The Intersection

Tonight Larry King will be hosting two celebrity documentarians–Morgan Spurlock (cheers) and Ben Stein (boos). Alas, if the former wanted to be well equipped to debunk the latter’s expected tripe about evolution, there probably would have been no better training than making The Republican War on Science as a documentary. But Spurlock opted not to–a decision he recently discussed here in a Q & A. To wit:

Your name has been connected to an adaptation of the book The Republican War on Science? Any news on that project

We bought that book a couple years ago. We optioned the rights to that in 2004 right after Supersize Me came out. We’ve given up the option since then. That would’ve been a great film to make 3 or 4 years ago but it’s not as relevant now.

It would hard not to be political when dealing with source material like that.

With a subject like that it’s not a straight Republican issue. It’s a very political issue in how the government views science and what parameters researchers have to work in when trying to get funding from the government. There’s a tremendous amount of give and take on both sides of the aisle. There were a lot of things we were going to talk about but we’re not going to make it now, so it doesn’t really matter.

Not relevant? Doesn’t really matter?

I’m not so sure, Mr. Spurlock. You did great work with Super-Size Me, and you have lot of great projects to choose from. Still, the fact that you’re about to go up against an anti-evolutionist documentarian on Larry King strongly suggests that it’s still relevant, and still matters.

* Of course, I’m kinda hopelessly self-interested on this one….


  1. #1 Orac
    April 18, 2008

    Morgan Spurlock? You’re kidding, right?

    I enjoyed Super-Size Me as much as the next guy, but, face it, the movie was not exactly sterling science. Rather, it was propaganda, every bit as much as a Michael Moore film or–dare I say it?–Expelled!. True, it wasn’t anywhere near as deceptive asExpelled! but its selectivity was certainly on par with a Michael Moore opus. Indeed, although the “obesity denialists'” attacks on it are overblown, some of them are partially correct in that Spurlock’s movie stretched the science a bit more than I’m comfortable with. Also remember: The plural of “anecdote” is not “data.” That Spurlock had health problems from one month of McDonalds is an anecdote. I could easily point to the example of an old guy I saw interviewed around the time Super-Size Me came out who had eaten at McDonald’s nearly every day for 30 years (and, in fact, had eaten most of his meals at McDonald’s during that time). He was thin and in perfect health, and that anecdote would tell us just as much as Spurlock’s movie: Not a lot.

    Don’t get me wrong. I accept that obesity is a health risk and that food such as McDonald’s contributes to that, but Spurlock’s movie was more about “spin” than framing. It was a message movie, not a dispassionate treatment of the topic.

  2. #3 Lance
    April 18, 2008

    Well put Orac. You just went up a notch in my estimation. I have also eaten McDonald’s at least twice a week for over thirty years and have low blood pressure and low blood cholesterol. While my weight occasionally fluctuates between slightly underweight and slightly overweight it does so quite independently of my rather constant McDonald’s intake.

    As you said this is only anecdotal evidence but it is certainly no less valid than Spurlock’s idiotic “Super Size Me” diatribe.

  3. #4 Genuinely Doug
    April 18, 2008

    In what way was Super-Size Me great? For falsely confirming the publics ill-conceived notion that fast food is to blame for all of our health and obesity problems? No, that movie didn’t enlighten, it obscured the truth.

    Perhaps Morgan Spurlock can make an objective documentary based on your book, but based on his documentary Super Sized Me, I find it very unlikely.

  4. #5 rjb
    April 19, 2008


    I disagree a bit with what you’re saying about Supersize me. The point of nearly all documentaries is to look at case studies. And of course he had an agenda and it’s not really scientific. But I didn’t get that feeling watching the movie. Also, he did have an interview with a guy who had eaten at McD’s every single day (I think it was a Big Mac or something like that for something like 10-20 years or so) and that guy didn’t have any serious health problems. So I actually thought he kinda did show that your mileage may vary when eating fast food.

    But sure, he did skew things to make a point. I agree it was a propaganda piece, and he is starting to be seen as a junior Michael Moore (based on reviews of his new Osama Bin Laden movie), so I think he may not be the best person to take an objective look at the RWOS.

  5. #6 Norman Doering
    April 19, 2008

    Morgan Spurlock was not a good match for your book. His movies tend to involve himself in his experiments and explorations and he wouldn’t have been able to do that easily with “The Republican War on Science.”

    Also, his point about how it would have been a great film to make 3 or 4 years ago but “it’s not as relevant now” does hit on the fact that your book’s data isn’t as current as it could be. Perhaps you need to pitch a new project where “The Republican War on Science” is only the starting point and you follow up on what has happened since then.

    Have you considered pitching such a project more directly to Hollywood production companies?

    Would you consider a title change that would make it sound less partisan? Perhaps something like: “The War on Reality.”

  6. #7 Colugo
    April 19, 2008

    By God, you can take our freedom but you’ll never take our Big Macs.

    The appropriate – that is, fair and relevant – frame for Supersize Me would have been the dangers of overeating, but from what I could gather the whole point was to scapegoat McDonald’s.

    Some populations have very high intake of animal fats and have low cholesterol and low blood pressure. Why? Lower caloric intake and lots of exercise.

  7. #8 Lance
    April 21, 2008

    Give me Egg McMuffins or give me death!

    Mayor McCheese for president!

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