Critical Pedagogy and Super-Size Me

Critical pedagogic educator Ira Shore defines Critical Pedagogy as:
Habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant myths, official pronouncements, traditional cliches, received wisdom, and mere opinions, to understand the deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and personal consequences of any action, event, object, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter, policy, mass media, or discourse. (Empowering Education, 129)

On thursday, we watched some of the film Super-Size me. Dr. Rozema asked us to analyze the film personally and then assess its viability when it comes to critical pedagogy. We watched it as far as the part where they start talking about soda machines in schools. I have actually seen the whole movie myself, and it goes on to basically demonstrate the link between the media and how we eat, and determine that the McDiet is the equivalent of being an alcoholic when it comes to the liver. The movie also has all kinds of special features demonstrating the preservative qualities of McFood.
      My personal opinion on the film is that it lacks answers. I truly respect the film maker Morgan Spurlock and what he represents, but I do not feel like he solves anything in the film. Take for instance his diet. All that happens in the end is that he proves that if one person eats McDonald’s for a month it ruins their body. The problem with this is that it does not prove McD’s aims at people having a McDiet because he was doing it completely with an agenda. The thing I think he really does do well is what he does not really focus much on and that is what effect the media has on our choices. He states how many McD’s are in Long Island alone and then just leaves it alone. The focus, I think, should’ve been more on what effect the media has on children’s decisions later in life. Granted, it wouldn’t be as exciting, but it definitely would’ve proven a lot more than Morgan just getting himself unhealthy and fat. 
     As far as applying Super Size me to the Critical Pedagogy theory, I think it works in perfect. It definitely worked on me, even if it was me thinking about how he fails to answer important things that I felt should’ve been answered in the movie. I do think that the movie will challenge certain norms within society which is something students need with a media shoving the corporate world down their throat. I also think it’ll challenge students to weigh their options for lunch period and if the food they are eating is truly healthy for them. Regardless, though, I think the film is good in general because it demonstrates to students what happens when people make poor eating choices.
     Overall I really believe that showing this film in class would be a good idea. Though Morgan fails to demonstrate a deep valid point, I believe that the students will contemplate the points that he does make. Any kind of thinking or rationalizing beyond the surface is great for students, and if you can demonstrate this with something that is contemporary all the better.

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~ by thedarksideofdan on February 20, 2007.

5 Responses to “Critical Pedagogy and Super-Size Me”

  1. Dan- in some ways I agree with you…in that this movie does fit into Critical Pedagogy (I think our class discussion pointed that out effectively) and I also agree that Morgan Spurlock does a great job of pointing out a problem in America without giving answers. In light of all that however, I don’t feel that this film is the best example to use for the purpose of critical pedagogy. It is a little too vague and also at times quite rude to those who are overweight. While most adults in the college classroom setting are ok with how they look physically, many high school students are not. Additionally, I feel that just as those two young men interviewed in the movie responded to Spurlock with laughter and jokes, many high schoolers and middle schoolers would not comprehend the deeper message of the movie unless specifically programmed to do so. Teaching with this movie could very realistically spiral out of control. So while it is definitely not out of the question as a tool for teachers, I feel that it’s use should be tempered and specific. Most teachers can not handle that and like to use films as a diversion from actually teaching and this is one film I hope will never be used for that purpose.

  2. I agree that the movie does not do as good of a job as it could have on showing the job the media plays on sending people to McDonalds. It did imply a lot that the “choice” to go to McDonalds is not really much of a choice at all. I think that this movie can be used quite effectively within middle schools and high schools. As a teacher, you would need to explain that not all overweight people are overweight simply because they eat at McDonalds, they may have a glandular problem, or if they are high school or middle school age it may be that they have not lost their “baby fat.” If you have developed a classroom community I don’t think that it will be a problem for middle and high school students to tackle the issue of weight. In fact, it may be beneficial. Maybe the students who do not feel good about their body will take this film and attack it saying how poorly it represents struggles and reasons why people are overweight.

  3. I also see a lot of merits in your position, Dan. You essentially showed that films like “Super Size Me” can be effectively used to stimulate thought and writing as long as the films are truly seen with a critical eye. There is no reason why one could not use this film to initiate discussion on fact versus opinion, examining sources critically, and delving into the influences that the media has on our society. That, in my opinion, is the greatest thing that can come out of using resources such as “Super Size Me–” that they can lead to so many other tangents which, if placed in a safe, academic environment, could very well lead to relavent, personal discussion and writing topics, topics that would really interest students.

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