Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Super-Size this, bitch Part 2.
Written by: Beck

I had a conversation this weekend with co-blogger Answerman in which he informed me he'd seen the movie Super-Size Me. He knew it would be of interest to me as I've blogged about it in the past. You can easily imagine my surprise, then, when he informed me that the movie actually isn't all that bad. Answerman argued that the director's point isn't that stuffing yourself to the gills with McDonald's food is bad, nor is his point that you can't construct a healthy meal out of McDonald's offerings. Rather, he explained, the point is that people need to be conscious of what they're eating and not assume that the eat-just-anything approach is healthy.

This may all be true. Nonetheless, having just heard such kind words (though those who don't know Answerman might think it a case of damning with faint praise), I feel a natural reactionary desire to spew a bunch of contrary diatribe. Turns out, Radley Balko over at The Agitator already beat me to it, and even better, his writing is of far too high a caliber to dismiss as mere "diatribe."

First, he pens a ruthless dissection of Morgan Spurlock, the director and star of Super-Size Me.
Delve a little into Spurlock's past, however, and you'll find a man willing to exploit society's most vulnerable people to make a cheap buck and get some cheap fame -- usually by having them put odd things into their mouths.

He started out with a personal website called (now, curiously, wiped completely clean from the web -- even from the Internet archive). There, Spurlock would pay homeless people and poor folks $100 or more to, for example, chew and swallow dog feces. He'd then charge his website users to watch video feeds of the stunts.

From there, Spurlock moved to MTV, where his short-lived show "I Bet You Will" continued with the theme, paying one man to eat an entire jar of mayonnaise, for example. One woman cut her own hair, mixed it up with butter, then ate the entire mixture.
Of course, past behavior doesn't necessarily invalidate anything from the current movie. What does make things more dubious, Balko observes, is his complete unwillingness to appear in any sort of interview where a critic will be present. Further, Balko observes, "In fact, he won't even do a show when a critic is to appear directly before or after him." Balko then links an article from Tech Central Station discussing an interview Spurlock had with CNBC's resident hotty and talking head Maria Bartiromo. To begin with, a point I've made before:
Just to remind...

In "Super Size Me," Spurlock consumes more than 5,000 calories a day at McDonald's -- twice the level necessary to maintain his weight -- for 30 days straight. He eats the daily equivalent of NINE Big Macs every day. That's three at breakfast, three at lunch and three at dinner. Or 18 hamburgers. And he doesn't exercise. The result: He gains 24 pounds and feels miserable. Duh!
But wait, there's more! From the Bartiromo interview:
BARTIROMO: Some skeptics have done the math.


BARTIROMO: And they say there's no way that you can conclude eating three full meals a day...


BARTIROMO: McDonald's would get you anywhere close to 5,000 calories a day. Were you snacking? Were you eating something else?

Mr. SPURLOCK: Of course I--of course. Do you have a snack in the afternoon? We all get snacks in the afternoon. You have lunch and then later in the afternoon you're like, 'Wow, you know what? I'm a little tired. I'm going to get a cup of coffee. I'm going to get an apple pie. You know, I'm going to go get--I'm going to get a muffin.' You know, we all go get coffee in the afternoon or some--something to tide us over until dinner so, you know, it's not unrealistic. And the fact is--and I love the other thing they say. They say, 'Nobody eats like this. Nobody'...

BARTIROMO: But that is--that is a fair complaint. Nobody does eat like that.

Mr. SPURLOCK: Well, isn't--you--but here's--you don't eat three meals a day--but I have...

BARTIROMO: And certainly you don't eat three McDonald's meal a day and then have apple pie.
There's a lot more, ranging across a broad variety of topics, including one about a woman who decided to do the same thing Spurlock had--eat only McDonald's for a month--and managed to lose 10 pounds.

Anyway, on a more general note, let's head back to The Agitator, where Balko discusses an article he recently had published in Time Magazine. It's a long, well thought out piece about the nanny-state (I'm sad that no one has picked up on my "Big Mother" meme) and the obesity crisis scare-mongers in general. Read the whole article if you want deeper insights than what I provide, but I can't resist posting a money quote for ya:
Whodda' thunk that twenty or ten or even five years ago that a major news magazine could pose a question like "are you responsible for your own weight" and not only would there be actual debate on the question, but the "no" side would start the debate with the upper hand?

It's crazy. If you aren't responsible for what you put into your mouth, chew and swallow, what's left that you are you responsible for?

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John Beck

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