Imaginary Brazilian Revolution

Brazil is a state of carefree serenity. Brazil is attained by forsaking sanity.

Return . . . I will . . . to old . . . Brazil.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Supersize Me is Pointless . . .

. . . mostly.

The central stunt of the film is pointless. You know, the one where director Morgan Spurlock eats nothing but McDonalds for 30 days? He can't ingest anything that he didn't buy at McDonalds and he has to eat every menu item at least once. As expected, he gains a lot of weight and feels like crap. Also, his liver shows signs of damage on par with a heavy drinking binge. I guess the conclusion we're supposed to come to is that McDonalds is evil. 'You already know that McDonalds food is not healthy, but look!' the film seems to be telling us, 'it's not just unhealthy, it's deadly poisonous. So the lawsuits filed against McDonalds by fat people should be decided in the plaintiffs' favor and McDonalds shouldn't be allowed to advertise to kids.'

Here's the problem: Spurlock doesn't just eat three daily meals at McDonalds. He seems to eat as much as he possibly can. He never reveals his daily menu or calorie count, I believe, because it would undermine his argument, such as it is. But it's clear from the footage that he not only eats Extra Value Meals, but he never seems to have a meal without a shake or sunday or some extra something. He could easily have done his experiment, eating only McDonalds menu items and having every menu item at least once and come in at around 2500 to 3000 calories per day average. If he had done this I guess he would've gained five pounds max and not had the liver damage or decreased sexual performance. So my point is this: I could do the exact same experiment that Spurlock does with McDonalds with grocery stores in an effort to condemn grocery stores and it would have the same value: none, except perhaps to illustrate the dangers of overeating in general. I could eat 5000 calories a day of food that I only buy at my local Superfresh and I would have the same problems as Spurlock had during his stunt. So is Superfresh evil? Should fat people be able to sue grocery stores for making them fat? No, obviously.

Another problem with the film: no argument is made to support the conclusion that the lawsuits against McDonalds have any validity, but we're apparently supposed to believe that they do anyway, something that, to me, is counterintuitive to say the least. Spurlock shows us that the lawsuits were dismissed because they couldn't show that McDonalds was responsible for the kids getting fat. He presents this as if it should be obvious to us that that was a bad decision. He doesn't tell us why the lawsuits have any validity or why they shouldn't have been dismissed. Demonstrating that McDonalds food is unhealthy does nothing to support this conclusion.

What did intrigue me about the film was Spurlock's research into lunch at public schools. Again, he doesn't really present any coherent argument that school lunch should be different, but just showing the junk that kids are being offered by the schools, or by the contractors that the schools hire, is shocking. And, now that I think about it, I could've had pizza for school lunch every day of the week in high school if I wanted to (more often, I had Burger King Whoppers off campus). It is disconcerting that our public schools are contributing to poor eating habits. I would like for school lunch to be an education in healthy eating habits. Kids should be taught how to put together a balanced, healthy meal. I could imagine a really great nationwide school lunch program that would teach health and nutrition to kids as they eat. That kind of thing might help stem the tide of weight problems that we're experiencing in this country.