TCS Daily


Dishing It Out, But Not Taking It

By James K. Glassman - May 27, 2004 12:00 AM

When it comes to criticism, Morgan Spurlock, director of "Super Size Me," can dish it out, but he sure can't take it. Ask him a tough question, and he turns to blubber.

Suddenly, journalists are beginning to catch on to the fact that his documentary, which has received fawning reviews, is actually a repulsive and dishonest piece of puerile entertainment -- vomit and rectal exams tarted up with sociology and politics.

On Monday, Maria Bartiromo nailed him on CNBC. He was reduced to a fool. It was beautiful to watch.

Spurlock has refused consistently to confront his critics, including me. But now, he is finding that smart reporters are wising up to him, rather than tossing the softballs he was used to getting from Katie Couric and the like.

Just to remind....

In "Super Size Me," Spurlock consumes more than 5,000 calories a day at McDonald's -- twice the level necessary to maintain his weight -- for 30 days straight. He eats the daily equivalent of NINE Big Macs every day. That's three at breakfast, three at lunch and three at dinner. Or 18 hamburgers. And he doesn't exercise. The result: He gains 24 pounds and feels miserable. Duh!

He could have eaten 5,000 calories at the best health-food restaurant in New York and suffered the same consequences.

He sends a terrible message to America: Obesity is not your responsibility. It's the fault of greedy corporations.

Don't forget that Spurlock's old TV show, "I Bet You Will," paid contestants money to performing disgusting culinary acts like eating live cockroaches. Here, it's Spurlock who gets paid.

Spurlock believes that moviegoers are dumb enough to think that it's McDonald's that made him fat -- rather than the amount of food he consumed and his slothful habits.

Take a look at these excerpts from Bartiromo's interview and see what happens when someone challenges Spurlock:

CNBC: Special Report With Maria Bartiromo

Monday, May 24, 2004

MARIA BARTIROMO, host: Welcome back to SPECIAL REPORT.

When you have a dish as big and as juicy as a Big Mac and you eat it every day, you're going to gain weight. And when you go after a target that's as big and juicy as McDonald's, you're going to attract publicity. My next guest did both very well. After eating nothing but McDonald's for a whole month, writer and director Morgan Spurlock ended up with an extra 24 pounds and an award-winning documentary. I sat down with Spurlock....

MORGAN SPURLOCK: Well, I mean, the thing is--is I never really--the--the--you know, the film is not about McDonald's. McDonald's in the film is iconic of a problem. McDonald's is there because they are the one that is the largest, the one whose marketing practices are most insidious, the one who, you know, continues to branch out in more countries than anywhere else in the world. You know, so I picked them as--as a symbol of--of our lifestyle and a symbol of what's happening. So...


BARTIROMO: Some skeptics have done the math.

Mr. SPURLOCK: Sure.

BARTIROMO: And they say there's no way that you can conclude eating three full meals a day...

Mr. SPURLOCK: Yeah.

BARTIROMO: ...at McDonald's would get you anywhere close to 5,000 calories a day. Were you snacking? Were you eating something else?

Mr. SPURLOCK: Of course I--of course. Do you have a snack in the afternoon? We all get snacks in the afternoon. You have lunch and then later in the afternoon you're like, 'Wow, you know what? I'm a little tired. I'm going to get a cup of coffee. I'm going to get an apple pie. You know, I'm going to go get--I'm going to get a muffin.' You know, we all go get coffee in the afternoon or some--something to tide us over until dinner so, you know, it's not unrealistic. And the fact is--and I love the other thing they say. They say, 'Nobody eats like this. Nobody'...

BARTIROMO: But that is--that is a fair complaint. Nobody does eat like that.

Mr. SPURLOCK: Well, isn't--you--but here's--you don't eat three meals a day--but I have...

BARTIROMO: And certainly you don't eat three McDonald's meal a day and then have apple pie.

Mr. SPURLOCK: But I have friends. I have friends who get up in the morning and they'll go to McDonald's and they'll get an Egg McMuffin and a hash brown and a coffee and a juice. And for lunch, they go get Wendy's and they'll get--you know, they'll get burgers and fries, and then they'll go home and for dinner, they order Domino's. This is a consistent lifestyle in America. So as unrealistic as the argument is--they say it's so unrealistic--people eat like this. People like to eat like this in America every day, and it's so rooted in our lifestyle of wanting things on the go, of wanting it quickly. And the film is very representative of what will happen to you over a 20-, 30-, 40-year period of time. What happened to me in this small window where I started to develop--you know, I started to develop liver problems, you know, heart disease, you know, all these things that I was on a path to getting will happen to you over--over a 20-, 30-, 40-year time....


BARTIROMO: What about this woman--she's a competitor, actually, of yours--Soso Wiley.

Mr. SPURLOCK: Yeah.

BARTIROMO: OK. She's also doing a film. She ate McDonald's just the way you did.

Mr. SPURLOCK: Sure. Yeah.

BARTIROMO: Only McDonald's.

Mr. SPURLOCK: How great is that?

BARTIROMO: And sh--she lost 10 pounds.

Mr. SPURLOCK: How great is that, that this film has so inspired someone that they wanted to go out--and I think there's like three or four other people that are going out and doing their own McDonald's diets, you know, to do this.

BARTIROMO: OK, but that's her point.

Mr. SPURLOCK: Yeah.

BARTIROMO: She only ate McDonald's.

Mr. SPURLOCK: Yeah.

BARTIROMO: Sh--the documentary's coming out in a couple months.

Mr. SPURLOCK: Let's--OK. Let's--let's talk...

BARTIROMO: She lost 10 pounds.

Mr. SPURLOCK: Here's--here's--let's...

BARTIROMO: Does that discount your idea?

Mr. SPURLOCK: Let's--where--here, let's read her diary, what she says in her diary. And she writes online where she says, 'I'm eating less and I'm exercising.' What are the two things no American does? Americans don't eat less and we don't exercise. You know, these--of course you're going to lose weight if you eat less and exercise. That--those go hand in hand. Welcome to America, where that doesn't happen. You also have to question, you know, Ms. Wiley's motives. You know, she works for a Washington, DC, based lobby group called the Competitive Enterprise Institute that lobbies on behalf of the food industry, the petroleum industry, the cigarette companies. So, you know, I came into this to--to save a population. She came into this to save a corporation. There's completely different motives behind our--behind the agenda.

BARTIROMO: When did you first tell McDonald's this was coming out?

Mr. SPURLOCK: I--I called them about midway through my diet to try and set up an interview. And then I called a second time and a third time and then I just tried to call--get anybody. I'll speak to anyone, any spokesperson for McDonald's. And all they kept saying was, 'Yeah, well, maybe we can set up an interview,' 'Maybe if you called back next week,' 'Well, if you're in Chicago, perhaps we could do it,' 'We really don't have an answer for you now. Maybe we could do it.' You know, and so then I sent them an e-mail, you know, and said, 'Listen, I want to'--you know, they said, 'Send us an e-mail outlining what you want to do,' and now they've released this e-mail like it's some kind of a smoking gun. It's--it's--it's absolutely fantastic.

BARTIROMO: Let--let's talk about your e-mail. We have a part of it here.

Mr. SPURLOCK: Sure.

BARTIROMO: 'I am amazed at the work currently being done by McDonald's...'

Mr. SPURLOCK: Sure. Yeah.

BARTIROMO: '...in conjunction with their franchisees to create and deliver healthy alternatives to their consumers.'

Mr. SPURLOCK: Sure.

BARTIROMO: 'I believe your involvement will show what most people are witnessing: that McDonald's is committed to the healthy future of America.'

Mr. SPURLOCK: Yeah.

BARTIROMO: Did you--you wrote that?

Mr. SPURLOCK: Of course--of course I wrote that. And, look, wh--what did I just say to you? I picked McDonald's because they're the leader. They're the industry leader. They came out with salads. They're coming out with healthier options. Once again, these things are still window dressing around a bigger problem. You know, they're--they're still not educating their consumers. They are re--releasing healthier options. One--on--one of the things they love to tout is how many salads they sold last year. Last year McDonald's sold 150 million salads. People--people who come to McDonald's make smart choices. They care about their health. A hundred and fifty million salads sounds great when you hear the number, until you start to think about McDonald's feeds 46 million people a day; 17 billion people a year. That means not even 1 percent--not even one out of 100 people who go to McDonald's buys a salad, because that's not why we go there. We don't go there for salads. We go there for the stuff we like: for the burgers, the shakes, the french fries.

So how do you help educate your consumers to make healthy choices? You see, that's where the slippery slope lies for a company like McDonald's, 'cause to start educating them to make healthier choices, you really stand to affect the profitability of your company, and that's a...

BARTIROMO: But you...

Mr. SPURLOCK: ...that's--and that's--that's--that's a tough road to tow.

BARTIROMO: Were you in a different frame of mind when you wrote that e-mail? Did change your mind after going through the process?

Mr. SPURLOCK: I mean, there's nothing in that e-mail that's different from what I'm telling you right now.

BARTIROMO: It just seems that you were talking positively about McDonald's, that they are...

Mr. SPURLOCK: I still...

BARTIROMO: ...attempting this healthy lifestyle, and yet when we're talking right now...

Mr. SPURLOCK: Yeah. Yeah.

BARTIROMO: ...it seems that you're saying they need to make more responsibility and--and stop...

Mr. SPURLOCK: It's because I'm trying to get an interview. What do you expect me to say. Do you want me to say, 'Hey, you horrible people, you know, come talk to me'? You've got--look, you've got to be realistic. You know, it's like you're not going to call somebody up and, you know, call them a (censored) sucker and you want an interview.

BARTIROMO: There you go.

Mr. SPURLOCK: You know, you're going to call somebody up and you're going to say, 'Hey, I like--I'd like to have an interview with you. Let's--let's sit down and talk about this.' Yeah.

BARTIROMO: So part of it was your lure into getting them to talk to you...

Mr. SPURLOCK: Oh, yeah, yeah.

BARTIROMO: ...by writing that e-mail.

Mr. SPURLOCK: You--you always want to--you know, you always want to make sure people will want to talk to you. You know, if you're rude you won't no--want to talk to anyone....

BARTIROMO: Is Michael Moore some--a mentor of yours?

Mr. SPURLOCK: I think--I--I...

BARTIROMO: I mean, what did you think of the Michael Moore story, where Disney was trying to persuade Miramax not to release it?

Mr. SPURLOCK: Oh, I mean, I think--I think it's terrible. I thi--I think Disney's going to lose a lot of money. I think that--I think that, you know, we live in a country where people should have the right to say what they want. And you know, I understand Disney's point of view. Once again, they're a business. McDonald's is a business. You know, you have to do what's best for business. And to not lose tax breaks or potential tax breaks in Florida, yeah, maybe. But I think that his--his film's going to get out. You know, his film's going to get seen and I don't know what's going to happen. But and I--too, I mean, Michael Moore is a great filmmaker. Errol Morris is a great filmmaker. I love tons of filmmakers, Stanley Kubrick, Elia Kazan, Frank Capra. You know, there's a lot of people I admire.....

To find out more about Maria Bartiromo's program, click here.


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1 Comment

Are you reading the same transcript that I am?
Well, are you? I read through this transcript and I didn't see Spurlock having any difficulty in taking criticism or that he was reduced to a blathering fool by the questions. He answered all of them openly and honestly and defended his position. I thought he came out of it extremely well.

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