Super Size Me
Reviewed by: Keith Howland
1 hr. 38 min.
Year of Release:
January 17, 2004 (festival)
May 7, 2004 (limited)
DVD: August 29, 2004
dangers and causes of obesity
dangers of excessive eating products of big corporate fast food industry
article: Help for Eating Disorders
review: Food, Inc. (2009)
review: Fast Food Nation (2006)
FOOD in the Bible
Another film by this director: Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden? (2008)
“A film of epic portions.”
Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock is on a mission to eat only McDonald’s food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for thirty days. No exceptions. (That includes vitamins and aspirin.) He must eat every item on the menu at least once; and every time he is asked if he wants it “super sized,” he must say yes (although he won’t ask for it.) Further, he will limit his exercise to only the amount of walking per day of the average American.
The usually trim and healthy Spurlock has committed to this inadvisable month-long binge to form the centerpiece of his documentary film about the rampant obesity in the United States.
Spurlock is not suggesting that McDonald’s is to blame for our nation’s widespread corpulence, but fast food and candy companies do prey heavily on the susceptibilities of a complacent populace through heavily funded, pervasive advertising. “Super Size Me” is in part an antidote to that cultural influence. It advocates personal responsibility to maintain one’s health, and it reveals that fast food companies are not out to serve our best interests, but to make money.
Spurlock’s dietary adventure ably proves this. While McDonald’s takes his money, his health rapidly declines. Weekly physical examinations reveal disturbing and surprising results of his McDiet, including his liver suffering as though subjected to excessive alcohol intake. Spurlock also gains nearly thirty pounds.
The filmmaker travels the country throughout his experiment, visiting food corporation bigwigs, dietary specialists, schools, people on the street, and (of course) as many McDonald’s restaurants as he can, in order to enlighten and entertain us. The results of his interviews and observations are often interesting, such as the positive effect that a good diet has on the behavior of “troubled” teens. He also encounters many unsettling circumstances, such as schools that serve much more boxed foods than fresh (due in large part to convenience, not cost).
This all may sound gloomy, but the film is actually humorous throughout. People say and do funny things wherever you go, and Spurlock has a way of capturing it. The film is briskly edited and filled with clever cartoon and music accompaniment to heighten the comedy further. The filmmakers have certainly tried hard to create a crowd-pleasing documentary (no matter how oxymoronic that may sound), and they have mostly succeeded.
Spurlock’s documentary approach is definitely more Michael Moore than Ken Burns (that is, more self-indulgent, preachy, and scattershot than it is incisive and thorough), but it does give you much food for thought as it entertains.
Sadly, the film is also unnecessarily offensive. There is no violence, per se, but there are some disturbing cartoons, a scene of the auteur vomiting, and a graphic surgical sequence. There is some obscene dialogue, numerous mild profanities, misuse of the Lord’s name, and derogatory terms. The dialogue also contains sexual references, including Morgan’s girlfriend (a vegan!) describing their sex life. [God prohibits sex outside of marriage, as the Bible reveals: Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18.] Bodily exposure is also throughout the film. Mostly it is Spurlock in his boxers during physical examinations, but on occasion his boxers are replaced with something briefer or even nothing at all. Further, there is also a series of photos of scantily dressed women, a photo of a topless woman, as well as other crude drawings.
Even more unnecessary is the movie’s apparent intent to mock Jesus through some of its imagery. Two illustrations in the film lampoon The Last Supper, in one case showing Ronald McDonald in Jesus’ place. These mockeries are offensive in their attempts to gain laughs by irreverent treatment of the King of Kings.
Good discussion can come of “Super Size Me,” most clearly regarding what attitude we should have about our diet and physical health. God gave humanity plants and animals to eat (Genesis 1:29; 9:3), but as with all gifts of God, food and drink are to be used wisely for our good, and not to be abused through excess. The Bible warns against gluttony (as well as drunkenness), even hinting at its poor physical side-effects (Proverbs 23:20-21). God expects us to care for the bodies we have been given, but further wants us to honor Him with what we do in our bodies (I Corinthians 6:20).
Something that this film misses entirely is that we are not just a body, but also a spirit, and it is that spirit that continues when the body dies. The Bible speaks clearly about those who foolishly think of only satisfying the needs and pleasures of the physical body while ignoring the Kingdom of God and the judgment that will come to all men (Luke 17:26-29; 21:34-36; Romans 13:12-14).
Ironically, the filmmaker preaches the need for personal responsibility concerning diet, but ignores God’s law regarding human sexuality. Scripture denounces adultery more strongly than it does gluttony (Leviticus 20:10; Matthew 5:27-30); and while Spurlock demonstrates the destructive effects of eating only fast food, the Bible declares, “a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself” (Proverbs 6:32).
As with diet, everything in balance and at its proper time.
P.S.—I’ve read that since “Super Size Me” featured prominently at the Sundance Film Festival in January, McDonald’s has discontinued super-sizing. According to IMDb, “the spoof drawing of the Last Supper was cut from the Singapore theater and some DVD releases of the film.” and “An official PG-rated version is available for DVD and has been edited specifically for classroom study for grades 6-12.”
Violence: Mild / Profanity: Moderate to heavy—“Oh J_sus,” “For G_d’s sakes,” f-word, s-words (3), cr_p (2) / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
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