LEARNING GUIDE FOR SUPER SIZE ME
S One of the Best! This movie is on TWM's list of the ten best movies to supplement classes in Health, High School Level.SUBJECTS — U.S./1991 - present; Medicine;Educationally Enhanced Version: Age: 11+; MPAA Rating -- PG for thematic elements, a disturbing medical procedure, and some language; Documentary; 2005; 100 minutes; Color; Available from Amazon.com.
Description: Morgan Spurlock ate only food from McDonald's for 30 days: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He was thoroughly tested by doctors before he started his "diet" and periodically tested throughout the 30 days. By the end of his experiment, the changes in his blood chemistry and the stress on his organs approximated the liver failure seen in advanced alcoholics; his cholesterol had risen to dangerous levels; and he had gained 24 lbs.
Possible Problems: None. Some profanity and one reference to the effect of the diet on Spurlock's sexual performance which were in the original film have been removed from the educational version.
"The Fastfood Supper" by Jacob Thompson
LEARNING GUIDE MENU
Suggested Responses to the questions below "The Fastfood Supper": The painting that the artist is reminding us of is "The Last Supper" by Leonardo Da Vinci in which Jesus is shown eating with his disciples for the last time. The arrangement of people eating while sitting in a line at a table covered with a cloth that hangs down below the table, as well as the three panels in the background are suggestive of Da Vinci's painting. The fact that the picture recalls "The Last Supper," a painting with a serious religious message, tells us that the artist is trying to send an important messange and that, since his painting relates to the "the last" meal that Jesus had with his disciples, that there is an immediate threat to the people in the picture.
SUGGESTIONS FOR USING SUPER SIZE ME IN THE CLASSROOM
Introducing the Film
The only introduction that the film needs is a comment by the teacher that the information about the risks of eating convenience food shown in the movie is correct.
After the Class Watches the Film
After the film is completed show students "The Fastfood Supper" and ask the questions below the picture.
Introduce students to the concepts of "motivated blindness" and "the bias towards normalcy" either by giving them TWM's handout Motivated Blindness and the Normalcy Bias: A Brief Introduction or by covering the same information in a lecture. The photograph below is helpful in conveying these concepts.
The application of the concepts of motivated blindness to the continued consumption of fast food and convenience food is obvious. The application of the normalcy bias needs a short explanation. The "normalcy" is the continued good health of the consumer, despite the ill-effects of fast food and convenience food. This is especially strong in teenagers who believe that they are indestructable and that their good health will continue no matter what they put into their bodies.
Ask students to develop strategies for breaking through motivated blindness and the bias toward normalcy to reduce their own consumption of fast foods and convenience food. One idea is to make a copy of "The Fastfood Supper" and glue it to their notebooks. [TWM hereby authorizes the reproduction of "The Fastfood Supper" for the purpose of reducing the consumption of fast foods, including by attaching the picture to notebooks.]
Then ask students how they would get their friends to stop being the victims of motivated blindess and the normalcy bias with respect to eating fast food anc convenience food,
Discussion Questions Relating to the Issue of Who Bears Responsibility When People Continue to Consume Convenience Food:
If the discussion stalls, the questions set out below may get the discussion going again.
A. If the industry creates the desire for the product through advertising, does it have some responsibility for what happens when people try to satisfy that desire?1B. Once the list includes at least the seven factors described below, ask for an answer to the question of who is responsible, the consumer or the company. Another way to prase the question is: What about this class? You've been warned and are now educated consumers. When a student from this class goes into a fast food restaurant, who's responsible? Suggested Response: TWM suggests that the strongest answer is that there is responsibility on both sides.
2. Tell students to imagine their class is a congressional committee responsible for recommending what the government should do to fight the obesity epidemic and to regulate the convenience food industry. Tell the class that this will be somewhat like the government's campaign to reduce smoking. The plan should be based on the extent of responsibility that the consumer or the industry bears for the harm caused by eating at places like McDonald's and Burger King. It should be practical and effective. Suggested Response: Here are some ideas about general ways to approach the problem. The class can add to this list and must determine how best to implement these ideas. Possible solutions might include:
Briefly summarize each suggestion on the board. When the creativity of the class has been exhausted, have the class debate whether eachs proposed solution is just, practical to implement, and effective. Then let the class vote on which regulations to adopt.
3. As an alternative to question #2, ask the following question: The fast food industry spends billions of dollars each year in advertising. Should this be prohibited or limited in some way? Does your answer change for advertising geared toward children? Should Ronald McDonald be banned?
Suggested Response: A good discussion will include the following:
Points for regulation or prohibition of advertising by fast food restaurants: It has been determined that too much fast food (even a moderate amount of fast food) is bad for your health. It is especially bad for children. The companies use advertising to create the desire for their food. The techniques used by marketers and advertisers are often subtle and based on subconscious drives that we are not even aware of. They do not disclose what is in the food (like trans fats and HFCS), and they don't warn of the dangers of eating their food. For this reason, the advertising should be regulated to require adequate disclosures and warnings about the dangers of fast food. The argument for prohibiting advertisements aimed at children is much stronger than for advertising aimed at adults. Children, especially young children, are very susceptible to advertising because, in their innocence, they can't critically evaluate what they are hearing and seeing.
Points against regulation or prohibition of advertising fast food restaurants: If you distort the marketplace by too much regulation, the marketplace loses its efficiency. It is up to people to decide what they put in their bodies. It is not up to the government to tell them what to eat. (Note that the First Amendment does not stop the government from regulating the advertisement of commercial products. In other words, if society decides that advertising a product needs to be regulated for an important public good, the First Amendment does not prohibit that regulation. This is the basis for limits on tobacco advertising.)
4. Should fast food outlets be invited onto a high school campus to sell food to students?
Suggested Response: The general consensus is that this is not a good idea because it promotes the consumption of fast food by students. However, kids may disagree. This is a great question for debate.
For more discussion questions, click here.
For additional discussion questions click here.
3. Reflect on your own eating habits. Look mindfully at what you eat in a given day and write about whether or not health factors play any role in your food choices. Conclude your reflection with comments about how your habits would change were you to take into account some of the ideas presented in the film.
For additional assignments click here.
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