Documentary director Morgan Spurlock features as the guinea pig in this film about the fast food industry. Inspired by America’s obesity epidemic, he goes on a diet of McDonald’s three times a day for thirty days straight in order to examine the effects of fast food consumption on the body and mind. The effects of the trial are harrowing: His body mass increases by 13%, his cholesterol levels skyrocket, fat accumulates in his liver, and he experiences mood swings and loss of libido. Super Size Me will completely change the way you think about eating and living.
Super Size Me accomplishes the feat of being both entertaining and horrifying. It investigates how the fast food culture in American schools, corporations and politics is driving nationwide obesity. In between meals, Spurlock drives across the country and interviews a host of health and nutrition experts, lawyers, school workers, and a surprisingly trim man who has eaten over 19,000 Big Macs yet maintains a healthy cholesterol level. We also meet an industry lobbyist who states that consumers need to be educated about nutrition and perplexingly proclaims that “we’re part of the problem and part of the solution”.
The film investigates the industry’s political lobbying and advertising campaigns. We learn about some of the disturbing strategies McDonald’s uses to acquire customers. It is particularly effective at getting children hooked at an early age through mediums they love, such as birthday parties, toys, clowns and playgrounds. In certain areas, the McDonald’s playground is the only one the community has. In one of the most shocking scenes of Super Size Me, Spurlock shows pictures of Jesus, George Washington and Ronald McDonald to a group of first graders, and Ronald is the only one that all of them can identify.
Spurlock is a likeable host, both witty and engaging. Despite his criticism of the fast food industry, he does not place the blame solely on corporations, and at one point asks the rhetorical question of where personal responsibility stops and corporate responsibility begins. Towards the end of the experiment, he is a changed man. The exuberant and healthy host we meet at the beginning of the film has transformed into a puffy, weary and depleted man. He has experienced first-hand the damaging effect of junk food on the nation. All in all, Super Size Me is a fascinating and informative insight into the fast food industry and its link to the American obesity epidemic.