SUPER SIZE ME. Leaves you with head full of questions

“Super Size Me” is not Michael Moore-style mythomania


20 October 2023

Have you ever wondered what you’ll be eating before ordering a juicy hamburger or salty fries? Did you contemplate whether the food you consumed at the bar was merely filling or exclusively unhealthy? Did you nostalgically recall how tasty a reheated ham sandwich with lettuce was and perhaps consider ordering another one? If not, after watching another controversial documentary from America, these questions will form in your minds.

Everything in America is bigger. We have the biggest cars, the biggest houses, the biggest companies, the biggest food, and even the biggest people…

Michael Moore, while producing two problematic yet award-winning and famous docudramas (“Bowling for Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 9/11”), unintentionally set a new direction for the development of pure documentaries. This happened because viewers grew tired of dull, repetitive, and lengthy educational films and rushed to cinemas for dynamically produced, aggressive works that brought a breath of fresh air but also streams of falsehood to the typically objective documentary. Thanks to his courage and unfiltered speech, Moore succeeded, made a pile of money, and became famous. So why shouldn’t others succeed? One holiday afternoon, Morgan Spurlock, lying on the couch and resting after a Thanksgiving dinner, decided to turn on the TV. Flipping through channels, he accidentally came across a report about two teenagers who sued the McDonald’s restaurant chain, accusing it of causing their obesity. Remembering the high-profile case of smokers winning a battle against tobacco companies a few years ago, Spurlock thought that this could end dramatically as well. However, McDonald’s immediately denied the girls’ revelations and began defending itself on all fronts. At this point, this relatively unknown filmmaker came up with the idea of shooting a peculiar documentary—a 30-day diary of a diet based on dishes from the world’s most popular fast-food restaurant. He wanted to test whether fast food could actually be harmful. And he made himself the subject of this experiment…

“Super Size Me,” it’s impossible not to notice many elements connecting Spurlock’s work with Moore’s storytelling. We have a strong start with a ton of statistics on the obesity levels of both the USA and the world (with a background track reminiscent of the theme from the prologue to “Gangs of New York”). There’s an engaging narrator, who, like Moore, guides the viewer through almost the entire film. There’s the main character, director, and screenwriter all in one. There are amusing animated inserts, stylized as instructional videos (remember “Bowling for Columbine”?). Of course, there’s also Bush (meaning a portrait of Jesus Christ, on which small children recognize the current President of the United States). There’s also a gentle attack on the US government administration. In short, it has everything that a “controversial documentary” needs. However, “Super Size Me” stands out because the story is based more on facts than myths… To speak more effectively to his audience and gain support for his views on the harmfulness of “unhealthy food,” before starting the experiment, Morgan hired several specialists to oversee his health and well-being. Thus, educated individuals—cardiologists, gastroenterologists, general physicians, dietitians, and exercise physiologists—speak to us from the screen. I almost forgot about our hero’s charming girlfriend, who amusingly talks about the impact of a hamburger diet on Morgan’s sex life. It’s worth listening to. Despite a generally serious message, the film is not overwhelming. It is funny but also accurate in its mockery. The director has strong evidence in the form of specialized medical studies confirming his suspicions about the harm caused to people by fast-food restaurants. Another argument is the visible changes occurring in and on the subject of the experiment, captured by the attentive eye of the camera…

In short, disregarding many obvious similarities, “Super Size Me” is not Moore-style mythomania. It’s also not as scandalous as some of his works, but, like those, it leaves the head of the viewer filled with various questions. Questions, such as the ones I briefly listed at the beginning of this review. And I think that after watching this film, everyone will reconsider a few times whether it’s a good idea to dine at the famous Golden Arches of McDonald’s.



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