Film: Super Size Me

Super Size Me is a 2004 documentary made by Morgan Spurlock, which follows him as he attempts an experiment to only eat McDonald's food for 30 straight days.

This experiment is used as a framing sequence as Morgan takes a cross-country look at the various facets of fast-food culture in the United States, including its effects on the human body over a sustained period of time, diehard fast-food fans, the use of processed food in the American public school system, and the impact of fast-food on American society and business.

The rules of Morgan's experiment are:
  1. For 30 days, he can't eat or drink anything that isn't on a McDonald's menu.
  2. He must eat three meals a day — breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  3. He must consume everything on the menu at least once.
  4. If a cashier asks Morgan if he wants to "super size" his meal, he must agree.
  5. He will attempt to walk about as much as (or rather, not substantially more than) a typical U.S citizen, based on a suggested figure of 5,000 steps per day.
  6. He must consume everything on his plate.

As a result, Spurlock ends up suffering from various health problems, such as lethargy, depression, headaches, a reduced sex drive, heart palpitations and weight gain. However, Spurlock completes the experiment, and concludes that fast-food can have incredibly damaging effects on the human body if eaten consistently and constantly, as well as stating that the experiment was an extreme case.

The film was generally well-received, and earned over $11 million dollars (against a $65,000 budget) at the box office. Soon after this documentary was released, McDonald's stopped offering the super-size option for their meals and introduced a 'Go Fit!' meal. They claim that these changes were unrelated to the documentary's popularization.

Tropes applying to this documentary are:

  • Artistic License Biology:
    • Morgan admits that he practically never ate out before making the documentary, and that he normally barely even eats meat in his evening meals because his girlfriend is a vegan chef. It's inevitable that somebody who goes from this kind of diet to eating nothing but McDonald's will have a much more extreme reaction than an average person who eats fast food in moderation. If eating a Super Size Combo made everyone vomit, do you really think they would keep offering it?
    • Morgan's side-project showing how long it takes fast food to spoil is very misleading. Mold requires moisture to grow, and the burger and fries dried out too quickly to be a suitable environment. That has less to do with what they're made out of and more to do with how they're cut. The thin fries and patties simply don't retain water for very long.
  • Big Eater: Shows the consequences of such.
  • Deep-Fried Whatever: In an extra feature on the DVD release, Spurlock visits a fish and chip shop that also experiments with deep-frying candy bars. Since Morgan is still on his McDonald's-only diet while they visit, he defers to his cameraman.
  • Documentary Of Lies: Another documentary film maker has accused him of outright fraud in his results; indeed, Morgan has refused to make his food logs public, possibly because even basic math indicates that he could not have followed his own rules and consumed 5,000 calories per day as he claimed. More scientific and less informal studies have found it impossible to replicate his results. He also stated that after McDonald's stopped super-sizing that he didn't recall seeing any newspapers with the headline, "MCDONALD'S STOPS SUPERSIZING! NATION BECOMES THIN!"
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: A number of critics compared the vomiting scene to the way heroin addicts often throw up when first using their drug of choice. Spurlock seems to be saying that fast food is just as addictive as heroin.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: Present and discussed when Morgan goes to Texas, the fattest state of the Union in absolute numbers and the one where he is offered a "Super size" more often.
  • Fan Boy: Spurlock visits renowned Big Mac fanboy Don Gorske, who achieved notoriety for eating at least one Big Mac a day for well over a decade. In contrast to the film's message, it shows that the Gorske is actually in perfect health because he only eats the Big Macs; he doesn't eat the french fries or drink the soda.
  • Granola Girl: Spurlock's girlfriend.
  • Indestructible Edible: One of the DVD extras had him put McDonald's food products in jars and see how long it took them to go bad. The fish sandwich was the first to go, lasting only a couple of days, the various burgers lasted about two weeks before becoming moldy. The french fries on the other hand were completely unchanged (at least visibly) after ten weeks, at which point they were accidentally thrown out by an intern.
  • "Last Supper" Steal: One segment is a painting that shows grotesque caricatures of various fast food mascots set up like "The Last Supper".
  • Nonmammal Mammaries: One of segments explained that McNuggets were originally made from chickens with larger-than-normal-breasts. This was demonstrated with an animated chicken with pendulous breasts so big that it had to walk with a cane.
  • Scenery Censor: At one point, Morgan is interviewing someone while they have lunch at McDonald's. A McDonald's bag is placed to conceal what the interviewee was eating: A McDonald's salad.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The "Blue Danube Waltz". During scenes of gastric bypass surgery.
  • Space Whale Aesop: Some critics accuse the film of having this: people already know that fast food isn't healthy and that eating more than you should will make you sick. The film does address this somewhat by purporting to reveal how unhealthy the food is and how the (super-sized) portions are unnecessarily large.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Meta-Example. sometime after the movie debuted nation wide, McDonald's got rid of their Super size option on the menu, stating that it was not this movie that influenced the decision.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Spurlock force-feeds himself a Super-Sized meal and almost immediately pukes it back up again.
  • A Weighty Aesop: This is the point of the film, where Morgan Sperlock goes on a McDonald's diet for a month. It doesn't turn out well for him.