Super Size Me Director Morgan Spurlock's Death At Age 53 Has The Food World Shaken

Morgan Spurlock holding McDonald's
Morgan Spurlock holding McDonald's - Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images

Morgan Spurlock, the documentary filmmaker behind "Super Size Me," passed away Thursday night after a battle with cancer at the age of 53, his family confirmed. One of the best food movies ever made, Spurlock's 2004 Oscar-nominated documentary "Super Size Me" was his breakout piece and remains his most well-known work today. It was a simple premise: Spurlock would eat only McDonald's for 30 days and document the impact on his health.

By the end of the 30 days, Spurlock had gained 24 pounds, which was nearly a pound per day. Perhaps more alarming was the impact he claimed the fast food had on his mental state. The cheerful man at the start had become lethargic and visibly depressed by the time the credits rolled. It's common knowledge today that fast food is generally not good for us, but knowing the health risks is very different from being able to see them in this way. Spurlock's work undoubtedly affected how we as Americans relate to our food — even if the obesity rate has only continued to climb.

Of course, fast food didn't disappear after the movie's release (not to say that was necessarily Spurlock's goal), but healthier options did start to pop up on some chains' menus after the film became successful. In fact, that health trend in fast food was the topic of the director's 2017 follow up "Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!"

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Morgan Spurlock Made Films For Everyday People

Morgan Spurlock speaking
Morgan Spurlock speaking - Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Although Spurlock is most famous for his work targeting the health risks of cheap food, he did make other films. At the height of the Iraq War, Spurlock traveled throughout the Middle East to create "Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden?" It was a bold move for a documentarian known for his light humor to handle such a complex turning point in America's foreign policy. Then in the 2011 film "Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold," Spurlock highlighted the outlandish world of advertising. Looking back through his creative works, there is a sense that he found the world to be absurd, morally conflicted, and often deceptive. Yet, despite these dark insights, his story-telling did not amount to shoving his viewers' face in the mud.

"Super Size Me" is a great example of this. Many attempts to explain to the general public that fast food is not exactly good for you have been made before and since that movie came out, and Spurlock remained unambiguous regarding which side he stood on. But the criticism of fast food often comes across as pejorative, as if chastising fast food customers themselves. This faint stench of high-brow derision ostracizes the very people that could use this information the most. By eating McDonald's himself for 30 days, Spurlock managed to bridge that gap. He was no longer looking down at us, and the mutual respect conveyed in that act is what made him a great filmmaker.

Spurlock is survived by his two children, Laken and Kallen, his parents, and various extended family members.

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