Over a decade after his legendary McDonald's diet, Morgan Spurlock takes another shot at exposing the fast-food industry by turning his attention to the most popular item on the menu: chicken. This time around, Spurlock goes for a different approach to prove that contrary to popular belief, fast food hasn't gotten healthier despite claims from the big chains: he opens his own fast-food restaurant!
Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! follows the making of the titular eatery as Spurlock consults with marketing and health experts on how many fast-food restaurants manipulate their customers into thinking that the food they're eating is healthy, raises poultry himself with the help of a third-generation chicken farmer, crafts a chicken sandwich that's supposedly grilled and fried (grilled chicken is much healthier than fried chicken but not as popular), and reveals dark secrets surrounding the major chicken manufacturers, all leading up to a fast-food experience that is not really healthy but transparent and honest as hell.
And despite not being the central focus, Mickey D's is not off the hook as they are as guilty of deceiving customers as the other chains.
The film premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) to mixed-to-positive reviews but its release was derailed that December when Spurlock opened up to his history of sexual misconduct on Twitter. Despite these setbacks, the film was eventually released on September 6, 2019 for a limited theatrical run and it hit VOD a week later.
Tropes applying to this documentary are:
- Artifact Title: The premise has nothing to do with Morgan's diet from the first film. One could consider the chickens that have been engineered to grow abnormally fast as being "super sized", but that's really stretching it.
- Asbestos-Free Cereal: The movie shows the truth behind many buzzwords employed by restaurant chains, all of whom were also used to promote the Holy Chicken restaurant:The food is not only hormone free,note it's antibiotic free,note cage free,note free range,note farm raised,note humanely raised and 100 percent natural!
- Author Filibuster: While the film in general could be described as an Author Tract, there are a few moments where Spurlock randomly inserts progressive ideology rhetoric unrelated to his exposé of the poultry industry.
- Big Bad: This time it's the National Chicken Council. Not only do they dictate the politics of the major chicken brands (collectively titled "Big Chicken"), but they also lock chicken farmers into a competitive system that only benefits the ones performing well. Spurlock is able to work around them so he can attain his own chicken farm but that comes at a price.
- Blatant Lies: In addition to all the restaurants' marketing tactics and interior designs to create the illusion of eating healthy, Spurlock watches an ad for Tyson where the chairman makes broad claims that the company treats their farmers with the uttermost care and respect. Cut to an ex-employee and a few chicken farmers claiming quite the opposite.
- Call-Back: Spurlock returns to McDonald's to check out how they've supposedly changed. It's mostly surface-level; Spurlock is happy that the former "clown castles" are now neat, modern-looking places with nutritional information right on the walls, but the food hasn't changed a bit. Not only does the McChicken taste the same, he jokingly claims he's experiencing "McPTSD" from his infamous McDonald's diet.
- The Cameo: Marion Nestle, an NYU professor and nutritionist who appeared in the original Super Size Me, makes another uncredited appearance here when Spurlock pitches his idea to open a "100% honest" fast food restaurant.
- Dirty Coward: Thomas Super, a major lobbyist for the National Chicken Council, is presented this way. He doesn't return Spurlock's calls for an interview about Big Chicken's cut-throat business practices, and when Spurlock actually shows up at the NCC offices in Washington D.C., he suspects Tom is hiding in the bathroom to avoid him. He doesn't take Spurlock up on his invitation to visit his restaurant either.
- Erotic Eating: Played for laughs when Morgan takes his first bite out of the grilled-fried chicken sandwich, and porno music starts playing in the background.
- Fast-Food Nation: Americans are still obsessed with fast-food and they've been successfully duped into thinking that it's now healthier than it was in 2004. It's not.
- Food Porn: We get to see Spurlock's signature chicken sandwich being perfectly crafted for promotional shots, again revealing another dirty restaurant trick.
- Hard Work Fallacy: The 'tournament system' forced on chicken farmers. According to Big Chicken, it's a way for the farmers to compete fairly and rise to the top through hard work. However, it's almost the opposite of a meritocratic system since the farmer's success is subject to various random factors (right feed, faster-growing chickens, arbitrary regulations, etc.) that Big Chicken can manipulate for any or no reason. A true meritocracy would pay every farmer the market price times the amount of chicken meat they produce, i.e. what it used to be.
- How We Got Here: The documentary opens with Spurlock unveiling his first Holy Chicken restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. He then goes back six months to show the events that led up to this.
- It Gets Easier: Before the chickens are headed off to the slaughterhouse, Morgan feels uneasy about killing "his" chickens. Farmer Jonathan explains it's because it's his first flock; if he did it a hundred or a thousand times, it would just be routine.
- Let's Meet the Meat: All the chickens at Spurlock's farm qualifies, given that they'll all be on the menu once they're big enough to get chopped off.
- Mega-Corp: Nearly all of the American poultry industry is controlled by five huge, vertically integrated companies. When Morgan tries to enter the market, he's met with suspicion and hostility from all of them, and has to seek out the few independent hatcheries and farmers who are willing to work with him.
- Punny Name: Potential names for the restaurant include Dumb Cluck and Mother Cluckers. Neither of them flies. Spurlock does chuckle at Chicktopia, but ultimately settles for Holy Chicken.
- Take That!: When sampling the wares of Chick-fil-a, Morgan Spurlock calls the restaurant out for endorsing homophobia.
- Very False Advertising: The point of the Holy Chicken restaurant is to show just how empty the fast-food industry's health claims really are.