors monitoring his progress urge him to stop the experiment; one seems genuinely worried that he might not survive. (“The results to your liver are obscene,” the doctor says in appalled wonder.)
By the end of the month, Mr. Spurlock has gained a full 25 pounds, and his body fat has risen from 11 to 18 percent ― which in the United States, home to the world’s fattest population, is still below the national average.
“I think people overseas are completely shocked” at the information about the American diet in his film, Mr. Spurlock said last weekend in Busan, where “Super Size Me” was screened at the Pusan International Film Festival. It’s been shown in a dozen or so European countries, and a handful in Asia; it’s scheduled to open in Korea on Nov. 12.
Punchy, fast-moving and gleefully muckraking in the style of Michael Moore’s films, “Super Size Me” uses Mr. Spurlock’s autoexperiment as a framework for a broader critique of McDonald’s and the U.S. fast-food industry, which in recent decades has come to account for a staggering proportion of what Americans eat.
Every day, according to the film, one out of four Americans goes to a fast-food restaurant. This food, of course, is loaded with fat and sugar. And Americans aren’t exercising to make up for it; in fact, 60 percent of the population doesn’t exercise at all, according to the film.
Since the early 1980s, as illustrated in one of the movie’s many eye-opening visuals, fast-food restaurants have increased their portion sizes astronomically. What was once a standard serving of McDonald’s French fries is now the “kiddie” size. Soda is now sold in 64-ounce cups (almost 2 liters); car manufacturers have actually made their cupholders bigger to accommodate this trend.
The industry aims much of its advertising at children, in hopes of establishing lifelong “brand loyalty,” and has even infiltrated the privatized lunch programs in many American public schools.
Mr. Spurlock said McDonald’s didn’t try to interfere with the filming of “Super Size Me”; he thinks this was because of his anonymity at the time. (He covered the film’s $65,000 costs himself; he says it’s made about $27 million worldwide.)
Soon after it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, McDonald’s dropped its “super size” portions (including the 64-ounce beverages), though it said that decision had nothing to do with the film.
McDonald’s has pointed out that Mr. Spurlock’s experiment is hardly a typical pattern of consumption. But Mr. Spurlock’s point is that if a month of this food can wreak such damage, it can’t be good to make it a staple of your diet. “If you keep eating this, all the things you see happen to me will happen to you in 10, 20 years,” he said.
As he travels to promote his film, Mr. Spurlock says he’s met people in plenty of countries besides Korea who are concerned about the proliferation of McDonald’s and similar chains. “They recognize that it’s coming,” he said. “This all-American way of living ― we’ve franchised it.”
He’s also dismayed to see these overseas franchises crowded with his countrymen. So far, he hasn’t joined them. “I would never eat at a McDonald’s in Korea,” he said.

by David Moll
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