Fast Food Nation: A missed opportunity for mass messaging

ffnation.jpgYounger kids and tweens who got the ‘Ewwwwwwwww” impact of the documentary “SuperSize Me” may enjoy the teen targeted MTVU clip for Fast Food Nation, but that’s about as far as they’ll want to venture due to the handling of this “R” rated film. (see reviews)

Fast Food Nation could’ve EASILY turned down the volume on the 20+ “F” word mumblings and sex-drugs-n-gore to cop a PG-13 rating without missing an iota of the dark-side of ‘big food’ ethics, immigrant labor and socioeconomic realities.

A few mere tweaks of the film could’ve served up a healthier worldview, inspired direct action, and cut a MUCH wider swath in audience share.

Swap innuendo for graphics, keep the edgy film noir effect, and voila, a poignant, important film served up with an order of angst & action-steps to go. But they blew it.

They could’ve reached kids and teens worldwide with a powerful, much-needed message and a ‘wicked smart’ counter-marketing tool. Somewhere I guarantee there’s a teen texting a pal, ‘bummer, dude, save your ten bucks.’

Talk about a lost opportunity and a missed ‘call to action.’

Too bad…Big stars. Huge morality message. Solid storyline.

But with only 11 people in the theater opening night I dare say it’s the ‘feel bad’ movie of the year. Too glum for escapism. Too gross for date night. Too raunchy for snack-snarfing teens who need it the most.

It’s a shame to miss the mainstream on this one, because we’re in deep quicksand as a Fast Food Nation, and kids nationwide are paying the price with their health.

One look at trade journal QSR (Quick Serve Restaurant) reinforces this, showing 48% of consumers base their decision on where to eat at least partly on the availability of a drive-through option and 39% of consumers use a drive-through at least once a week.

Add America’s “have and have not” labor pool wedge, the sociological, economic, environmental, and skyrocketing obesity figures, and the film’s profound implications sound a resonant blue note.

Shaping Youth uses media to counter-market from the inside out, so I’d argue this film didn’t have to be that way. They could have kept the integrity of the seedy cinematic underbelly, while igniting a spark within kids to rage against the machine.

We all know kids and media have the paired capacity to create flash mobs of action, shift the zeitgeist of culture, and wage a peer revolution if they choose to get behind a concept in full force…but they have to be onboard.

This could have been an uplifting rallying cry…(burgers? ‘we don’t need no stinkin’ burgers!) …

…instead of a downer. (we’re all cogs in a machine, ‘life sucks, reality bites,’ gimme my chicken nuggets!) sigh.

Imagine the ‘ewwww’ of peer buzz, making it ‘uncool’ to eat junk food without contributing to the problem…

Think of the potential for teens to shift behaviors and habits in rebel defiance…

Envision kids’ complete disgust of power and profit seeping into a full blown role reversal where children teach adults how to eat healthier.

Hey, I can dream, can’t I? Bring on those windmills to fence, Cervantes…

Bottom line? The film had a brilliant opportunity to use the power of media for positive change, and didn’t.

I’m not saying pander Pollyanna style to create a PG-13 make-believe Hollywood hero movie, I’m saying we missed a profound opportunity to flip the momentum favorably.

All the labor inequities, immigration concerns and poverty messages aren’t whisked away with upbeat happy chat. And there’s a junk food epidemic that’s burying this generation of kids quite literally.

I totally get that.


If we instill a strong sense of agency, reminding kids their choices, behaviors, attitudes and actions CAN make a difference, youth has a funny way of turning the tide when you least expect it.

Example…the drama of the film’s downbeat ending is powerful. It has a ‘here we go again’ perpetuation that’s frighteningly surreal.

But where can we go with that?

Instead of placing the notion of ‘it’ll always be this way, deal’ what if we break the cynical cycle and order up some hope into the mix? Otherwise, we might as well toss in the towel, order some greasy fries and keep pace with a lemming death march into inevitability.

Many a college dorm is papered with Gandhi’s, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

This film had an untapped opportunity with THOSE kids, and clearly missed it.



  1. just watched Fast Food Nation, it’s an impactful flick to say the least… earlier today i passed up a sausage mcmuffin because of it. Evidently it is worth passing up fast food for more than health reasons.

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