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Super Size Me
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Super Size Me is a 2004 documentary in which filmmaker Morgan Spurlock eats nothing but McDonald's fast food for one month in an attempt to make a broader point on how fast food has affected the health and well-being of people in the United States. There are some sexual references; Spurlock's sex life with his girlfriend is not what it once was since living on nothing but Big Macs and Egg McMuffins. Exposed female breasts are seen on a poster in the background. There are two instances of graphic imagery: Spurlock vomits his lunch out the side of his car window (there's a shot of the vomit splattered on the parking lot), and there are extreme close-ups of a surgery. Profanity includes "s--t" and "f--k." This movie provides an engaging opportunity for families with teens to discuss the effects of fast food on health, how fast food is marketed to kids, and why it's important for kids (and adults) to get exercise on a regular basis.
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What's the story?
Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock takes on American fast-food culture in general and McDonald's in particular in SUPER SIZE ME. He eats nothing but McDonald's food for an entire month and says "yes" whenever he's asked if he wants to "supersize" his order. To the horror of his vegan chef girlfriend and the three doctors who monitor his 25-pound weight gain and severe liver damage, he eats "meat, meat, sugar, and fat" for a month. At first, his body rejects the supersize food and he throws up. But by the end of the month he craves McDonald's food and feels happier and calmer when he has eaten some. He also talks to experts, including a surprisingly svelte man who eats his 19,000th Big Mac on camera, the lobbyist for the food companies, and a law professor who is suing McDonald's on behalf of two obese teenagers. Spurlock visits schools that feed students the same kind of "cheap, fat-laden" meals served by fast food outlets -- provided by the USDA's school lunch program. He also finds one school for kids with behavior problems in Wisconsin that is experimenting with a healthy, additive-free menu with successful results and no extra costs.
Is it any good?
Mordantly funny and forcefully sobering, this prize-winning documentary is a Big Mac attack with real bite. Spurlock strikes just the right note with Super Size Me. He's frank about irresponsibility at the personal and corporate levels, but is more bemused than outraged. America has the biggest everything, including the biggest people. We have alternatives, but we choose what's easy.
We spend much more money on food that is bad for us -- and then on diet books -- and then on treatment and lawsuits -- than we do on exercise and other ways to prevent disease. The "small" soda in the U.S. has the same volume as the "large" in other countries. Yes, companies sell us food that's not good for us -- Spurlock's doctor says that his liver has gone from perfectly healthy to "pâté" -- but we are the ones who want to supersize everything, even ourselves.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what they eat and why people do things that are bad for them. Who is responsible for America's obesity crisis? What should we do about it? How will seeing Super Size Me change your behavior?
What do you think has changed, if anything, in the years since this film was made, in terms of how Americans view fast food, regular exercise in school, how fast food is marketed to kids, and the portion sizes of food?
The filmmaker questions what the appropriate balance is between personal and corporate responsibility in reference to the obesity epidemic. Do you think one side or the other bears more of the blame for what's happening, or is it a shared blame?
If you were Spurlock, what movie would you make next?
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