Tuesday, July 12, 2005

30 Days

I just watched two episodes of Morgan "Super-Size Me" Spurlock's new show on FX called 30 Days. They were both fantastic. The synopsis of the show is posted below:

From Academy Award nominee Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) comes 30 Days, a new series where Morgan will explore what life changing experiences are possible in 30 days. The concept for the show stemmed from the transformation Spurlock underwent when he ate nothing but fast food for 30 days in his movie Super Size Me. In this new FX series, Morgan Spurlock asks the question, what would happen if people spend 30 days living in someone else’s shoes? Find out the answer as he brings you 30 life changing days in one hour focusing on topics such as minimum wage, anti-aging strategies, and binge drinking.

The episodes I saw dealt with a conservative, straight army reservist going to live with a gay man in the "gayest" place in America, the Castro in San Francisco, and a Christian from West Virginia going to live as a Muslim among the largest population of Muslims in America in Dearborne, Michigan. What I liked about the episodes I saw was that they explored two issues that are controversial and common in America - homophobia and religious/racial prejudice. In both instances the theme was treated with respect and not sensationalized or exploited. The drama from the show comes in the form of honest, straighforward testimonials from the subjects as they deal with the issues they encounter as they live in someone else's shoes for 30 days.

Spurlock brings his documentary filmmaking style to the hour long show, providing background information when needed in the form of informative cartoons or interviews with experts and others that he conducts himself. However, he really stands back and lets the human story shine - allowing people and their experiences to speak for themselves. When the conservative homophobe basically tells his gay host that he'd be willing to go to war with him or when the Christian man experiences the hostility and stares he receives when dressed in traditional Muslim garb - the moments are powerful yet genuine.

In general, the show helps raise issues with prejudice and ignorance, while also bringing to light questions that it doesn't pretend to know the answers to. In the Muslim in America show, a dinner table discussion turns into a debate about what role American Muslims should play in condemning or apologizing for the terrorist acts performed by fellow Muslims. The issue isn't answered neatly - but rather fittingly interrupted by the Muslim call for prayer and left for the viewer to think about on their own.

While the other show topics don't sound necessarily as socially controversial, I'm very impressed with the show and will defintiely be tuning in to see regular people experience life in a new way. I hope the show generates meaningful dialogue about these various issues in a way that mainstream media has recently failed to encourage in the American public. Judging from the message boards on the site (which some of the subjects participate in) - it is doing just that.

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