Morgan Spurlock took on a globally popular fast food corporation in 2004 by gorging himself on three McMeals a day for a month, with worring results. But has his liver pate stint really made a difference a year on?
The concept looks deceptively simple: eat three meals a day for a month at McDonald’s. The film cost sixty-five thousand dollars to make, brought in ten and half million at the box-office, and caused the largest fast food company in the world to panic in a super-sized way.
How could such a low-budget, hand-held documentary affair single-handedly produce such a high profile causing McDonald’s to drop its Super Size option within weeks of its release and introduce a healthy selection of foodstuffs? The answer? Two words: Morgan Spurlock.
The idea emerged after a news report on two girls suing the ‘restaurant’ chain for, essentially, making them fat. This outrageous claim was not appreciated by Spurlock, instead it was the defensive reaction from McDonald’s who claimed that there was no proven link between their food and obesity which threw him headfirst into the project.
Weighing in at 185.5 lbs for his 6 foot 2 inch frame, Spurlock ate admirably (his girlfriend is a vegan chef) and exercised regularly. After thirty days on the McDiet with minimal physical activity he had gained twenty four and half pounds and suffered major side-effects including depression and sexual dysfunction to the addictive additives packed into the ground beef patties.
But is this enough evidence to confirm the effects of fast food on the body? McDonald’s disagrees for obvious reasons. Reacting to the film directly, the firm set up a website to offer their view of the documentary which, in their opinion, ‘somewhat annoyingly does not portray McDonalds in a good light’. Surprising, since Ronald McDonald was given the chance to defend himself on the big screen by Spurlock. Seems he was too busy clowning around to make time for such a small player.
Instead, Don Gorske, a self-confessed Big Mac enthusiast, is featured, albeit fleetingly, as a walking advert for the multi-national corporation. Then again it is his word and two beef sandwiches a day against a hundred PhD qualified nutritionists.
The American’s health and nutrition in general is given a good seeing-to throughout the fascinating documentary. Obesity is undoubtedly on the increase, it appears all that is needed is a scapegoat for the public to point a podgy finger of blame at.
School dinners, pre-Jamie Oliver’s one man mission, are targeted as being major factors of rising childhood obesity levels, and this is pursued through to a notion that McDonald’s are conditioning kids at an early age to find comfort in junk food, setting them up for life-long addiction to the Happy Meal.
But has this study into specifically American but globally transferable eating habits answering the right questions effectively? Yes they are outrageous but shouldn’t people be given the right to choose to upgrade to larger portions if they do so desire?
Spurlock does cover a lot of ground in the two hours with plenty of facts and cartoons to back up his arguments, with slight bias towards his opinion as expected. McDonald’s has since offered new healthy options to compliment its beef, fat and sugar concoctions, but now that battle has been fought we have to consider if the public can be trusted with freedom of choice in the light of an obesity epidemic.
I seriously doubt it, seeing as one generously proportioned fourteen year old complained about not being able to afford anything else, having never heard of packed lunches obviously.
Spurlock’s solitary campaign against the giants of the food industry has not necessarily told us anything new: we know that fast food is bad for us but we still carry on gorging ourselves. However, he has at least managed to pressure our old friend Ronnie to provide us with choice, an element that is greatly underestimated.
Then again I will not be holding my breath for the day when the McChicken Salad takes over from the Cheeseburger as the McDonald’s best-seller, after all, who goes to McDonald’s for a fruit bag?