Trimming the fat

Stickin’ it to the fast-food man

by Gabriel Shapiro

Somewhere out there a very famous clown is crying. Ronald McDonald, that ever-smiling face of one of the world’s biggest burger flippers, now wears a black eye along with his big red shoes and yellow jumpsuit.

A documentary about one man’s crazy fast-food-based stunt might sound like a good chuckle, and it is that to be sure. But it is also a disturbing look at ourselves, the fat, silly country where the dollar is God, and marketing teams are preaching 24-7.

So who is the cinematic pugilist doling out bruises to corporate crap-pushers? Morgan Spurlock, a T.V. producer, most notably of “I Bet You Won’t,” an MTV gross-out show that, as the title implies, gets people to do disgusting things for money.

The premise of the film, to follow Spurlock as he eats nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days, is goofy at best. Nobody is going to do this, unless they’re into slow suicide. Nobody will be quicker to point out the absurdity of Spurlock’s idea than those who profit from keeping Americans crammed full of saturated fat and high-fructose corn syrup.

Jump on the Internet and marvel at the spin bonanza the public relations flacks are mounting. It is truly dizzying, and truly nauseating. There’s no mea culpa, nothing that says fast food is bad for you. There is plenty of blame tossing, and then there is the strange strategy that basically reads “people already know it’s bad, so it’s not our fault they’re obese.” Why doesn’t McDonald’s just start asking, “Can I help you, you disgusting obese pig?” Then they’ll have really done something.

Spurlock’s journey is a hilarious, if vomit-inducing ride. But the moments that really sting are when he’s focused not on himself, but the people we as a society should be protecting, not poisoning: the children. Spurlock’s film goes beyond bashing the Golden Arches, to point the finger of shame at marketing generally. We sell sugar-packed fat bombs and garbage food to kids, particularly the poorest children, and then we blame them when they’re fat, sick and can’t


“Super Size Me” will probably leave any sympathetic viewers feeling like the choir after another sermon, but your sides will be a bit tender from the laughs. Right-wing types and representatives for the beef council and big food industries can probably leave this one off the list; you’re not going to do too well with the piles and piles of blame and the terrible guilt that you should feel, to the point that you can no longer sleep and consider trying Spurlock’s experiment for yourself or jumping in front of a McDonald’s


Spurlock uses humor and hyperbole to call attention to a tragically serious problem, and if that earns him the ire of these industries, well, all the better, and I’m sure he’s wearing it like a badge. But in a country where lies are the standard and our priorities are so far out of whack that we’ll never get back on track, what harm (or good) can one little indie documentary do? For the future, we can hope it’ll do tons. And when you go see this at the beautiful Uptown Theater, upon exiting, cast a glance at the gleaming Mickey-D’s right across Hennepin. Hungry? Didn’t think so.