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 Super Size Me

A year ago Thanksgiving I was sitting on my mother’s couch in West Virginia, stuffed like the turkey I just ate and feeling at one with the furniture that now engulfed my girth. The news yakked in the background and my mind wandered when suddenly something caught my ear—it was a story talking about the two girls who were currently suing McDonald’s in New York. They were teenagers, ill with the side effects that years of being overweight will wreak on the human body: high blood pressure, diabetes, back pains, asthma and more. Their claim: it was this McFood that had made them this way.

I have always been a big believer in personal will. Nobody can make you do anything (beginning at a certain age at any rate) and with this comes responsibility; the responsibility of self. And as I laid there, the sound of churning, gurgling and low digestive rumbles emerging from behind my now overstressed belt, I couldn’t help but think how ridiculous this was. No one made me eat all that food just now at my mother’s dining table (though my Grandmother’s insistence that I “eat more because people are starving!” may have had an impact) and, by the same token, no one made those girls eat all that McJunk.

Then spokespeople for the food companies came on TV and everything changed. They pompously attacked the girls’ claims, saying that there is no link between their food and the girls’ obesity and illnesses and, here’s the kicker, that their food is nutritious. (QUESTION: If it’s that good for you, then why does the clown never eat any of it? Answer that one. That’s right—HE NEVER EATS THE FOOD! No wonder he’s so skinny!) This person was on national television claiming that their food was healthy, good for you and nutritious. To me, that was one of the most ridiculous statements I had ever heard in my life—and I can only imagine that the poor sap who said that is scrubbing urinals at some airport somewhere.

The light went off in my head, actually it was more of the dust being blown off the dim bulb, and I thought “well, if McDonald’s is that good for me, then I should be able to eat it for every meal of everyday for thirty days straight with no side effects, right?” (NOTE: My mom has often prided herself on how intelligent her children were, that is, until this day.)

I immediately called my longtime friend and director of photography, Scott Ambrozy, and told him the monumental, life-affirming idea that had just come to me via my gastronomical epiphany. You see, for months I had been toying with the concept of doing my first feature, I just hadn’t honed in on what that would be. When he finished laughing, he said, “That’s a really great bad idea.”

For me, this was like lightning in a bottle, it was as if the Three Kings (Burger, Pizza and Dairy—husband of the Queen) had come to me and shared the news of the clown who would be king. It wasn’t until much later that I thought I may have bitten off more than I could chew.

For instance, my girlfriend Alex happens to be a vegan chef and needless to say that was not on the top of her “what I want from my boyfriend in a perfect relationship” list. Yes, I know, my silly life is filled with irony—and as you’ll see in the film, it only gets worse.

I returned to New York immediately (I can usually only stay at home for three days—what with all the eating, sleeping and eating I do at my mother’s house), and dove right into pre-production. The more I read, the more I uncovered, the more I thought that these two girls may have a point. These huge food corporations have a tremendous amount of influence over children and their decision-making processes. From playgrounds to commercials to cartoons to toys to clowns—these companies have done everything they can to suck in kids from the earliest age possible. I was beginning to be a believer.

But in the back of my head, the one thing I kept thinking was “personal responsibility.” Where do you draw the line? At what age? At what point? After how many Super Duper Monster Gulp-a-Gallon sodas does it suddenly become someone else’s fault?

Super Size Me opened this door for me and it became a much larger examination of the obesity epidemic in our country and the impact it’s having on our world.

The film is not an attack on the fast food industry, but a breakdown of the “how we eat” environment in America: the “Clean your plate,” “All you can eat,” “Two for a dollar” feeding frenzy that consumes us daily.

It’s not me saying that fast food is solely to blame for what’s happening in our country or elsewhere, it’s me saying that we’ve allowed ourselves to be convinced that fast service food is a consistent, acceptable alternative for our lives.

It’s an examination of our fast lifestyle and how we’ve abandoned our own health for work, money and time; and how this food culture has influenced schools, our children and our future.

But ultimately, it’s a movie about realizing we can change. Everyday when you eat, you vote with your fork. You decide what people will and will not be able to sell you. And hopefully after seeing this film you’ll think twice about what you’re putting in your body, what you’re ordering—and maybe you’ll decide to stick with the medium.

 

Why are Americans so fat? Find out in Super Size Me, a tongue-in-cheek—and burger in hand—look at the legal, financial and physical costs of America's hunger for fast food. Director Morgan Spurlock (in his debut film) tackles the American obesity epidemic by subjecting himself to a "McDonald's only" diet for thirty days straight. Featuring interviews with health experts nationwide, Spurlock's Sundance award-winning feature is both entertaining and horrifying, as it dives into a quagmire of corporate responsibility, nutritional education, school lunch programs and how we as a nation are eating ourselves to death.

   


 

Note: On March 2, 2004, McDonald’s announced it has begun phasing out Super Size fries and drinks in 13,000 U.S. restaurants and will stop selling them altogether by year end, except in promotions.