Saturday, May 31, 2014

Fed Up (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Fed Up

In what might seem a nutritional horror film claustrophobically envisioned by Roman Polanski and Lars von Trier where M&Ms attack in a deluge, creating a wall of deceptively cheerful but enervating Lego blocks and soda gurgles up in acidic malevolence like the snow depicted in the films "Antichrist" and "Nymphomaniac," here is director Stephanie Soechtig's "Fed Up," specifically about the ubiquity of processed foods and how this amalgamated animal is killing us.

Sugar in all its forms is a white winter queen and childhood obesity is an epidemic.

Brady Kluge is a teen in North Carolina. He is overweight but active and has tried everything. Girls have teased him, wanting Brady to run as he is the fattest in class.

Maggie Valentine is another. She has also tried to lose, exercising compulsively, swimming three times a week, but in vain. Maggie's self esteem is crushed and she often cries. Wesley Randall is yet one more. He is nearly a hundred pounds overweight. Randall has the attitude of a scientist, eerily self aware despite his youth.

All of these kids have sought medical help. The professionals urge dietary changes and exercise, a withdrawal of sugar and fat.

Little helps. One singular teen scarily achieves desperate success by opting for bariatric surgery.

The consensus of the experts depicted in this film are that our government food machine is insidious and very out to get us. Corn syrup is a sucrose lie that changes shape with the ability to assume many forms like a finger licking Lucifer usurping our strength and changing our metabolic processes. A calorie from an almond according to officials cited is not the same as a calorie from a seductive and devilishly labeled Coke or Pepsi. An almond has fiber to break down the sugar, but a soft drink is highly concentrated without fiber. The liquid goes right to the liver and puts all organs in overdrive, furiously producing fat. According to the film, our metabolism and hormone levels become changed with three dangers very possible: obesity, diabetes and cancer.

But all was not always gloom and doom. In the mid 1960s, George McGovern helmed a very proactive study, telling of these toxins and suggesting regulations. The industries of meat and sugar banded together to squash the study, deflecting attention away from processed foods and putting it into exercise, diet and personal responsibility.

Walter Cronkite subtly plugged sugar as well as TV shoes not to mention the benevolent attack of cartoons on Saturday morning. The 1970s brought the Pop Art age of sugar, the sinister and sweet.

President Bill Clinton appears, apologetically to his credit, to say he missed an opportunity and underestimated the processed food threat.

The Obama administration while seeming at first to be unabashedly radical in its wanting to impose well needed and stringent restrictions on school lunches, scared the GOP and food lobbyists. The once revolutionary minded Michelle Obama has accepted help from sugar and meat industries and now the emphasis is on the symptom of obesity itself rather than the root cause which is food itself. In the refusal to correctly name our demon, the exorcism is futile, leaving an empty glucose of glossolalia behind.

Journalist and cultural food critic Michael Pollan is the film's priest and rightly so. His message is simple: "Cook. Don't eat processed foods."

But the engine of highly manipulated  food, like our hunger for consumerism, grinds on with a supernatural power. In watching "Fed Up", it is hard not to feel as if we are already submerged by sugar's refined Juggernaut of many faces.

While its true that some of the film borrows from "Super Size Me" in the way the children are metabolically menaced, the constrictive peril is original and daring. We feel the blight.

As a young boy, my dad took me to see Ronald McDonald at a mall. His seemingly yellow suit hit me like a smile.

"Hey, what took you so long! I've been waiting for you."

It was an odd moment due to his familiarity, coupled with the contrast of the bright baggy suit he wore against the gray New Jersey mall.

I hesitated. Perhaps it was not all in summer cheer, maybe he had ulterior motives: to get me indoctrinated, to get me hooked despite time spent in my mom's garden.

In watching "Fed Up" we might not know of a fail safe solution, but in this's technologically tactile, yet abstract age, the path is clear enough.

Let us dare to feel our food.

Write Ian at

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