It seems we can’t go 24 hours these days without stepping on the buried landmines of a new Hollywood announcement about sexual harassment.
Less than two days after I sat down with American documentarian Morgan Spurlock in Dubai, where his latest film ‘Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!’ screened as part of the Dubai International Film festival, he posted this statement on Twitter. In it he announced that, “as I sit around watching hero after hero, man after man, fall at the realization of their past indiscretions, I don’t sit by and wonder “who will be next?” I wonder, “when will they come for me?” And the filmmaker admitted quite candidly how he too was “part of the problem.”
Yet Spurlock remains a hero of mine.
I can already hear the collective “what?” and “how?” coming out of the corners of social media, but bear with me before you berate me for not being as outraged as my fellow women. Because, finally, Spurlock has been the one and single gutsy human being who has actually pointed to the underlying problems which have caused and allowed this kind of behavior in Hollywood and until now, have condoned it: substance and childhood abuse.
So, you may go and call him an opportunist, as others have done in the media, or see his departure from the production company Warrior Poets which he founded in 2004 as a ploy to reassure his investors and protect his name as a seeker/teller of the truth. Personally, I will remain on his side, continue to call him a cinematic genius because ultimately, beyond the headlines and what goes on behind closed doors, a filmmaker is about the films he makes and the magic he creates.
And Morgan Spurlock’s latest film ‘Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!’ is quite simply a perfectly truthful, wonderfully watchable, life-changing and good habit forming example of why movies will always show us the way forward.
Following is the interview I conducted with Spurlock in Dubai, where he talked about the mafia of “Big Chicken”, how poultry farmers get the short end of the nugget in the U.S. and how to vote for better food practices using the power of our wallets.
By the way, as I write this it’s a shame to learn that YouTube Red made this kind of knee-jerk drastic decision to drop distribution of the film two days ago, but I have a strong, strong feeling that this is about Big Chicken pressure, their powerful lobby groups and it all has absolutely nothing to do with helping women. Something is beginning to smell of rotten poultry to me now... In fact, that was my first question to Morgan Spurlock. Was he afraid?
I didn’t know about Big Chicken, I knew about Big Pharma and Big Tobacco but here is a scary thought you put on our plate. That any chicken we eat in the U.S. comes from the same four companies, basically. Were you ever scared of ruffling their feathers and what the repercussions from that would be?
Morgan Spurlock: I was scared that these are giant companies which have billions more dollars than I do, that have all kinds of people behind them, lots of lawyers… But I think we made a smart film and when people watch it they will look at their food in a very different way and hopefully, out of that the choices they will make will be transformative.
Have you become or have ever been a vegetarian?
Spurlock: I’m not. I love a good steak, ate at a fish place here last night which was amazing. No, I love good food, but I think what’s happened in the U.S. and around the world is we’ve gotten to a point where we just blindly trust the companies that give us our food and we think that they are taking care of the people who work for them, that they are preparing it in a way that is good for us, that it was raised in a way that was ethical and is also helpful to the environment — and that is not the case.
These big companies are such s***s to the people who are producing the food for them! That’s the worst part.
Spurlock: And that’s what I think comes out in the film, you realize how poorly they treat the people who actually work for them and make the food.
Your film shows us that the poultry industry is not much different from how Monsanto operates, both basically blackmailing farmers by holding their livelihood up for ransom. Apart from using a large platform like cinema, and making a film like you did, what can we do to protect the right of those who are working to make our food?
Spurlock: I think the greatest thing you can do, every time you spend a dollar you’re voting with that dollar. That’s your say, that is your power as a consumer. The only way to have real change is to change the way you vote, to change the way you spend that money. It’s hard. It’s hard to find out exactly how these corporations are raising their food — it takes time to do that. But if you have the ability you should look into where all your food comes from and try and change your habits.
How can we change the way you eat chicken in the U.S.? Is it possible?
Spurlock: It’s very difficult because the problem is the regulations. Those who kind of tell us, and I’m going to put that in those giant quotation marks “how much better the food is for us,” come from a government that is filled with people who have been put in positions of powers by lobby groups, by these corporations. The rules that are in place in the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration have been put in place by years of lobbying by these companies that have paid millions of dollars, which we don’t think about. And ultimately the things that we are told about our food, the labeling that we think is good for us, “no hormones”, “free range”, etc. are actually misleading. So it becomes very very hard.
Is food the representation of how our true government is these days?
Spurlock: I think you’ve drawn a great parallel. I think when you look at the food industry you see a system that is incredibly corrupt, you see one that is filled and driven by greed, and yeah, I dare say it’s a very good parallel too. At least my government.
How do you feel being here with the film? I mean how different are the audiences in the Arab world, as opposed to viewing the film with a totally Western audience?
Spurlock: It’s exciting. I think that anytime you have the opportunity to speak to an audience you normally wouldn’t get to, it’s a real honor. And it’s a thrill. But I think we’ve done such an amazing job of franchising the American way of life around the world, that the film rings true, no matter what part of the world you’re in. And I think people watch this and while every single piece may not be the same, a lot of it is, because that marketing is really carried around the world. And while we may not have made the food better, we’ve made the marketing infinitely better.
And do you feel, while you are in this part of the world, that you are sort of an ambassador for American culture?
[We both break out in laughter]
Spurlock: So you’re saying I should apologize through the whole interview: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry for everything we are doing. I’m sorry for the choices we make, I’m sorry that we’re forcing it on you. I apologize…”
What do you do while you’re here, since you’re not apologizing all the time?
Spurlock: For me I think people know the kind of power and influence that America has and I think it’s shining a light in a way that you hope will get people to act a little differently in the choices they make or see the world differently and hopefully have a little fun. Ultimately, the movie pulls back the curtain in a great way but at the same time is a very entertaining film.
Do you think that cinema is a way to help heal the world?
Spurlock: I think movies are a fantastic way to reach an audience, to talk to them, to change the way we kind of see things… Yeah, I do. I think movies can be revolutionary.
And how would you feel if someone came to tell you, “I didn’t really like your film, I didn’t get anything out of it?”
Spurlock: I’d say, “well I hope you’ll like the next one.”