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Taste this life by size

Unless you live in a cave, under a rock, or in an Afghan bunker, you’ve probably heard of the 2004 documentary “Super Size Me.” This riveting film follows director Morgan Spurlock as he embarks on 30 days eating nothing but McDonald’s kitchen as he explores America’s obesity problem. The humorous but thought-provoking documentary was praised by critics and audiences and deservedly won an Academy Award nomination (unfortunately, it lost to “Born into Brothels,” which I heard is a good movie, but not that interesting. or entertaining).

Morgan has built on his big screen success and created a documentary television series for FX. “30 Days” takes the concept of “Super Size Me” with a broader scope: it examines what it’s like to live someone else’s life for 30 days. Each episode follows someone who puts their daily routine on hold for a month and steps into a different lifestyle. For example, in the first few episodes we are given a glimpse of what it would be like to be a devout Christian living as a Muslim and a Midwest homophobic living in the heart of gay culture in the Castro district of San Francisco (both of which sounds like very interesting premises).

Always a volunteer for human experiments, Morgan accepted the challenge of the premiere episode and dragged his fiancée, Alexandra (Alex) Jamieson, along on the journey. The mission was to see what it would be like to live on the minimum wage for 30 days. So after Morgan and Alex attended the 2005 Academy Awards, they left their comfortable lifestyles in New York City and moved to Columbus, Ohio, to live a (temporary) life of poverty. Ohio was selected because the state was a good representation of the difficulties America faces today, losing 250,000 jobs in the last 4 years (yikes!).

Going into this experiment, Morgan established three rules that they had to follow: each of them would have a minimum wage contract, all of their credit cards and bank accounts had to be frozen for the duration, and each would start with cash equal to a week’s worth of money. money. minimum working wage (that’s $ 206, but only $ 178.47 after taxes). I don’t know about you, but the very thought of slaving a full-time job but still living below the poverty line is enough for this (relatively) spoiled child to avoid this little ordeal like the plague. Fortunately for us, Morgan and Alex are soldiers and they sacrificed to open some eyes.

The opening day of Morgan and Alex’s adventure was dedicated to finding a place to live. After a day of searching for expensive shacks, they settled in a dirty, ant-infested apartment dump above a crevice den in an area called Bottoms (only the district name should express how bad the living arrangements were) ). For $ 325 a month, you get what you pay for I guess. They were lucky enough to find a sympathetic landlord who allowed them to pay just $ 200 upfront and make payments on the remaining $ 125 of rent and the $ 325 security deposit (something tells me the landlord is usually not that nice, but he did some concessions when he saw television cameras). The place is dirty, icy, and unfurnished, but what the heck; it is a roof over their heads.

The second day brought the job search with it. Alex ended up taking up a position occupying tables and washing dishes in a cafeteria (which is an improvement over the huge sacrifice this vegan chef would have had to make had she settled for one of the fast food jobs she applied for), and Morgan signed with a temp agency that would hire him on day laborer assignments. In fact, it was kind of cute to see how excited these two got when they got together at the end of the day and shared their (good?) Employment News.

Throughout the month, the daily routine of each of our subjects begins to wear them down. Alex is tired, cold, and grumpy, and Morgan is feeling a bit bummed because he works 11 hours a day and brings home only $ 45.26. After taxes, he made about $ 4.20 an hour, well below the minimum wage even though he “made” $ 7.00 an hour. To make matters worse, they each needed a trip to the ER (her: urinary tract infection; him: wrist damage from yard work) and take the charges, as neither of them have insurance. doctor. This is where things got comical (a bit of sarcasm for you): Alex’s hospital bill of $ 438 included a $ 300 charge just for using the ER, while Morgan faced a bill of $ 779, including $ 551 to walk in the door and $ 40 for medical supplies, which was a simple, average, everyday bandage … completely ridiculous. One can only hope that an exhibit like this sheds some light on the parody that is our healthcare system and that something is done about it (yeah right, and monkeys can fly off my butt).

To further complicate this journey through poverty, Morgan takes a second job in an attempt to get more greenbacks, but ends up straining his relationship with Alex because he is absent 18 hours a day. Couples making $ 25,000 a year or less are twice as likely to get divorced as those making more than $ 50,000, so it’s no wonder many people take on additional jobs to make ends meet. The problem is that working overtime for the extra money means less time at home with the family … the best catch 22. Morgan and Alex even “borrowed” their niece and nephew for a couple of days during the experiment, And the additional financial strain brought on by the kids was mind-boggling. This single man and father of none (more than two cats and a plant) cannot imagine trying to survive in these circumstances (again, thanks Morgan and Alex for doing it for me and conveniently putting it on my TV so that I can live vicariously).

Interspersed with the daily activities of their new lives, Morgan shared some nuggets of information that were likely new and challenging to many in the audience. A couple of these facts really caught my attention. First, the standard federal minimum wage of $ 5.15 an hour has not changed since 1997. The cost of living has skyrocketed during that time period, although the law that was designed to keep citizens out of poverty does not change. with the. Every year Senator Ted Kennedy sends a bill to Congress seeking a minimum wage increase, and each year it is rejected because it is believed that the increase would force employers to cut jobs. As Congress continues to trample on the little people, they have seen fit to pass $ 27,000 salary increases for themselves … completely ridiculous, once again.

Second, and on a more positive note, I learned that there are actually nice people in this world (watch the news daily and you will tend to think otherwise). When Morgan and Alex got tired of sitting on the ground eating with the ants, they sought out organizations to provide assistance to those in need. It turns out that Columbus has a network of charities that help the working poor with their basic living needs. A short distance from your slum … uh … I mean apartment, is the Westside Free Store, a church-run store where everything is totally free. Steve Rodgers is the founder of the Free Store and collects donations like toys, clothes, dishes, furniture, food / snacks, etc. for those who cannot afford such basic pleasures with their meager wages. It is truly inspiring to see good-hearted people treat citizens with the respect they deserve … something the government seems to know nothing about. If you’re feeling inspired, you don’t have to live in Columbus, Ohio to help those in need. You can do this from the comfort of your own computer on websites like, which has a donation program called ShareThing that allows users to donate to charities and receive a tax-deductible receipt in return – a situation where everyone win. all the world.

In the end, Morgan and Alex survive their ordeal (I classify it as an ordeal by the time they reach the finish line) with their sanity and relationship intact. I don’t claim to be the most socially conscious individual on this planet, but this series was eye-opening for me and I can only hope it has opened the eyes of many others; enough to demand some changes and get on the right track to end poverty. Morgan and Alex, you are brave souls … thanks for grabbing one for the team, and I hope more than an entertaining hour of television will come out of it.

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