The wife and I went out to see Fast Food Nation last Friday. (Date night! Exciting! Actually, it was a matinee. It’s cheaper you know.) I went having read the book and mostly with the skewed understanding that there was no way they would ever be able to cover all that material in a movie. I also have read plenty of other books about immigration, peak oil, meatpacking and the Omnivore’s Dilemma. My wife hasn’t read Fast Food Nation and is oblivious to most of the Omnivore’s Dilemma, save for the rantings and ravings of this fat guy. It should be an interesting study in different perspectives. You have my fat guy pledge that we did not collaborate in any way on these reviews. I wrote mine. She wrote hers. Then I copied them into the blog browser. The only thing I changed were words that might have been spelled wrong or grammar errors.
I was mostly pleased with the movie. They took the part of the book with the ability to most directly impact an average consumer and showed it. But they didn’t just show it (the meat) but also the tentacles surrounding and feeding it.
The problem I have is that they focused on a few of the tentacles so much that they starved some of the other tentacles. I thought these tentacles had the potential for a larger impact. The primary focus of the movie was on the meatpacking industry and it’s exploitation of illegal workers and feedlots for their cattle. They touched just slightly on other aspects of the fast food industry such as low paid workers, artificial flavorings, allegiance to the car and contribution to sprawl. I think the areas that weren’t touched are the areas that have the most potential for an education impact. The problem is that they have the smallest chance of having an impact on the general public. Only after someone takes off the initial large curtain surrounding the meatingpacking industry can they then throw off these other smaller curtains.
Perhaps the movie is aimed at the general person who hasn’t pulled back the first curtain yet, and if so I think the movie succeeds wonderfully in that regard. But I think the movie doesn’t really reflect the Fast Food Nation the way the book does. I thought perhaps a more apt title for the movie would be something related to the meat packing biz or Fast Food Hamburger or something.
I also thought the college round table for environmental action was a little strange. It didn’t really seem to have a point. Perhaps it was trying to suggest to the viewer that when you sit around and talk about what you want to do nothing gets done. You need to do something actionable. In the movie they tried to release the cows from the feedlots. In real life you can do something actionable by avoiding these places and changing your eating habits. Perhaps that was the moral, and if so, it certainly wasn’t all that clear. I did like Ethan Hawke’s part in the movie and his role in this environmental action group’s plans.
For me personally, reading the chapter about artificial flavorings totally changed the way I looked at food in general, not just fast food. But in the movie they barely touched on this subject. Perhaps it’s too difficult to look at artificial flavorings and consciously think about how much of the food you are eating doesn’t really taste like it tastes to you. It has simply had flavorings added to it so that chemically your mind thinks it’s eating something it isn’t. To me, this manipulation of the chemical characteristics of the human brain is totally wrong. Just completely wrong. And it caused me to become a cynic and completely question the whole thing. Is that sauce on the McRib really BBQ sauce or someone’s amalgaram of liquid like things colored brown and injected with BBQ flavoring? Is that all BBQ sauce in general is? What’s real anymore? How do I know that any sauce I buy is really the way that sauce tastes if artificial flavorings have been added? And shouldn’t the flavors be listed on the side so you know what they are? If you are dipping something into a sauce packet, and in order for the sauce to taste like Sweet and Sour Sauce they added sweet and sour flavorings to it wouldn’t you want to know that? As opposed to having actual sweet and sour sauce like is available at a Chinese restaurant that’s the “real” sauce? Hell, is that stuff even real sweet and sour sauce? I don’t know. Who knows what’s real anymore. My mind is just swimming on this simple subject.
All in all, I think the movie succeeded like Inconvenient Truth succeeded. It brings an issue that is mostly a cult/niche issue to the mainstream. And that’s important. When things go mainstream they will lose some of their details and also some of their forcefulness. It’s kind of a requirement to being mainstream. But that’s OK if the message stays the same, and the message here stayed the same. I would recommend that people go watch it. And I would recommend that you read the book, so you can get the rest of the story.
I thought “Fast Food Nation” was going to be a lot like “Supersize Me”. While the later of the two did disgust me, “Fast Food Nation” actually changed my entire view of food. “Supersize Me”, after all, was not that realistic. I mean, am I really going to eat at McDonalds EVERY single meal for a month and if the employee asks me if I want it supersized will I say “yes”? HECK NO!!!!! So, although “Supersize Me” was an informative documentary, it didn’t deter me from eating at the fast food chains.
Although “Fast Food Nation” had many different plots and didn’t really develop a strong story line, it got its message through to me. I am not one to read the newspaper or go hunting for information on the internet like my husband does. Therefore, most of my information comes second hand-through my family and friends-and I am left to make my own opinion. Since typically nothing really riles me up, I was shocked at the impact of this movie. I did not realize the amount of crap that goes into a burger. And when I say this, I mean it both literally and figuratively. When I go to McDonalds, I think to myself, “what can I get for the cheapest price so that my husband will not notice any money missing from the piggy bank?”. Now that I know what goes into making the burger, that thought literally makes me want to throw up. The movie shows people from Mexico being smuggled into the United States to live the “American Dream”. 10-15 people are housed up in a motel room trying to find a halfway decent job. Since meat companies don’t give a crap (pun intended) about employees, they hire these illegal immigrants. The immigrants are excited to be working there because they make more in one day than they make in an entire month in Mexico . However, after understanding how crappy the job is, they get into drugs to make the situation more tolerable. They sleep with other employees to get a better position within the plant and they are made to hurry so fast to get the job done that they get sloppy with their work. Not only do they get crap (literally) in the meat, but they become careless and get limbs cut off. Then the meat company finds any reason they can to make the employee responsible for the accident so that they can fire them and not have to pay the medical expenses. And as if this isn’t enough to make the viewer disturbed, they show the “big wigs” at the company that sells the meat being ok with all of it because they don’t want to loose their jobs. They know it is morally wrong to sell meat that is made under such conditions, but they don’t care because it is all about the bottom line. They need to produce a cheap burger to the public and they need to keep their job. Hence, the Fast Food Nation that we live in.
So, the next time you go to McDonald’s and order off the dollar menu, think about what went into making a DOLLAR burger. Workers at the meat plant making them that are mistreated and underpaid, corporate people that only care about the price of the burger and their job and the all around quality of the meat. Do you really want to support this? The more we order from these places, the more we promote what they are doing. I know I don’t want to promote this and I want to promote the true “American Dream”.
FGLB & FGLB’s wife