Morgan Spurlock sizes up a local McDonald’s–the
Copyright Roadside Attractions / Samuel Goldwyn Films
McDonald’s is very tired of hearing the name Morgan Spurlock. A recent press release from McDonald’s is essentially a 300-word “no comment” with regard to Spurlock’s Sundance Award-winning documentary, Super Size Me. Three hundred words is awfully wordy for a “no comment.”
On the surface, Spurlock’s self-sacrificial doc seems to be an exercise in futility. But it’s soon apparent that the film succeeds in offering up an abundance of highly-scrutinized information, presented in bite-size, easily digestible morsels with plenty of humor as seasoning. Spurlock, at the emphatic dissuasion of his girlfriend (who happens to be, of all things, a vegan chef) went on a 30-day McDonald’s crash diet. He aligned himself with a cameraman, a soundman and a set of rules:
1. Cannot eat anything not from McDonald’s during the 30 days.
2. Must try everything on the menu once.
3. Must have a salad every tenth meal.
4. Will “super size” whenever asked.
Some critics have contended that Spurlock made the film primarily in order to stimulate controversy in an apathetic public. The genesis of the film was Spurlock’s incredulity when he heard a McDonald’s spokesman actually say in public that their food was not that fattening—and in fact was nutritious. Three squares a day of Mickey D’s for 30 days may be a bit much, but that misses the point of this engaging and enlightening film.
In an interview with MM, Spurlock offers up some dieting tips and talks about how one person can make a difference.
Mel Rodriguez (MM): What did your daily ritual consist of during the 30 days?
Morgan Spurlock (MS): Get up. Go to McDonald’s. Eat. Go to work. Work. Got to McDonald’s. Eat. Go to work. Work. Go home. Watch TV. Go to McDonald’s. Eat. Go home. Watch TV. Go to bed. Sleep. Of course, mixed in there was lots of travel to 15 states around the country and production on the movie—but that was the core of my existence.
MM: Briefly describe your health at the start, middle and end of the production.
MS: At the beginning I was the picture of health: 185.5 pounds, cholesterol of 165, body fat percentage of 11. I was in good shape.
By the middle of the diet, I would get massive headaches that could only be alleviated by eating. I was more depressed than I’d ever been in my life and my sexual prowess in the bedroom waned (I couldn’t salute the general.) By the end of the diet, I had gained 24.5 pounds (weighing over 200 pounds for the first time in my life), my cholesterol jumped up 25 points, my liver had filled with fat and I felt exhausted most of the time.
MM: Has McDonald’s made an official statement in response to the film?
MS: Yeah, something along the lines of the film just being a gimmick to make a movie, that the film is all about my irresponsibility in deciding to eat this way and that it doesn’t represent all the wonderful choices at McDonald’s. Blah, blah, blah—typical corporate spin. Meanwhile, six weeks after the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, they announced they were eliminating Super Size options. A decision, they say, that had nothing to do with this film whatsoever.
MM: What do you make of the response the film has gotten critically?
MS: The film has gotten an overwhelmingly positive response from attendees and critics alike. I think its so encouraging and gratifying to see how something you’ve worked so hard on can actually make a difference. Socioeconomically, even with McDonald’s announcing they’re phasing out the Super Size option, I think we still have a long way to go to really change things, but this is a step in the right direction. A baby step, but a step nonetheless.
MM: What were you doing just before you started working on Super Size Me?
MS: Right before Super Size Me, I had a show on MTV called “I Bet You Will.” It was the first show ever to go from the Internet to TV. We produced 53 episodes of the show and when it was cancelled, we took the money we’d made and poured it into this film.
MM: What surprised you the most after having gone through this?
MS: A few things:
1. Most people have no idea what they’re eating.
2. Schools serve some of the worst food ever to your kids.
3. One person can really make a difference… You just have to want to make a difference.