Saturday, November 4, 2017

Super Size Me

The Food in Film Blogathon is an event devoted to movies with an emphasis on food, hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. For a complete list of participating bloggers, visit the links at either site.

Super Size Me
YouTube viewing

It wasn't the burgers or the fries that enticed me, not at first; it was the cookies. I remember the box they came in, with its colorful cast of characters: the clown, the burger thief, the burger-headed law enforcement official, the purple... thing. It's not like the cookies themselves were that special; I, like millions of American children, had simply fallen under the spell of those characters. Credit where credit's due; whoever thought of them was a genius.

They made me want to eat at McDonald's.

No matter what your eating habits are now, we all grew up eating fast food at some point - unless you lived in a commune with parents named Sunflower and Rainbow. In high school, my friends and I frequented a Roy Rogers that had a basement; this was awesome because it gave us a measure of privacy. I was fond of their roast beef sandwich. There was also a really popular pizza joint that had great pizza. It's gone now, as is the Roy's. Sigh...

When I lived in Columbus, I ate, for the first time, at Five Guys, Charley's, Jimmy John's, Potbelly, Donatos Pizza, Panda Garden, Quiznos, Checkers and Panera Bread, though I hesitate to include it with the more traditional fast food joints because their food is better. Five Guys was great because they stayed open late and played classic rock. (Also, I wanna give a shout-out to Buckeye Donuts, where I spent quite a few late late nights!)

When the Columbus BlueJackets made the NHL Playoffs for the first time in franchise history, I was in Panera, listening on my laptop to Game 4 of their first-round series against the hated Detroit Red Wings, hoping we'd win at least one game - but that too many men on the ice penalty in the third period killed any chance of that. (I commemorated the moment in my City Mouse cartoon.)

Columbus had this great fast food joint called Raising Cane's; I ate there all the time. They made delicious chicken fingers and crinkly fries that came with a cut of toasty bread. There were at least two I recall; I ate at the one across the street from the Ohio State campus. I miss Cane's so much. When I return to Columbus one day, even if only to visit, it'll be the first place I go to eat!

In recent years, health concerns have forced me to change my habits and take baby steps towards eating better. Vija had lent me the book Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, and that alone made me give up McDonald's and Pepsi. I've since sworn off the major fast food chains and I've cut down severely on pizza (which has been partly Sandi's influence; she used to be a fiend for pizza, but since she went on her diet, she hasn't touched the stuff), but man, some days it is a struggle to avoid places like Wendy's or Five Guys when I'm hungry.

It's fair to say, therefore, I was in a receptive frame of mind when I first saw Super Size Me, the documentary in which director Morgan Spurlock offers himself up as a human guinea pig, eating nothing but McDonald's food for a month in an attempt to show how damaging fast food can be, and boy, does he succeed. He throws up after three days. He goes through mood swings. He gets heart palpitations. He scares his girlfriend and his doctors and his mother, but he endures. This film is almost like an episode of Jackass directed by Michael Moore.

Spurlock also charts the obesity trend in America, criss-crossing the country, talking to lawyers, health officials, doctors, school administrators and regular people about fast food. No executive from McDonald's would speak to Spurlock, surprise surprise. The conclusion he draws is that selling unhealthy food is too profitable for the burger barons to significantly change, although McDonald's did discontinue their super-size menu options after this movie came out. They insisted the timing was coincidental.

Spurlock has made a sequel, currently making the festival rounds, in which, get this, he opens a fast food restaurant - in Columbus! (God, I wish I could have been there for that.) It's a chicken shack that's brutally honest in its marketing, but the movie itself discusses what the fast food mavens really mean when they claim to offer healthy food. Can't wait to see it.

Other movies featuring food:
Soul Food
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Soul Food Junkies
Troll 2


  1. I loved your food memories. In fact, if I'm ever in Columbus, Ohio, I'll be at Raising Caine's. If I run into you there, the crinkly fries will be on me!

    Supersize Me is a faintly horrifying movie. I wasn't a frequent McDonald's eater before the film came out, but I avoided it like the plague after seeing it. (Did you see "The Founder" by any chance? If so, is there a review here on your site?)

    Thanks for joining the blogathon with this game-changing documentary.

  2. You're right, this movie is horrifying in places! Spurlock sets strict rules for his experiment, including: no exercise, he had to get everything on the menu at least once, he had to get super-size if they requested it - I would've given up after three days.

    Didn't see THE FOUNDER, but the two together would make for a good twin bill, I'm sure.

  3. Gavin loves McDonald's. It is his go-to treat. We took him to a nearby McDonald's when he was a kid after a particularly harrowing doctor's appointment. To this day, he considered the restaurant a part of the medical experience.

    The group home gives him McDonald's every second week. It is marked on his calendar. A born problem solver, Gavin wrote "Doctor" on extra days in order to get to the restaurant. It didn't work, but was universally admired as a "good try".

    We don't have most of those chains you mentioned in Toronto, but Gavin has added Five Guys to his list of places he likes to visit.

  4. Five Guys is great but be careful. When you order fries, they give you a ton of them every time; doesn't matter whether you get the small or the large - and they're thicker than McDonald's fries. I was always the kind of guy who would mooch fries from my friends in high school at lunch, in addition to eating my own, so this sort of thing is like catnip to me!

  5. Great tasting, and thoroughly addictive stuff, especially when it's linked to memories of youth! Great one to cover for the bloagthon, thanks for joining us!

  6. This was a good idea for a blogathon. Liked it a lot.

  7. I remember people commentinf about this movie during high school. I haven't watched it, but I enjoyed your review - I laughed out loud with the parents "Rainbow and Sunflower". And, well, for me the toys were the first step into getting addicted to fast food.
    Thanks for the kind comment!

  8. THE TOYS! I totally forgot to talk about the toys! Although now that I think about it, I may have been more interested in Happy Meals for the puzzles and games on the box than for the toys. Still, it's worth mentioning.


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