Obesity, a common problem in America, is thought to be fueled partly by sugary, fatty foods sold at fast food restaurants. People generally know that fast food is bad for them, but they continue to eat it. Two extremely overweight teenage girls sued McDonald’s claiming that their food was the cause of their weight gain. Their case was ultimately dropped because they could not prove that McDonald’s food caused their obesity. This lawsuit intrigued Morgan Spurlock, who decided to see if McDonald’s food truly does cause obesity. In order to test this theory, Spurlock embarked on a diet consisting only of McDonald’s food for one month. He entered the experiment in very good physical shape. By the end of the experiment, Spurlock had gained almost twenty-five pounds, acquired heart problems, and his liver was badly damaged. He became very lethargic and had constant headaches. Besides the physical problems Spurlock endured, he also suffered mentally from depression.
Spurlock created a documentary, Super Size Me, showing his experience and how McDonald’s food affected him. The purpose of the documentary was to show the danger of McDonald’s food on a person’s health. The viewer could then decide for themselves whether or not they would continue eating McDonald’s food. Spurlock tried to portray the documentary in an unbiased mood, but for the most part, Spurlock did not do an adequate job of gathering and presenting the information he found in a fair manner. In a Rogerian argument, the person wanting change tells theirs views, but then also tells the views of the defendant, sympathizing with them. By showing knowledge of how the defendant feels, the prosecutor gains trust from the defendant, then suggests a common ground for agreement. By being respectful of the opponent’s ideas and thoughts, the opponent will feel less threatened and be more inclined to change their ways. Spurlock did not treat McDonald’s views and opinions with respect, and thus did not succeed in Rogerian argument.
A way the documentary failed in Rogerian argument was by containing a copious amount of sarcasm. Almost every time Spurlock showed McDonald’s side of an argument, he would present it in a sarcastic way, making McDonald’s look wrong and foolish. He sarcastically ordered and ate his food, which created humor and generally made McDonald’s seem bad. Cartoons and animations shown also added to the whole comical routine. This mood made the viewer take anything McDonald’s said unseriously. If Spurlock were to eliminate sarcasm, the documentary would be entirely different and McDonald’s would not seem nearly as bad as they are presented.
Another way Spurlock failed in creating Rogerian argument was by presenting McDonald’s stance on a subject, and then giving his opinion on the subject directly afterwards. He often showed a fact McDonald’s presented and then trumped it with an even better fact he found, or gave the McDonald’s fact and then asked an open ended question, which would make McDonald’s always look wrong. Spurlock almost never gave his side of the argument first, and then showed McDonald’s side last. If he did show McDonald’s side of an argument last, he would show their argument in a downgrading sarcastic way, not in the confident way he presented his arguments. The way he presented his arguments leaves the viewer thinking that Spurlock was right in every issue discussed.
There are also some specific parts of Spurlock’s experiment that he could have performed better. For example, under almost any diet, one is bound to become overweight and out of shape if they do not exercise. Spurlock seemed to drastically change his daily routine for the experiment. He was in very good physical shape before the experiment, so he should have kept doing whatever he did to stay in shape. If that entailed going to the gym and working out, he should have continued doing that during the month he ate only McDonald’s food. Changing his daily routine most likely skewed the results of the experiment.
Also, most people that eat McDonald’s do not eat it three times a day, and most people do not eat it every day. Spurlock could have shown what would happen if McDonald’s was eaten only once or twice a day, or it was eaten only every other day. It is unrealistic to think that people eat all three meals at McDonald’s every day of the week. By limiting the amount of McDonald’s eaten, Spurlock would not have gone under such a dramatic transformation and McDonald’s would not have looked so bad. If he had eaten McDonald’s food in combination with healthy food, he may have gotten much different results. He also could have gathered information on how much McDonald’s food the obese teenage girls that sued McDonald’s ate, and then went on diet similar to theirs. That would have been a more accurate representation of how much McDonald’s food an overweight customer eats.
Spurlock succeeds in showing how eating only McDonald’s for a month without exercise will affect a person, but he does not succeed in Rogerian argument. If he were to perform the experiment under more normal conditions and present information in a less biased way, then it would be fairer to McDonald’s. It seems that he tried his best to portray McDonald’s in a negative way. Spurlock delivers information to make McDonald’s look naïve and foolish much of the time. The humor he adds makes the documentary more enjoyable and captivating for the audience, but it detracts from its viability. Overall, Spurlock could have done a much better job of portraying McDonald’s in a respectable manner.