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Super Size Me: The Context and the Dialogue

By Edited Feb 2, 2016 0 0


The documentary film Super Size Me was made to bring awareness to the public about corporate responsibility regarding the food we Americans eat that makes us overweight and obese.  Spurlock made the documentary Super Size Me with an intention to “launch a national conversation over fast food and nutrition” after watching news coverage of a McDonald’s lawsuit (Parker, 2004, para. 3). He decided to focus on McDonalds not just because of the lawsuit but because McDonalds “represents all chain food” (as cited in My Month, 2004, para. 5).  He found that large food corporations have more control over what Americans eat than they realize and this documentary would allow consumers to be aware of the control the corporations, such as McDonalds, possess.  Spurlock hoped that his documentary would “help fast-food fetishists save themselves” (Ordonez, 2004, para. 3). Spurlock determined that the more information the consumers had about big food corporations, the better decisions the consumers could make regarding the food they eat.

The film Super Size Me is a persuasive documentary intended to show the hazards that fast food, specifically McDonald’s food, have on the consumers’ health.  The documentary idea originated from a previous lawsuit in which two young girls blamed their obesity on eating food from McDonalds (Spurlock, 2004). The lawyers from McDonald’s thought this claim to be unreasonable and there was no possible way the girls could prove their obesity resulted from eating McDonald’s food (Spurlock, 2004). The judge ruled that the girls’ lawyers would be able to state their claim if they could prove that McDonald’s intends for their customers to eat their food for every meal for every day and doing so might be dangerous (Spurlock, 2004).

Spurlock said he first thought that idea was “crazy” that people would sue a “food company for selling us the food the we eat”, but after conducting research he realized there was “a basis for an argument” (as cited in Parker, 2004, para. 19). Morgan Spurlock directed, wrote, and starred in the film by documenting himself eating only McDonald’s food three times a day, for thirty days, and tracked his health effects by seeing licensed professionals. The film brought awareness to the problem of obesity as well as to personal and corporate responsibility regarding unhealthy eating.

This film was made in part to bring awareness to the people of the United States about obesity. Obesity is a serious problem in America. Society does not know much about the problem let alone the solution regarding obesity (Richards, Shimabukuro, Combs & Kreuter, 2004). Obesity rates in the United States have dramatically increased in the past 20 years according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (U.S. obesity trends, 2009). The documentary was made in 2004 when each state reported that over 15% of their population was obese (U.S. obesity trends, 2009). The film claims that in 2004 America was the fattest nation in the world with nearly one hundred million people either overweight or obese, which was more than sixty percent of all United States adults (Spurlock, 2004). Since then, obesity rates have steadily climbed with each state now reporting over twenty percent of their population to be obese (U.S. obesity trends, 2009). The film suggests that the fast food industry is partly to blame for this increase in obesity.

The problem in question during this film is “Where does personal responsibility stop, and corporate responsibility begin?” (Spurlock, 2004).  Who is really responsible for this increase in obesity?  Are the people responsible for making themselves overweight by eating this food or are the food companies to blame for supplying this food? Spurlock conducts his experiment in his documentary to attempt to answer these questions.


My paper will attempt to suggest potential reasons of how the persuasion techniques used in the film Super Size Me potentially influenced the public’s reaction to the film including McDonalds and their consumers. I intent to look at media coverage from sources like: Newsweek, USA Today, The Economist, Business Week, Time magazine, People magazine, and other various sources such as newspapers and news television coverage to find the potential public reactions to the film.  My paper will suggest that documentaries or any other media coverage similar to Super Size Me have the potential to bring awareness to an audience on topics that are otherwise considered “crazy”, such as blaming a food company for making someone overweight, and shedding a new view on them to see they are considered important and are worth discussing, such as the food companies contributing to the problem of obesity.  My paper will advance the communication field because it will suggest that media coverage has the potential to persuade audiences to feel specific ways about specific topics.

The documentary Super Size Me has been accused for McDonald’s change to the more health conscious menu as well as for the growing consumer antipathy towards the fast food industry (Macnamara, 2009).  My paper will look at news media coverage to suggest if these accusations have any validity.  I will suggest the power media coverage, such as the documentary Super Size Me, has on personal opinions by looking at the reactions covered in the news media.


Macnamara, K. (2009). Domino effect: another fast-food boost. Press Association. Retrieved February 11, 2009, from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/domino-effect-another-fastfood-boost-1624128.html

My month at Mickey D's. (2004). People, 5, 114. Retrieved March 2, 2009, from EbscoHost.

Ordonez, J. (2004). Fast-Food Lovers, Unite! Newsweek, 21, 56. Retrieved March 1, 2009, from EbscoHost.

Parker, L. (2004). Legal experts predict new rounds in food fight. USA Today, p. 3a. Retrieved March 1, 2009, from EbscoHost.

Richards, E. P., Shimabukuro, M. S., Combs, S., & Kreuter, M. W. (2004). Innovative legal tools to prevent obesity [Electronic version]. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, 32(4), 59-61. from EbscoHost.

Spurlock, M. (Director). Super size me [Motion Picture]. USA: Showtime Networks, Inc.

U.S. obesity trends 1985-2008 (2009). Retrieved March 9, 2009, from http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity/trend/maps/

Super Size Me


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