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McDonald’s on the Attack

McDonald's on the Attack

Despite McDonald’s claims that its healthier options are worth my money, I have not eaten at the Golden Arches since seeing Morgan Spurlock‘s “Super Size Me” at Sundance. And the tactics of the corporation and its stealth defenders have left a sour taste in my mouth, so I won’t be rushing back.

Ahead of the film’s opening in select movie theaters today, Spurlock’s “Super Size Me” is facing its stiffest resistance yet from McDonald’s. Last week, the fast food giant criticized Spurlock in a statement, but reinforced that they do not need to respond to the movie by saying, “Morgan Spurlock is late to the national dialogue. By shocking instead of informing, he has missed an opportunity to be part of the solution.” Clearly a charge aimed at undermining Spurlock’s appearances in the press this week.

Yet McDonald’s claim that Spurlock and his film are behind the times is completely misleading. The company’s focus on healthier eating (and emphasis of these options to the press) has intensified as the film has gained wider national attention. I reviewed McDonald’s 2003 press release archive and found only a few announcements tied to health or better eating all last year. But, since Spurlock’s film gained attention after being accepted to Sundance back in December, McDonald’s has increasingly touted its healthier side, going so far as to discontinue the Super Size menu in March and promoting numerous plans and programs since the movie drew tremendous attention and acclaim at Sundance. (And just three weeks after the announcement of the Sundance lineup, the company promoted new initiatives).

Pictured: Morgan Spurlock on “The Late Show With David Letterman”, last night.

Notably last summer (before Spurlock’s movie was on anyone’s radar), McDonald’s unveiled its 2004 Olympics plans, highlighting the “Greek Mac” (two juicy burgers wrapped in a soft pita with yogurt sauce, tomato slices, iceberg lettuce and fresh onions), a meal that sounds nearly as fattening as the one-year old, scary McGriddle [described as “an innovative way for customers to eat warm golden griddle cakes (with the sweet taste of maple syrup baked right in), and different combinations of savory sausage, crispy bacon, fluffy eggs and melted cheese in a convenient sandwich.”] However this week, when the company further touted their Olympic plans, there was no mention of the Greek Mac and instead a focus on the new health initiative (dubbed “Go Active”). Indeed over the last few weeks, McDonald’s press release archive reveals a greater focus on healthy eating and exercise (as Spurlock and his film have gained more and more national exposure).

McDonald’s attempt at a bombshell this week was the release of an email that Spurlock sent to the company more than a year ago trying to get them to discuss their move towards healthier options. Even then, he said (consistent with appearances on “Today” and the David Letterman show yesterday), “Our film, which was originally inspired by the lawsuits that were filed against McDonald’s has blossomed into a much larger examination of personal choice, nutrition education and lifestyle change.”

McDonald’s critique of “Super Size Me” began during the Sundance Film Festival when it announced, “While we haven’t seen the movie, from what we’ve heard, it deserves two thumbs down.” That quote can be found in movie ads for the film, alongside “Two Thumbs Up” from Ebert and Roeper. (In the same ads, the distributor IDP is also offering a movie ticket discount to McDonald’s employees).

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