October 14, 2004 01:01 PM
This past weekend I rented Supersize Me on a whim. Thanks to the invention of the "movie pass" at the video store, I now feel I can watch even movies I know I'll hate bits of, and actually get more value for my dollar (if, perhaps, less value for my time).
It was not as bad as I had expected.
The movie's website makes it sound as if the film is a misdirected expose of the Obesity Crisis! Egads!, but its real emphasis is on the general badness of fast food. Well, duh. It may be comforting and (if you say so) tasty, but it's like cigarettes. No one really thinks it's any good for them, but we're so tired of all the things that are supposed to kill us that we're just overloaded. We give up. So, talking us into thinking McDonald's is bad? Not gonna work.
As a movie, it worked mostly because Spurlock is of a Michael Mooreish school of filmmaking - he mocks, and mocks himself as much as anything else. So there was funny; it was disarming. But it also (not unlike Mike's films tend to) suffered from his him-ness. First, it would have been better if he were smarter and more reflective. And then - for all he may have grown up in industrial West Virginia, he comes across as a believer in the inherent superiority of upper middle class Manhattanite living. Given that there's such a class and geography component to fast food eating, it felt like he was scoffing as he mocked. No good. Also, not at all useful if the goal were to convince people not to eat of the arches of gold - I'm a sarcastic hipster, and I had trouble relating to him.
I'd be very curious to see what the audience demographic of this movie was. I suspect many people came to have their feelings of superiority backed up, but maybe I'm just cynical.
In addition to the problem with the movie's tone was the niggling issue of his research methodology. Which was never clearly explained aside from a commandment to sample the entire menu, but apparently meant eating a shitload of milkshakes. Why so many milkshakes? It's not a drink, it's a dessert item. [Sidebar: when we went to Cz and Jess's wedding, Alan left a partially consumed Jamocha shake (from Arby's) in my car. Three days later when I investigated the cloying smell of decomposition, there it was - and while it was hot, it was still more or less the same texture the shake had been when frozen. Ew. Also, as I write about this movie, I feel like I have to tell you all that I had salad at that Arby's, so you know I'm not being defensive and am just as snotty as Spurlock himself. Cause what I eat so clearly defines my value.] So, he exercised as he learned (from where, he didn't say) the majority of Americans did, but he ate in a way that was fundamentally worse than the vast majority of us.
I assume he was trying to prove the worst case results, since his hypothesis was something vague about whether McDonald's could really be responsible for someone's health problems. Which, by the way, he came pretty close to doing. His medical health indicators did plummet, he claims to have felt pretty horrid, and he certainly looked greenish most of the time. Still doesn't prove McDonald's fault for the effect of the food one could choose to eat or not eat, but it was interesting. And I must add that it was this - the HEALTH effect of the food, not the fat bashing - that was the primary focus of the film and the real case he made. Good on him.
The movie's treatment of fat when it did go there, however, was appalling.
For instance, the very thin man who'd been eating several of those big saucy burgers a day for years. Spurlock didn't even note what must have been his "But you're thin! You should be FAT after all that!" reaction. For a movie that opens with the usual stats on the Crisis of Obesity! Egads! voiced over countless headless fat torsos (although me and my fatties mock you, Morgan, cause 75% of those torsos were diving into pools or jogging or walking dogs; even the headless fatties can't be counted on to just suck down a Big Gulp when you need them to). For a movie that included the musing that it's okay for non-smokers to harrass smokers for damaging their health, and he hopes that we'll eventually get to a point where people can tell you to go exercise (clearly he's never been fat, or he'd know this does happen to people).
For a movie that hates fat people so much, it was rather surprising that nothing was said about this guy's non-fatness. God forbid we not be able to tell from your outsides what you're feeding yourself! Better to just ignore it. [Or maybe that was cut out for length, who knows?]
He does the same thing in a "man on street" interview with a fat French woman (or maybe she's Quebequois?) who doesn't eat fast food. Your weight is only important to Spurlock if you prove his hypothesis that McDonald's makes you fat.
The saddest moment of the movie is not the headless torso barrage, or the moment that Spurlock learns he shouldn't eat that much in 10 minutes and yacks out the car window. It's the scene with that guy from the Subway commercials, who apparently now takes his big pants on tour to schools. He does his speech and this adorable round girl and her adorable round mama come up to talk to him. And the girl so clearly wants to cry, thinking that walking to Subway everyday's the only thing that can change her life. And he says: "You can't change the world, you have to change yourself."
You giant asshat, big pants man. YOU change YOUR self. Let's ungay the gay people, unblack the black people, unreligious the persecuted, cut out the tongues of anyone who refuses to speak English, and just all get plastic surgery to look like Katie Couric while we're at it. If the world can't accept that people are different (it can, actually) then it's broken and we'd better change it. I mean, who knows what a broken world might do?
I laughed. I cried. Then I got angry.
That's a pretty good summary of the movie, actually. Except that, for the most part, I laughed or was angry.
And that's pretty much it. It you're looking for any information that will improve your life in even a tiny way, this is the wrong movie for you. If you'd like to hate yourself or others depending on your weight and lifestyle, you'll have a great time. Honestly, though? The best reason to watch this thing is because you'd like to be able to bitch about it intelligently.
Which I hope I've done.
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