RIP: Morgan Spurlock, Super Size Me Filmmaker, Dead at 53.

Spurlock died Thursday in New York from complications of cancer, according to a statement issued Friday by his family.

“It was a sad day, as we said goodbye to my brother Morgan,” Craig Spurlock, who worked with him on several projects, in the statement. “Morgan gave so much through his art, ideas, and generosity. The world has lost a true creative genius and a special man. I am so proud to have worked together with him.”

Spurlock made a splash in 2004 with his groundbreaking “Super Size Me,” and returned in 2019 with “Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!” — a sober look at an industry that processes 9 billion animals a year in America.

Spurlock was a gonzo-like filmmaker who leaned into the bizarre and ridiculous. His stylistic touches included zippy graphics and amusing music, blending a Michael Moore-ish camera-in-your-face style with his own sense of humor and pathos.

The Michael Moore comparison is apt – both men debuted with documentaries that made them stars, but each of their efforts were built around spurious claims. Moore reportedly did meet with GM’s Roger Smith during filming of 1989’s Roger & Me, but couldn’t depict that onscreen, or he’d have no movie. And far as Spurlock’s effort, in 2004, Tech Central Station’s James Glassman wrote:

While the film demonizes McDonald’s and other restaurants, Spurlock’s weight gain and health decline have nothing to do with where he ate (after all, Robert DeNiro gained 60 pounds for his role in “Raging Bull” by dining at great restaurants in Italy), but rather with how much he consumed and how little he exercised (Spurlock even cut down on normal walking).

It’s no accident that Spurlock’s production company is called “The Con.” A prankster and scamster from way back, he briefly ran a program on MTV called “I Bet You Will,” where he paid people to do disgusting things.

He gave a woman $100 to eat a Madagascar hissing cockroach. A man got $25 for eating a clam out of a stranger’s armpit. Another woman shaved her head, combined the clippings with butter to form a gigantic hair ball and then ate it — for $250.

Sorry for the unappetizing detail, but it tells who this Morgan Spurlock really is. He presents himself as a socially concerned artist, but, in fact, he is up to his old tricks (among the scenes in “Super Size Me” are a rectal exam and a vivid vomiting sequence). This time, however, the person who cashes in isn’t the hairball eater; it’s Spurlock himself.

The math of weight gain is simple. Someone Spurlock’s size can eat 2,500 to 3,000 calories a day and maintain his weight. In the movie, he eats 5,000 to 5,500 calories a day. Nutritionists calculate that a man gains roughly a pound for every 3,500 extra calories, so roughly every three days, Spurlock overeats his way to an extra two pounds or more.

He could have gained that extra weight anywhere — at a health-food restaurant in Cleveland or at Taillevent in Paris. He could have burned off the extra weight if he had exercised, but he gives such a solution short shrift. He whines that it’s all Ronald McDonald’s fault, when really it’s a matter of calories in and calories burned.

According to the Daily Mail yesterday, Spurlock had another source of extra calories:

Some critics pointed out that he failed to provide logs documenting what exactly he ate and the amount of calories that he was intaking.

A documentary maker named Tom Naughton even made his own movie in response, called Fat Head, in which he too ate McDonald’s for 30 days – and he got a ‘very different’ result, ultimately losing 12 pounds.

Things only got worse in 2017, when Morgan admitted that he had been ‘consistently drinking’ since the ‘age of 13.’

‘I’ve consistently been drinking since the age of 13, something our society doesn’t shun or condemn but which only served to fill the emotional hole inside me and the daily depression I coped with,’ he wrote in a statement shared to X, formerly Twitter, while discussing the #MeToo movement.

People were certainly outraged by his revelation, since one of the major claims in the movie was that eating the fast food gave him liver problems – something that actually could have been caused by his years of heavy drinking.

In addition, if he drank during the experiment it would have meant that he lied about only consuming McDonald’s products during the 30-day period.

During a check-up with a doctor in the documentary, Morgan was asked if he had consumed any alcohol, and he stated, ‘None.’

‘I can only eat things that are for sale over the counter at McDonald’s – water included,’ he insisted.

‘Since it’s now come out that Morgan Spurlock neglected to mention his alcoholism in Supersize Me, is there any value in the documentary anymore?’ one outraged viewer scathed on Reddit afterwards.

At Reason, Billy Binion adds: Super Size Me Was Not Groundbreaking Journalism.

To his credit, Spurlock did include some balance in Super Size Me, which, at least in part, came in the form of none other than Reason‘s Jacob Sullum. Sitting in his Virginia office at the time, clad in a delightful red cardigan, Sullum expresses caution about moving toward a society where it becomes appropriate to “publicly hector fat people” as some do to smokers. Spurlock’s final product, after all, had a sense of shaming at its core, despite that it’s possible to eat fast food without gorging yourself to the point of lethargy. (Burned in my mind after having to watch the film for school is hearing Spurlock claim that his fast-food binge had made it so he could no longer have sex unless his then-girlfriend was on top.)

Ironically, on the subject of shame, compromising details about Spurlock’s life would continue to emerge for years after the documentary’s release, which included, among other things, that he was an alcoholic. That doesn’t explain every adverse impact he experienced while following his McDonald’s diet, but it does call quite a bit of it into question. It would seem irresponsible to make no mention of it, for example, when discussing damage to his liver.

And yet Spurlock will likely be remembered for years to come, his name inextricably linked to Super Size Me and what it purports to have exposed. His death is sad. But his legacy is a healthy reminder that skepticism is a necessary part of any balanced diet.

Rupert Pupkin smiles.