Running Head: REPRESENTATIVE ANECDOTES IN SUPER SIZE ME Representative Anecdote’s Within the Documentary Super Size Me Mandy Fife Messiah College COMM 341 Professor Simcox December 2, 2013 2 REPRESENTATIVE ANECDOTES IN SUPER SIZE ME 1. Introduction The 2004 documentary Super Size Me starring and directed by Morgan Spurlock, addresses many issues associated with the fast food kingpin McDonalds. Super Size Me is a dialogue that is filled with representative anecdotes. Morgan Spurlock decided to create a documentary focusing on the affects eating McDonald’s food has on the human body. This subject manner was selected, after two teenagers unsuccessfully attempted to sue McDonald’s for causing their weight issues and illnesses. The two young girls were both obese and blamed McDonald’s for their body size. Spurlock appalled by the lack of interest and action taken by the company, decided to take action against the company himself. Creating a documentary exposing the effects of the fast-food chain was his plan of action. Instead of researching the effects through observation, Spurlock took his documentary to the next level. He believed the only way to create a buzz was through an extreme first-hand experience. Morgan Spurlock chose to embark on a thirty day McDonald’s only diet experiment. Through this experiment he hopes to gain insight on the effects fast food has on the human body. The purpose of the experiment focuses on informing the publics of the harmful, potentially fatal effects of McDonald’s food. Spurlock also researches if fast-food companies are to blame for the large number of overweight or obese Americans, or if the issue lies within the individual’s responsibility. Undergoing a thirty day McDiet has rules and risks. Before undertaking this extensive and extreme trial, Spurlock consults three physicians, which access his physical health. After the consultation with the physicians, the results show he is above average health. Spurlock creates and follows his own rules for his experiment. The experiment lasts for thirty days and he can only consume food produced by McDonalds. For the first rule he must eat three meals a day; breakfast, lunch and dinner. Consuming every item on the menu at least one time is also a rule he must abide by. The final rule, if a McDonald’s employee asks him to super-size a meal he must comply and super-size the meal. Throughout the thirty day experiment he was asked to supersize his meal nine times and five times he was asked to super-size in the state of Texas; one of the fattest states in the country. Spurlock also decided to restrict his physical activity to the normal amount American’s exercise daily. Before commencing this research he knew there would be health risks, but he never could have hypothesized the risks that appeared due his thirty day McDiet. As a result of the study Spurlock suffers both psychological and physical issues. After the second day he begins to feel the impact of the diet. He begins to develop headaches and the McStomach aches. Throughout the experiment his symptoms increase in severity and regularity. During the experiment his physical health is examined weekly. By week three the physicians warn him to stop the diet, because the results could potentially be irreversible. At the end of the thirty days he has gained 24.5 pounds, his body fat percentage increased from 11% to 18% his liver turned to fat, he doubled his risk of coronary heart disease and is now twice as likely for heart failure (Hayes, 2006). The psychological issues that developed from the McDiet were unexpected. Throughout the thirty days he experienced depression, exhaustion and mood swings. Consumption of the fatty unhealthy foods is the reason for both the physical and psychological concerns. After the completion of the diet Spurlock consumed as much McDonald’s as a nutritionist suggests for an individual to consume in eight years. Critics argue that this experiment is extreme. In reality, many individuals consume multiple meals daily from fast-food 3 REPRESENTATIVE ANECDOTES IN SUPER SIZE ME restaurants. Spurlock feels it’s necessary to show the life-threatening realities of fast-food consumption. After the completion of the thirty day diet he works to get his health and body back to his normal shape. Following the final physical, the physicians suggest he does not consume fastfood for an entire year, if he wants to get his body back in shape. Another example of portraying the difficulties associated with the unhealthy food is the length it took for Morgan Spurlock’s body to recover. Fourteen months of a strict diet and a rigorous workout schedule brought Spurlock back to a healthy weight and healthy life. Morgan Spurlock’s intention throughout the documentary was not to attack McDonald’s company as whole. His main intention is to inform the public of the dangers associated with the consumption of unhealthy food distributed by fast-food corporations. The objective of Spurlock’s film is to change American’s eating habits and help them prevent potentially fatal health issues. What is the representative anecdote in Super Size Me and how does the documentary provide audiences with equipment for living? This research question will be analyzed throughout the paper. An analysis of the representative anecdotes within the documentary are conducted. The documentary also provides equipment for living for all audience members. Completion of the analysis occurs through examination of the documentary and previous research conducted on the issue from scholars 2. Literature Review Scholars have studied the documentary Super Size Me and examined the elements that attract audiences to the documentary. Representative anecdotes are described as a method of deciphering media criticism. While discovering and explaining the deeper meanings found within popular artifacts. The deeper meanings uncover a culture’s values, concerns and interests. An anecdote is defined as a story or tale. The artifact being examined is the documentary Super Size Me. The representative anecdotes within the film, which scholars discuss, are the fear consumers feel about consuming fast-food, after watching the film. Another anecdote is the fear fast-food companies feel about losing business as a result of the documentary. This documentary grabs the attention of movie goers due to the common interest and familiarity of fast-food intake. The problems are also relatable to many Americans and a concern to many people worldwide. Many of the articles first address the issue of America’s obesity and overweight epidemic. America is currently the fattest nation in the world. Over 100 million Americans are overweight or obese, which results in over 60% of United States adults. Death due to complications associated with obesity and individual’s being overweight are second in America, just behind smoking tobacco (DeVries, 2004). On average there are 400,000 deaths in America contributed to obesity. These shocking statistics support the reasoning for Spurlock’s documentary. These statistics are very convincing and made a huge impact on the audience’s feelings towards the film. 4 REPRESENTATIVE ANECDOTES IN SUPER SIZE ME One study conducted by Andrea Hayes discusses the effectiveness of the documentary form used throughout this particular film. The subject matter is familiar to all; the fun, informative fashion used attracts viewers’ attention (Hayes, 2006). Spurlock addresses the serious subject manner in a comical fashion, which appeals to audiences. Through the discussion of the dangers of unhealthy eating habits and the health-related issues associated with these habits, Spurlock is able to shock and fascinate audience members. The format he uses ranges from comical animated cartoons, to jokes about serious issues (Hayes, 2006). Through the combination of these approaches, Spurlock creates a successful film which spreads his message. Hard convincing evidence is also an effective approach, through the use of statistics, graphics and interviews with experts, he uses a professional approach to prove his hypothesis (Hayes, 2006). Spurlock’s personality was also a persuasive, beneficial tool he uses to spread his message. The audience relates to Spurlock because most audience members have consumed some form of fast-food in their lifetime and are aware of the issues associated with the consumption of such food. A combination of humor and honesty is the most effective approach. Audience members are able to view his passion for the experiment, they also realize the risks he takes conduction the experiment for the greater good of the nation. Everyone admires his bravery and commitment to the cause. Hayes states, referring to Spurlock “… (He is) effective in giving a personal face to a nation’s problem.” (Hayes, 2006) McDonald’s was the company used to represent all of fast-food America (Horton, 2005). Even through all of the negative press McDonalds refused to be victimized. McDonald’s public relations team helped to control the public’s reaction and maintain McDonald’s credible reputation (MacArthur, 2004). Surprisingly, after the release of the film McDonald’s sales increased, consumers gave McDonald’s the benefit of the doubt because of their reputation and past successes. Throughout the whole experiment they never took the blame, they claim its “Common knowledge how detrimental the food they produce is to consumer’s health.” (DeVries, 2004) The research of scholars shows that the fast food corporations were not fazed by the documentary, their revenues actually increased. McDonald’s and other fast food corporations are not portrayed as the villain’s nor is Morgan Spurlock portrayed as the brave hero who took on the corporate giants. My rendition of the anecdote differs from scholars adaptations. 3. Communication Theory Scholars address the approaches and fears audience members’ exhibit after viewing the film. They fail to display a true representative anecdote which exemplifies a metaphor examining the deeper meaning behind the documentary. The concerns remain the same throughout all accounts. Fear of consumer’s health and fear of loss of business for fast food corporations are the major issues. Another area of agreement resides in the artifact proposing equipment for living a happy health life. There are many different interpretations and understandings of the true definition of representative anecdotes. All scholars agree that representative anecdotes are used to determine deeper meanings and locate symbolic patterns (Harter, 2001). Symbols are intended for audience members to better comprehend the deeper meaning within an artifact (Crable, 2000). 5 REPRESENTATIVE ANECDOTES IN SUPER SIZE ME Representative anecdotes are a method of evaluating media and additional discourses. Tools for criticism and analysis are another way of describing a representative anecdote’s purpose (Crable, 2000). Metaphors are often a specific device used to describe the multifaceted meanings within artifacts. Scholars did not describe a metaphor establishing the deeper meaning within the film. Common cultural issues and concerns are the driving forces, which result in the deeper meaning of all representative anecdotes. A representative anecdote uses a dramatic example to explain the complex meaning underlying throughout the discourse. Super Size Me a rare case, has representative anecdotes within the film which are straight forward. Different methods are used to describe and reveal the deeper meaning behind a discourse. In the instance of Super Size Me, the obvious representative anecdotes are the health issues associated with the consumption of the unhealthy food. The deeper meaning is the battle between Americans and the fast-food corporations. An example of a metaphor and dramatic story within the documentary refers to the war Americans face against the adversary of fast-food companies. McDonald’s portrays a corruptive, manipulative villain and Morgan Spurlock portrays a brave, courageous hero like character. One of the battles of the war occurs between the human body and fast-food. Many times throughout the story, the food defeats Spurlock’s body. The symptoms Spurlock experiences are the attacks of the food on his body. At this point in the film people believe that fast-food conquers all because of the repercussions the food has on the body. Although the food can cause some serious damages to a person’s health, Spurlock in the end conquers evil. He defeats the villainous fastfood corporation. Although he gained weight and had potential health risks. He was able to get his life back together; he loses all of the weight gained and returns to his healthy happy shape. This metaphor represents the overarching theme of Spurlock defeating the corporate giants. As a result of the film fast-food chains were forced to make drastic revisions to their menus, to please consumers. Spurlock won the war and he challenged the villain for the betterment of people’s health nationwide. This symbolic representative anecdote helps audiences to understand and interpret the meaning of the film in a different and less complex format. A metaphorical storytelling approach is used to grasp the main concepts dealing with the culture concerns and fears of a nation. The concerns audience members have are the risks associated with eating fast-food. Due to the documentary they have a first-hand account to compare their personal experiences with. People who tend to have similar issues relatable to the main character, will view artifacts comparable to what they are going through personally. Many Americans can relate to the issues and concerns described and addressed throughout the film. These types of audience members are interested in artifacts similar to issues they are going through in life because they believe the artifact will equip them with advice and tools to overcome their difficult circumstances (Crable, 2000). Kenneth Burke describes literature as “equipment for living,” (Brummett, 1984) this documentary provides many examples of equipment for living. All representative anecdotes involve equipment for living. Equipment for living allows audiences to relate to the information shared through a media form. Audiences “…confront their lived situations, celebrate their triumphs, and encompass tragedies.” (Brummett, 1984) These better equip individuals to live through a certain situation and cope with the struggles of life (Brummett, 1984). Representative anecdotes address a culture’s values and concerns in relation to a real-life problem. The real-life problems in the documentary are the issues of the obesity epidemic and the contribution fast- 6 REPRESENTATIVE ANECDOTES IN SUPER SIZE ME food restaurants add to this issue. Equipment for living also provides solutions for the problems addressed throughout the artifacts. The equipment for living scholars have determined from the film involves accepting a healthy lifestyle. Practicing healthy behaviors include eating a well-balanced diet and exercising daily. Not indulging in fast-food delicacies, and if fast-food consumption occurs it should only take place if a person regularly eats a healthy diet. Awareness of the fast-food advertisements and marketing towards a certain target audience is crucial. Avoiding unhealthy behaviors can be a challenge, but through hard work, self-control and dedication adapting a healthy lifestyle is reachable. Another factor of representative anecdotes that is always inclusive is the attraction and relatable nature audience member feel towards a certain artifact. Many Americans have witnessed the destructive nature of fast-food on the body, whether through a first-hand account or observing a person’s body transform into a robust shape. We have all seen examples of obesity and overweight individuals. This film exposes the serious nature and effects that the fastfood industry has on the body. In addition to the fears, concerns and similar experiences exhibited throughout the film, Spurlock also provides audience members equipment for dealing with the issues in a healthy positive fashion. 4. Conclusion The documentary Super Size Me provides effective examples of representative anecdotes. The film also provides useful equipment for living. Many scholars have studied the film before this paper. Scholars examined the approaches used by Spurlock and the overall success rate of the film. But never examined the in depth representative anecdotes and equipment for living within the specific documentary. The contribution this paper makes to society is informing audience members of the deeper meaning within the film. Audiences are aware of the overall theme and meaning the film portrays. Many people may not understand the underlying message within the film. The representative anecdote helps to describe the importance in a simplified story. War between Americans and the fast-food corporations is the representative anecdote found throughout the film. All audience members should take the information seriously and use the equipment for living recommended throughout the paper. This paper illustrates the health risks associated with obesity and being overweight. The advice to prevent harm to the human body will benefit the lives of all who take advantage of the information. If the audience does not change their ways even after viewing the film and researching the many literature artifacts on the documentary they are risking their lives. Many implications are related to unhealthy eating of fast-food confirmed through research and thorough analysis. The findings of this study compare the representative anecdote theory to the popular documentary. Displaying the negative harms the fast food industry has on the public. It’s wise if we avoid fast-food corporations completely. After the analysis of the representative anecdotes and equipment for living the documentary Super Size Me provides, are you still lovin it? 7 REPRESENTATIVE ANECDOTES IN SUPER SIZE ME References Brummett, B. (1984). Burke's Representative Anecdote as a Method in Media Criticism. Critical Studies In Mass Communication, 1(2), 161. Crable, B. (2000). `Burke's Perspective on Perspectives: Grounding Dramatism in the Representative Anecdote.'. Quarterly Journal Of Speech, 86(3), 318. DeVries, G. (2004). Super size me. Film Journal International, Harter, L. M., & Japp, P. M. (2001). Technology as the Representative Anecdote in Popular Discourses of Health and Medicine. Health Communication, 13(4), 409-425. Hayes, A. (2006). SUPER SIZE ME: EXPANDING THE DOCUMENTARY FORM. Screen Education, (44), 30-37 Horton, A. (2005) Documentaries Hit the Multiplexes: From Super Size Me to My Architect and Beyond. World Literature Today 79, 68-69. MacArthur, K. (2004). SUPER SIZED PR. Advertising Age, 75(50), S-6.