Sunday, September 30, 2007

Jesus vs. Ronald McDonald

The scene where Morgan interviewed the first-graders made me question the integrity of his entire experiment. He showed pictures of popular political and religious figures, like George W. Bush, George Washington, and Jesus Christ, and pictures of fast food restaurant icons like Wendy and Ronald McDonald. The children were asked to identify the person in the picture, but most of them, or at least the ones who made the movie cut, were unable to correctly identify anyone but Ronald McDonald and Wendy. I figure Morgan was trying to get the audience to conclude that McDonald’s was weeding its way into the minds of children, trying to addict them at a young age to their fatty and life-threatening foods. He expected the audience to think that the other more important figures (Jesus, the president), should be more recognizable to the youngsters than the fast food icons (Wendy, Ronald McDonald). The important idea to remember during this scene is that the “information” presented is based on information from people—from children; not statistics, not medical research, and not from a scientific study. All inferences made from the audience would be purely subjective, if not a little persuaded by the data presented by Morgan.

Having been raised a vegetarian, I could probably count on one hand the number of times I've eaten McDonald's. But I still could identify Ronald McDonald when I was 6 years old because the food chain is so widely advertised on television ($1.4 billion dollars worth per year), such as the Olympics, Ronald McDonald House charities, commercials, cartoons, and what have you. It’s also a common feature in most cities, both American and in locations across the world. So to interview a handful of first-graders who may not have been introduced to great historical figures of our country, but have likely been familiarized with McDonald's food, is clearly unfair. These kids are probably five to seven years old, and may or may not be a fair representation of the average first grader. For example, the child who recognized a picture of Jesus Christ as George W. Bush may not have been raised in a religious setting. Or he could have been Muslim, and may not have even known who Jesus is. Regardless, there is room to believe these few children interviewed are too young to be expected to identify political and religious leaders. You also have to keep in mind that kids say the darndest things, and trying to read into the silly things they say may be an equally silly thing to do. Therefore, watching this scene did not shock me. On the contrary, I felt like Morgan and crew were persuading the audience, maybe even sloppily pushing their agenda, to believe that American children are becoming stupid and fat. If he had interviewed a third or fourth grade class, I would probably be more concerned. Even still, there are wide variations and socioeconomical gaps between school districts, so he would have to take a sample from schools across the nation, from all different backgrounds, before I would be so moved to think that McDonald’s is the aiding the downfall of the American educational system.


PS. -- Just as a disclaimer, I was surprised by some parts of Supersize Me (such as his trouble in finding the nutrition information at McDonald's), but overall I felt like Morgan was reaching too far to get people to agree with him on an issue that most people already understand. Some people may not realize the extent of the health hazard Mickey D's presents, but people don't go there to lose weight or lower their cholesterol. It's bad for your health, and proportion distortion is not a new problem. I think one of the most crucial questions he poses is who is to blame for our obesity epidemic in America, us or the big corporations, and he kind of left it open-ended. I think if people were educated on what a calorie is, what exactly they are eating and what they should be eating to maintain a healthy body, that would be a good start.

1 Comments:

At April 24, 2009 at 1:15 PM , Blogger scooter said...

Applying the principles of critical thinking to your blog, I would point out that your argument seems inconsistent. If you are saying that 5-6 year olds are subject to more fast food images than religious ones (or civic ones such as their head of state) this would support Spurlock's case.

Incidentally a Muslim child who attended a mosque on a regular basis would be likely to know who Jesus was. He is an important prophet in that religion. That said, such a child is unlikely to recognise such an image as they are not approved of in Islam.
You could learn a lot about such things quite easily via the Internet, or even book.

 

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