30 Days - FX
created & narrated by
a kate west reflection
The ground-breaking documentary "Super Size Me" turned the fast food industry upside down when Director/Creator Morgan Spurlock devoted 30 days of eating nothing but McDonald's food. The resulting alarming and terrible health problems shocked audiences into giving up their Big Macs (at least temporarily) and cut short the month-long dare. His doctors forbade him to continue.
Not only did Spurlock get his message through loud and clear, but he was inspired to start a spin-off television series, "30 Days", in which someone spends 30 days doing something contrary to their nature or beliefs in an effort to walk in someone else's shoes or just sharing a life experience like working as a coal miner or a living as a disabled person for a whole month. Past shows also include a Christian living in a Muslim household and a Pro-Lifer living with gay parents and even a month in the life of a heartbreaking immigrant family. Regular people are the new protagonists, although Spurlock still does the occasional month and all shows end up showing us an aspect of our society we never thought about before.
The most poignant episode to date has to be Morgan Spurlock's 30 days on a Native American reservation. We're all familiar with America's sordid history: slavery, WWII interments and of course Native American genocide. But to most of us, all that exists in the past and present day atrocities are more along the international lines of Middle East turbulence, African genocides and the September 11 attacks that may or may not have anything to do with the Middle East turbulence (go ahead and guess). But what we don't think about is the fact that there are still left over reservations in this country in dire straits and even when we do think about them, it's usually not out of concern for the people's welfare.
Morgan Spurlock spends 30 days with the Navajo Nation on a reservation with no running water and very few jobs. In Gallup, New Mexico, he lives with a family heavily involved in the rodeo circuit whose endearing grandmother speaks no English and still lives in the traditional way. The entire population (over 20,000 in 2000) has only 25 available jobs compared to the hundreds of jobs in similar neighboring Texan cities. The young people are fast losing the language and as Spurlock tries to learn the native tongue from a local teacher, she tears up telling him she doubts her children would carry on that tradition.
Although gambling is against their spiritual beliefs, the Navajo have little choice but to cave in to the allure of Indian Gaming. Casinos will bring in much needed money to this desperately cash-poor section of Americans. It's not ideal, but the reservations just do not provide a proper standard of living. After hundreds of years of abuse, we are still neglecting our indigenous people, the most forgotten segment of our nation. So many Native Americans suffer from poverty, drug abuse and alcoholism, that there does not seem to be an easy way out of such a long period of neglect. In spite of all this, amazingly enough, Spurlock also found that (at least within the host family) there still exists deep respect for our environment and a universal spiritualism promoting peace with our surroundings. He experiences a profound vision in a sweat lodge and is revived in both spirit and soul. After a tough transition back to the concrete cities, he resolves to keep part of that adventure intact and continues to practice earthly prayers.
A simplistically short viewpoint, to be sure, but the show reaches a vast audience as quite the devastating look at our society. And Morgan Spurlock's obvious affection and emotional ties to the people he meets are particularly effective. No one should be able to watch without a subtle shift in perception. Hopefully, we'll all be properly shamed into finally trying to be part of the solution. It's out there somewhere. By the way, if you are moved to help out, be sure to contact a reputable organization, as there are a few unscrupulous outfits preying on bleeding hearts. Do your research first. Peace.
Watch video segments of all seasons/episodes here:
The movie that started it all:
Super Size Me
Dances with Wolves - Extended Cut (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
Little Big Man
Black Elk Speaks, New Edition
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West
Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two
Trail of Tears