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Welcome to At the Movies on ABC 1 and as usual I’m your host, _______. Tonight we’ll be reviewing the socially critical 2004 documentary, “Super Size Me” directed by and starring Morgan Spurlock. The film documents the 30 day period in which Morgan Spurlock ate three meals a day consisting of nothing but McDonalds whilst following these four rules: he can only eat things on sale, he must super size his meal if asked, he must eat everything on the menu at least once and lastly he must restrict himself to the ‘average’ amount of exercise, typical of the American population.
It also documents the drastic effects this lifestyle has on Spurlock’s physical and psychological, wellbeing, and explores the fast food industry’s corporate influence, including how it encourages poor nutrition for its own profit. I found this documentary to be quite enjoyable and it was an overall quality film. “Super Size Me” was fun to watch with its colourful graphics and catchy lyrics which drew the audience closer and focused them on what Spurlock was representing.
The documentary was effective in creating shock and disgust within the audience to further help the audience agree with and accept Spurlock’s views. The narrative structure of “Super Size Me” was built around a central enigma, this being the obesity crisis facing the American people. The documentary follows a format, showing the audience Spurlock eating McDonalds food and then feeling sick because of it and then followed by footage of Spurlock seeing a specialist to inform both Spurlock and the audience of the many health risks this diet is inflicting on Spurlock.
The documentary then proceeds to show such things as what school canteens are serving kids at school. This is meant to shock the audience and position them to believe what is happening to Spurlock and his health after eating fast food will also happen to the kids who are eating unhealthy and processed meals at school every day. (INCLUDE FOOTAGE HERE) Spurlock’s purpose in this documentary was to inform and position the audience to accept his views on America’s obesity epidemic.
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This was achieved through cunning and intelligent choices as to what was filmed and what was cut out. He had also employed a number of other techniques such as camera angles, shot composition, editing and intentional use of music to accompany the visuals. Through these techniques Spurlock has effectively positioned the audience to accept his views on America’s aforementioned obesity epidemic. Spurlock has positioned the audience to accept a somewhat version of the truth as not all sides of the story are given a voice. The way in which Spurlock presents himself to the audience has also deliberately been altered to position the audience to coincide with the attitudes he’s presenting throughout the documentary. Spurlock intentionally wore relaxed clothing and spoke directly to the audience in order to position the audience to feel comfortable accepting Spurlock’s attitudes towards America’s obesity crisis. (INCLUDE FOOTAGE HERE)
To further position and help the audience connect with Spulock, he has introduced them to his fiancé who’s a vegan chef which will be in juxtaposition to the unhealthy food served by most fast food restaurants. These inclusions have positioned the audience to feel close and trusting of Spurlock so that his opinions could be accepted. The use of irony during this documentary has been used because if the audience finds something humorous and therefore having a positive reaction, they are more likely to accept what is being represented. The use of irony was used throughout the documentary in such scenes as when Spurlock was referring to his headaches, stomach aches and general sick feeling from the food as McHeadaches and a McTummy. (INCLUDE FOOTAGE HERE)This positions the audience to react in a way which enables them to accept the Spurlocks view on how McDonalds is affecting his health and how it’s making him generally sick.
The audience is positioned to accept certain views without hearing or seeing the other sides of the argument. Spurlock has used bias by silencing or tarnishing the credibility of certain interviewees in interviews. When Spurlock interviews the CEO of McDonalds Australia, Guy Russo, the use of higher camera angles and editing positioned the audience to disagree and view what Guy Russo said negatively which in turn has led to the audience viewing poorly of McDonalds even though they were not completely silenced. Spurlock has also positioned the audience to accept the opinions and beliefs of the three medical specialists who are monitoring Spulock’s health throughout the ‘experiment’. The use of eye level camera angles positions the audience to feel equal with the specialists as they present their opinions and to immediately believe and accept what the specialists are saying due to the camera angles and their superior level of education within the medical field which once again positions the audience to accept their attitudes.
The included footage has also been deliberately used to further position the audience to accept Spurlock’s views on America’s fast food industries and how their corporate profit is weighted over the health of their consumers. Footage of the many advertisements and meals which are specifically positioned at kids were intentionally shown to position us to believe McDonalds is using these things to appeal to and lure the kids in. This then results in the audience being positioned to reflect poorly of McDonalds and their constant need of profits which are put over the wellbeing of their customers. Frequent shots of Spurlock without a shirt have intentionally been included to show the weight he may or may not have gained as a result of his high fat intake diet. (INCLUDE FOOTAGE HERE) This positions the audience to once again think poorly of McDonalds and the food they are serving as they are seeing the drastic effects that accompany Spurlock’s heavy McDonalds diet. When the interviews between Spurlock and the three health experts took place, key terms where placed on the screen so that they were imprinted into the viewer’s mind.
These key terms included: “poor nutrition” and especially “Addiction” which led the audience to believe how fast food is affecting the health of Spurlock and to view the companies behind the food negatively without taking into consideration the amount of fast food he is eating and how often it’s being eaten. The music and soundtrack within this documentary often complements the visuals, making it easier for the audience to accept the visuals or the lyrics of the complementing soundtrack. During the opening menu of the documentary and closing credits the “Super Size Me” song was played and the colours of the menu reflected the colours of the American flag. (INCLUDE FOOTAGE HERE) This song was co-written by Spurlock and included phrases such as: “Super size me – the American way” and “everything’s bigger in America”.
These lyrics were intentionally used as they position the audience to accept that the American culture is the result of the American fast food industries influence on the American society whether it’s a positive or negative influence. Overall the documentary was very enjoyable to watch and I found the footage rather shocking and attention grabbing at times. It was a very informative and eye opening documentary with a numerous number of techniques which position the audience to accept Spurlock’s views on America’s thirst for profits which have sadly resulted in the percentage of obese citizens growing at an alarming rate.
However, the use of the included techniques and selective editing resulted in a documentary which lacked objectivity. This lack of objectivity effected the audience’s perception of fast food companies and how they might consider an alternative choice when deciding to dine at McDonalds or any other fast food ‘restaurant’. Overall I gave this documentary, 3 out of 5 stars as it was enjoyable to watch but at times I felt as if I was being positioned and the whole ‘experiment’ was over the top as someone coming from eating healthy vegan foods is obviously going to have a dramatically negative reaction to fatty fast foods, which is skewing the audiences perception of fast food companies.
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