Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock (2004)
Documentary written, produced, directed and starred by American independent filmmaker Morgan Spurlock. For 30 days he had three meals a day at MacDonald’s, every item on the menu sampled at least once, meals “super sized” when the option was offered. Those were some of the rules Spurlock wrote down when embarking on his documentary that records the affects of his diet and the fast food has on America itself. The film suggests that the increase of nutrition-related illnesses is linked to fast food-products.
Meals and mobility
“I do eat hamburgers. There you have it.”
An article about fast food touching on Super Size Me should probably start with a proclamation like that.
“Soft drinks from an ice cold glass bottle are nice too.”
Care to read further or made up your mind, possibly condemned me already? In the age of extremes, whether sky jumping or food fanaticism, the opinions can run as high as the boiling point of fries. At the same time as fast food gets criticized, its sales continue to go up, new restaurants are opened. And like after a presidential election, no one seems to admit of having supported the new incumbent, even if surely someone was casting the ballot.
In any case just like it was in the past, it is the meals and the mobility that make the self made man. Burdened by tight schedules or with other interests than cooking, John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich in 1762 placed dried meat on his bread to save some time. One can only suppose whether this act was considered revolutionary or just another whim by a member of the upper class. Nevertheless, surely each country and culture has something that could be considered as fast food, ready to go, whether it would be the Romans and their olive stands or the British with pastries and pies, panipuri in India, noodles in Asia.
But it is the burger that has the beef. Like Ford makes cars so MacDonald’s serves hamburgers. The triumph of the assembly line, the methods learned and fine tuned in the WWII, were ready to be adapted to create the wealth and well being of the 50s America and onwards. Suburban areas were built for the thousands of returning G.Is, for the new families, the children that would be born. In 1951, fast food was recognized by the Merriam Webster dictionary and Ronald McDonald’s predecessor was aptly called “Speedee”.
As Eisenhower’s interstate highway system allowed to drive faster and small roads with motels started to whimper away, the speed of getting to places became ever important. We were living the atomic age, and if rockets could soon reach the moon and speed records kept being broken, surely what had been started by Western Electric, the Pony Express, Stagecoach, Union Pacific Railway and in due time airplanes shuttling people between metropolises, would keep reaching new heights with faster cars, computers, workers (robots), relationships. Not just instant coffee but speed dating with the occasional tree hugging to stay connected to nature, whether done in real or virtual world, while food was being nuked in the microwave oven. For some, even the national past time baseball was alarmingly becoming too slow a sport and opted for the more fast paced and aggressive football.
In the middle of all this, the V8 guzzlers needed cheap oil and gas but so did the stomachs of the drivers need food. The more cars, the more drive inns and soon the eating habits, times and places of lunch and supper were changing around the world. As Thomas L. Friedman pointed out “No two countries that both had a McDonald’s had fought a war against each other”. While this may have recently been put to question it does show the meaning of economic ties in the global world. When we travel to another city we can check the price rates with the Big Mac Index and when in 1989 McDonald’s opened a restaurant in Moscow, Soviet Union times were truly changing. While Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu and Vanuatu may to some of us still sound like places out of the Bounty, today they too house a MacDonald’s, even if not perhaps as many as there are on Manhattan; the ones that Morgan Spurlock visits in his film.
Many words have already been written about Super Size Me and other documentaries and even academic tests set out to see what kind of results they would get from a similar hamburger diet. In the film Spurlock is the Average Joe, the American Adam, a lone ranger who goes after a giant corporation (a franchise of small businesses) and like a good citizen wants to find out some answers. Whether Ronald MacDonald is more recognized than Jesus can be questioned, but Spurlock drives his point across. ‘MacDonald’s moments’ have become part of growing up and eating hamburgers for thirty days is not necessarily good for you.
With the film Spurlock hit instant fame, got his own television series, is releasing a new film and now, like the old saying goes, what California does today the world will do tomorrow. Walt Disney Co. is promoting healthier eating habits among children and is licensing its characters to sell fruits and vegetables, reviewing which franchises to have in its amusement parks. Governor Schwarzenegger’s “soft drinks out of schools” and the bill 97 against trans fats will bring a new aspect to the fast food industry. No doubt it will adapt. Being healthy is a growing business.