Morgan and Me


Yesterday I saw Morgan Spurlock's film Super Size Me, which opens nationwide on Friday, at the D.C. Film Festival. The chronicle of Spurlock's growing gut and failing health during a month-long McDonald's binge is entertaining despite its politically correct anti-corporate message. The jokes are often at Spurlock's expense, and sometimes they work against his theme of plucky, public-spirited activists fighting evil fast food chains bent on making Americans fatter and fatter.

In one scene, for instance, litigation enthusiast John Banzhaf explains how sneaky corporations teach kids to associate their brands with happy, positive experiences. "That's why when I have kids," Spurlock deadpans, "every time we drive past a fast food restaurant, I'm going to punch my kids in the face."

The redeeming humor disappeared during the question-and-answer session that followed the screening, when it became clear that the audience consisted almost entirely of people who buy organic food, take a dim view of SUVs, and think recycling is self-evidently virtuous. Aside from a lone skeptic who was booed back to his seat, Spurlock's sharpest critics were people who loved the movie but wished he had paid more attention to the trash generated by fast food packaging or the connection between socioeconomic status and obesity. He was repeatedly praised for taking a "balanced" approach to the topic, the sort of assessment that could be offered only by people who never encounter anyone who disagrees with them. Love it or hate it, Super Size Me–which ends with a wishful drawing of Ronald McDonald's grave–clearly has a point of view.

Consider the way Spurlock, who interviewed me for the movie, uses my observation that it is socially acceptable to publicly hector smokers for their unhealthy habits and that fat people may soon be treated the same way. The appropriate response to such pestering, I suggested, is: "Fuck you. Mind your own business." In Spurlock's view, "he's just raising the question of where we draw the line between corporate responsibility and personal responsibility. What can I control, and what is so heavily pounded into me through marketing and advertising and the lack of better food in my neighborhood or in my school? Where is that fine line?"

Actually, I was saying that how much people weigh is their own damned business, and that meddling do-gooders (such as Banzhaf and the other heroes of Super Size Me) ought to be put in their place. I realize that was not an angle Spurlock was interested in exploring, which is fine. But the result is not exactly "balanced."