I saw Super Size Me this past weekend at the Uptown Theater. The film catalogue's a man's journey into the obesity epidemic using the noxious (practically suicidal) method of consuming McDonald's three times a day for an entire month. The effects of this approach were axiomatic: extreme weight gain, high blood pressure, increase in tryglycerides and cholesterol, depression, decreased energy, etc. While it may go without saying that no one actually eats McDonald's for three meals a day, it's still estimated that Americans eat out 40% of their meals, and that by the year 2010, obesity will surpass smoking as the leading cause of death in the United States.
Ironically, the Uptown Theater is located directly across the street from the Uptown McDonald's. To ensure their unwaivering profitability, the windows facing the theater advertised salads and McDonald's new "Go Active" meals. "Go Active" meals are essentially adult Happy Meals that include toys like pedometers to help encourage activity among its patrons. McDonald's cares.
Arguably the most horrifying aspect of this film to me is that the obesity epidemic is yet another symptom of our TV Nation, and the effects are staggering. One segment featured Jared Fogle, Subway's golden child, showcasing his weight loss success at local high schools. Audience members thanked him for being such an inspiration, but one teen expressed disappointment in the knowledge that Subway is "the only thing that works" and that she didn't have the money to support the diet and lose the weight she needs to lose. Another segment exhibited a morbidly obese man going through gastro-bypass surgery to shrink his stomach to the size of an apple, because "nothing works".
The average person views 700 television advertisements each week. These advertisements showcase all the foods we now love to "hate" (though isn't a burger sexier than a salad sometimes?), and now that we're hating them, the fast food companies are capitalizing on the health craze as well. And not JUST companies, but individuals. Dr. Phil McGraw, my personal nemesis, sells common sense like selling crack to an addict. We don't want to work, we don't want to think, we want someone to come and tell us what to do to make it all better, and we're reaching critical mass with the amount of intellect and free will we're willing to give up in order to continue to be safe, mindless automatons.
We have a problem with obesity in this country. Our friends and families will die because of the effects of being grossly overweight and inactive. This is a social problem, for which there could well be social solutions. Leaders used to rise up when there was a need for intervention. In TV Nation, however, communities have dissolved. We exist in our own little worlds and are leary and even terrified of other people, and the leaders simply don't come. We're in the middle of a crucial election year, and rather than electing our president, we're going to purchase him. Candidates aren't running campaigns, they're running elaborate commercials. We're ridiculously well fed and starving for leaders, forever unsatisfied with the ones we get without actively pursuing the ones we DO support. The cynicism is unreal. The notions of what it takes to be a great leader preposterous. Some of us complain, others plop down in front of the television, and life goes on, for better or for worse.
Though they won't admit as much, McDonald's has discontinued distribution of Super Size meals as a result of Super Size Me. People are noticing. Imagine the possibilities of intellectual infection spreading...