On some level, we all know that almost everything we see at the movies is bullshit, from the amount of bullets a person can take without dying to what the job of pizza delivery boy actually entails. Except documentaries. Documentaries are where we turn off the snark and open our minds to learn about distant lands, alarming realities, and how much McDonald's a dude can eat.
However, it turns out that some of the most acclaimed documentaries ever are about as real as Borat.
6Super Size Me -- Nobody Can Replicate the Results
This is the movie that made you swear you'd never set food in a McDonald's again (until the next time you drove by one). For 30 days, Morgan Spurlock decided he would only eat food sold by McDonald's. He had to eat everything on the menu at least once, had to have three meals a day, and would only Supersize when offered. He documented the bizarre and terrifying changes his body went through while eating what according to science is not actual food.
Medical experts confirmed that his thong remained just as douchey.
In one scene, this nice doctor tells Spurlock he's been eating an average of 5,000 calories a day, even though he only Supersized 9 in 30 meals. At the end of the documentary, Spurlock had not only gained a bunch of weight and seen his cholesterol go through the roof (as you'd expect), but also had severe liver damage, as well as mood swings and depression.
Here's the thing: No one has been able to replicate Spurlock's results, and even basic math disputes the claim that his McDiet consisted of 5,000 calories a day.
Via JEFF KRAVITZ/FILMMAGIC
And apparently gave him a big ol' case of mean-muggin'.
As Tom Naughton points out in his documentary, Fat Head, there's simply no way Spurlock could have been eating that much food if he was sticking to his own rules. A large Big Mac meal clocks in at "just" 1,450 calories, and it's by far one of the fattiest items on the menu. This means that even Supersizing lunch and dinner every day and adding dessert falls well short of the 5,000 calories a day Spurlock's nutritionist claims he was consuming. In an effort to find out just exactly what the hell, Naughton attempted to contact Spurlock to obtain his food log, but Spurlock (who makes a huge deal in his documentary about McDonald's never calling him back) never called him back.
Meanwhile, researchers from the Making Sure Movies Aren't Stupid department of Sweden's University of Linkoping tried to replicate Spurlock's experiment by tasking healthy college students with the challenge of eating 6,000 calories of fast food per day, inadvertently also answering the question "What's the easiest way to get guinea pigs ever?" At the end of the 30 days, the students had none of the liver or cholesterol troubles Spurlock reported. According to the guy in charge of the experiment (aka an actual scientist, not the guy who created MTV's I Bet You Will), the students' metabolism was able to adapt to the extra amount of food they were eating. They did feel more tired, but none of them experienced the mood swings and depression Spurlock claimed to have endured.
Probably due to the fact that they were eating for the first time in weeks.
So either Spurlock slightly exaggerated his results, or he had an amphetamine addiction he left on the cutting room floor.
5Waiting for "Superman" -- Charter Schools Kind of Suck, Too
Waiting for "Superman" is one of those documentaries that made everyone who watched it instantly call their friends and tell them they had to drop everything they're doing and see it right away. Even President Obama declared himself a huge fan.
According to this award-winning film, only 20 to 35 percent of eighth graders in the U.S. read at grade level, an alarming statistic that explains so much of the Internet. It follows a number of families as they try to get into charter schools, which offer a free alternative to the crushing bureaucracy that is killing our public education system. Tragically, not all of the families get in, damning those kids to schools where they'll hopefully at least be taught how to tell when their pimp is cutting their crack with too much baking soda.
Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images
"Wait, are you sure this is crack? It looks like antibiotics."
Waiting for "Superman" was all about improving the country's education, but it's so poorly researched and one-sided that it might actually be making things worse.
Let's start with that "only 20 to 35 percent can read well" statistic: The real number is closer to about 75 percent. Also, you might remember a throwaway line about how only 1 in 5 charter schools performs better than public schools -- yeah, that's sort of a big deal, movie. Thirty-seven percent of charters actually perform worse.
Unfortunately the director went to a charter school, so math isn't his greatest strength.
The film focuses on the charters that perform better, of course, but at least one of those is achieving its results through fishy means. One of the administrators of a school shown in the film, the Harlem Children's Zone, expelled an entire class of children that he feared would throw off his glowing performance statistics. It turns out that when teacher pay and/or school funding is tied to student performance, a model that the film advocates, it opens the door for all kinds of shady shit, including flat-out expelling low-performing students the day before the test to boost their numbers.
In the movie, not getting into a charter school is the worst thing that can happen to a poor family, but studies have shown that school choice itself matters little to a student's success -- shockingly, it's more about how seriously the students themselves and their families take their education. And that ghetto public school might not actually be so bad: According to administrators from Woodside High School, which the film claims only sends a third of its students to college and only graduates 62 percent of them, the film excluded students who go to out-of-state colleges in their statistics, and their graduation rate is more like 92 percent. Shit, being left behind is starting to sound awesome.
"Yep, you've graduated! Now please get out of our school."