Morgan Spurlock Had a Complicated Legacy

Filmmaker prompted a backlash against fast food, though a temporary one
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2024 2:13 PM CDT
Morgan Spurlock's Complicated Legacy
Morgan Spurlock poses at the Los Angeles premiere of his film "Super Size Me" in April 2004.   (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The death of documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock from complications of cancer at age 53 has prompted some early assessments about his career and the impact he made. A look:

  • Spurlock "captured the zeitgeist" with Super Size Me in 2004, which grossed more than $22 million despite its $65,000 budget, per Variety. Spurlock famously ate only McDonald's for a month to highlight the risks of a fast-food diet, ending the stretch about 25 pounds heavier and diagnosed with liver ailments, per the Washington Post. He says he also had depression and a diminished libido.

  • Film controversy: Spurlock drew flak because he refused to release his daily logs of food intake, and researchers could not replicate his results in studies, per the New York Times. Years later, Spurlock also revealed that he was drinking regularly—"I haven't been sober for more than a week in 30 years," he wrote in 2017—a fact he didn't disclose to the audience or his doctors.
  • Film impact: Still, Super Size Me prompted a backlash against the fast-food industry, though perhaps a temporary one. The AP suggests chains haven't changed much "nutritionally" 20 years later. And the Times notes that 36% of Americans eat fast food at least daily, and McDonald's stock is at an all-time high.
  • Controversy, II: In the same 2017 statement in which he acknowledged his drinking, Spurlock also described himself as part of the #MeToo problem as he catalogued instances of his own sexual misconduct. He stepped down from the production company he co-founded, Warrior Poets. "The revelations effectively ended his career," per the Post.
  • Other projects: Spurlock also made Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! about the chicken industry, as well as films and TV series about a range of topics, including the hunt for Osama bin Laden (Where In the World Is Osama Bin Laden), immigrant labor and prison (30 Days), and marketing (The Greatest Movie Ever Sold).
  • Family: The West Virginia native is survived by two sons, Laken and Kallen; parents Ben and Phyllis Spurlock; brothers Craig and Barry; and former spouses Alexandra Jamieson and Sara Bernstein, the mothers of his children, per the AP.
(More Morgan Spurlock stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.