Dane’s Blog Post 5–Why Is Morgan Spurlock A Deal?

I don’t get Morgan Spurlock.

It’s not simply that our politics don’t mesh; I don’t understand either his personal or educational appeal.

Take Super-Size Me.

A documentary on fast food I can understand, even expect. People are concerned about what they eat, and considering how much fast food is integrated into our culture it’s inevitable that it would come under a microscope. But instead of blowing the lid off of a casket of dark secrets, Super-Size Me spends a couple hours banging a cheap can against the edge of a table, eventually causing an eruption of creamed corn and shrieking “See? See?

First of all, Spurlock sets up an “experiment” in which he will eat McDonalds food for all three meals for about a month. The problem with this so called “experiment” is pretty obvious: nobody eats McDonalds three times a day. Not even employees of McDonalds eats their food three times a day.

Moving on from that, Spurlock limits his exercise to what he calculates is an average American’s daily set of walking steps.

So, here’s what we have: Spurlock is eating food that everybody knows is fatty, is eating it every day—something nobody actually does, and is taking minimal exercise. And we are apparently supposed to be surprised when he gains weight. He also reports experiencing depression, lethargy, and headaches—which could be relieved by eating a meal from McDonalds.

In 2007, Fredrik Nyström from Sweden’s Linköping University attempted to replicate the results with over a dozen volunteers, only to find that he couldn’t. Some gained weight, others didn’t. The psychological effects differed too. Spurlock’s case is apparently unique.

Super-Size Me was a success, in spite of its scientific problems. Many people credit it with forcing McDonalds to change behavior (the company denies this). But it does bring up the question, was the right entity targeted for this? McDonalds makes food and advertises it, but people—including Spurlock—are the ones who buy the stuff, and who have to make the decisions about their bodies. I was never impressed with Spurlock’s film because it never made sense to me: if you consider McDonalds is too unhealthy, then don’t eat there. And if you do eat there, than you should burn off what you’ve eaten—and not take in so much of it.

Again, why is Morgan Spurlock such a big deal? How did he become so famous based on an unscientific recitation of simplistic obviousness? Is this really what passes for documentaries these days?

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