BELCHING UP THE AMERICAN DREAM - The Reykjavik Grapevine

BELCHING UP THE AMERICAN DREAM

BELCHING UP THE AMERICAN DREAM

Published September 3, 2004

The guy could talk about America for hours. Most of the jive is the familiar anti-corporation variety, but he definitely presents it with gusto. When he really gets going, you can tell that he has been doing a lot of interviews. “Fifteen hundred interviews so far… at least. About fifteen today,” he says. He goes from chatting about his life directly into orating about the film in a sort of pre-planned spiel.
But what can you expect from a guy who’s been travelling around the world and isn’t even close to being finished? He’s even carrying a dress shirt when I first meet him, the one he wore on the news, and in true docu-style form, it’s also one that he wears regularly in the film.
“Our American way of life has been franchised,” he says loudly, his interview-voice in top form, “and I think on a global level, people need to be asking themselves ‘Do we really want to look and taste just like America?’ I go to all these great cities, and I just think ‘Why does there need to be a KFC here?’ When people travel they should experience something beyond Starbucks.”
It’s a basic yet valid point, one that any American is virtually obliged to make upon entering a foreign city. Although I do love a good Starbucks, and you know, they’ve got those pamphlets about free trade, supporting Guatemalan family growers…
Morgan’s face lights up. “Oh man, you can’t be a journalist and buy Starbucks! Of course they have literature about free trade! But they have kids picking beans for a penny an hour in Guatemala, they’ve taken over a huge part of the land, come on!” Neither one of us knows if this is true, and we look at each other for a moment. But his general mantra is that you really can’t know what information is being hidden.
“And yes, my sex life is back to normal, thank you!” I love a good non-sequitur, but I have no idea what he’s talking about. Maybe he doesn’t remember that the movie hasn’t, at the time of the interview, opened here yet. I smirk and pretend to write it down. After all, he seems like a nice guy who’s just done a lot of interviews about hamburgers and liver failure.
Everyone grabs at a slice of the apple pie
The film has had amazing exposure for a little movie made for $65,000 (spare change compared to most movie budgets, and funded completely by Morgan himself). Even before the movie was released, a man in Reykjavík began eating only BooztBar products for 30 days, having been sponsored by the company to do so. “People with their agendas always jump on,” Morgan says with the most sarcastic tone I’ve heard yet, but he speaks in that assured way that makes what he’s saying seem like the most obvious thing in the world. “There are people doing that all over the place, probably 50 of them in America, in Holland, here…everybody has their own agenda and the last thing I’m gonna do is say that I support BooztBar or something.”
Yep, everyone always has their own agenda. We talk about the metaphorical guy who hears about Super Size Me while in a drive-thru and thinks, “I should have done that when I thought of it a year ago!” Morgan’s impression of this guy involves a flat-handed slap to his own forehead. We make the thwarted expression of the guy who had “eat only McDs” on his list right next to “invent hydroelectric phone” and a million other things. There’s always that person with endless big ideas who says ‘I thought of that before someone else did’ and ‘I should have acted on that back when I thought of it.’
But Morgan is big into such ideas, since that’s what Super Size Me was: an idea he had while sitting on the sofa, watching the news story of two obese American girls who were suing McDonalds for serving them such monstrous food. And acting on random, inspired ideas is, after all, the purest form of the American dream.
“Yeah, this is one reason why I love America. People have started grouping me with Michael Moore, saying that we are both making these anti-American films. But that’s not the goal of this movie at all. Documentary has become the last great medium of free expression, and our First Amendment right to express these kinds of things.”
The notion of the American dream, though frequently referenced in satirical ways in social/political films, really is the foundation of Morgan’s success with the film. The prevalence of this film is confirmation that one person can have a massive effect on such an overwhelming force as the fast food industry. And it seems that with the pursuit of the American dream, shock value doesn’t have to be left out. “I do hope it inspires people who have big ideas like that…and they see that it’s possible to run out there, follow through with it. I hope it affects that guy in the drive-thru who said ‘I thought of that too!’ I hope it empowers him.”
Selling indie america to iceland
Later in the evening I watch Morgan being interviewed on the news, wearing the special shirt. He´s lot more polished and smiley that he was before. I have to remember that this film really has brought a new kind of attention to these matters, and sure he should be proud.
At the opening of the film at Háskólabíó that evening, Morgan answers some questions, merging in his answers from the news. He pulls his girlfriend up on stage and says “Our sex life is back to normal, thank you!”

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