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The Prejudice of Documentaries: Supersize Me

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Are fast food companies the only reason for America being the fattest nation in the world? This question is challenged in the documentary ‘Supersize Me’ (2004). Director Morgan Spurlock attempts a social experiment to prove that fast food companies, especially McDonald, has a drastic effect on the physical and psychological well-being of its customers.

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Furthermore, documentaries have one purpose, to convey the opinions of the audiences to what the director is indicating, resulting in it being bias. Every single documentary has bias, regardless of the topic, regardless of who the director is and regardless if there is a child or adult featured – there will always be bias.

He needed to position the audience to agree with his perspective. So, he used a range of film techniques through a biased representation of the issue. It will be made clear that no text is neutral by focusing on several different techniques within ‘Supersize Me’ (2004) such as the interviews conducted, camera shots and angles as well as transitions and finally, the effects of juxtaposition.

Throughout the documentary ‘Supersize Me’ (2004), the several interviews conducted are used as one of the most important supporting pieces in the film and a primary source of evidence for the connection between obesity and the fast food industry.

The interviewees are ranged from health professionals to children as well as citizens and was asked by Morgan Spurlock for their perspectives on obesity, fast food and the industry. The professionals interviewed in the film provide comments and opinions that support Spurlock’s claim.

David Satcher is supposably the first person to draw attention to the epidemic of obesity and that fast food is a major contributor. Being ‘a four-star admiral in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps’, people will obviously take his words over others. Everyone knows that professionals must know what they are talking about that’s what makes then professionals. However, there is nothing to back him up such as data and statistics, so how did he get this conclusion.

So called professionals think eliminating fast food would cure the obesity epidemic. The “experts” will do anything in their power to give you reasons why you shouldn’t go to fast food industries and purchase the goods they offer. You could say that they’ve bitten off more than they could chew.

Although the footage maybe reliable, the discussions used have a specific purpose in supporting the director’s view. Carefully constructed to direct the audience into agreeing that something must be done to end America’s obesity and the fast food industry. Spurlock thoroughly creates a biased representation of the issue to ensure that he earns over his audience.

Additionally, the use of camera angles aids the director extremely biased perspective on obesity and fast food. During interviews with citizens, the shot is set at eye-level and on occasion a low angle. The use of this angle creates a sense of realism. Giving the audience a feeling that the scene is real. However, he only filmed 3 people and they would all be considered obese. It is evident that Spurlock wanted to prove that even if you have fast food only a couple of time in the week you will eventually get fat, but don’t let obesity get in the weigh.

There are many different types of camera shots used, such as long shots and wide shots. However, close-up and mid camera shots are used most within ‘Supersize Me’ (2004). Particularly in interviews to show emotion and creating effect. Using each one successfully in the right shot when relevant had an impact. For example, a wide shot was used when the McDonald food, needed to be shown to understand the point being made.

In this shot it shows how large the meal is for all three meals of the day. Despite this, he chooses the biggest items and the largest quantity. He wants to portray fast food as dangerous, disgusting and devious.

The editing used in the film include several jump-cuts so that there is a clear change between the enjoyment and reality of eating fast food, engaging with the viewers in what the effects are. There are also fades in and out, used to flow filming and talk about a different topic without a sudden change. This was reinforced by off-putting propaganda used throughout the documentary. One imitating the famous painting ‘The Last Supper’. With Ronald McDonald being in the middle imitating Jesus surrounded by other popular characters such Bugs Bunny, Sylvester the cat and Krusty the Clown, representing the twelve disciples. This shows that people are easily drawn into eating McDonalds and that they are the most influential.

Clearly, the techniques used to persuade the audience are effective because of the reaction it is receiving from its audience and the media. Therefore, Spurlock has effectively applied the use of camera and editing techniques to support his biased view.

Ultimately, the songs and sounds played throughout the documentary are all related to ‘Supersize Me’, ‘fat and obesity’ and ‘McDonalds’. This was to keep to the themes that the documentary is based on and to influence the audience in a negative way towards McDonalds. However, the juxtaposition of music is during surgery as classical music ‘The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss II is played which is a happy, cheerful and optimistic song. This type of music is different to the rest of the documentary, highlighting the difference between Bruce Howlett, the person who underwent surgery, and to other obese Americans.

Before the experiment started Spurlock asked the question will he be on the fast track to be obese. After this, he says ‘Let’s find out, supersize me’ which leads into the song ‘Fat Bottom Girls’ by Queen. Possibly signifying that he will add weight during the experiment.

On the other hand, the documentary ‘Fat Head’ (year), directed by Tom Naughton, refutes the documentary ‘Supersize Me’. Tom Naughton proves that in Morgan Spurlock doesn’t eat ‘over 5000 calories a day’. As he points out that if a person were to eat three big meals a day at McDonalds, they would be eating about 3500 to 4000 calories a day. Tom Naughton also lost weight during his experiment. So, something just doesn’t add up.

Spurlock has cleverly used juxtaposition to persuade the audience to criticise the fast food companies and their values. Also, by presenting misleading information results in ‘Supersize Me’ (2004) being heavily biased.

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It is clear to see that in the documentary ‘Supersize Me’ (2004), director Morgan Spurlock uses a vast range of film techniques that positions the audience to accept his biased perspective, therefore proving that no text is neutral. By focusing on several components within this documentary such as the interviews conducted, camera shots and angles as well as transitions and finally, the effects of juxtaposition. No matter how factual, all forms of media, including documentaries, are created for a purpose; this is to persuade the viewer that only one way of thinking is correct.

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