“Killer at Large” and intellectual dishonesty

Killer at Large is a 2008 “documentary” about obesity. I cannot recommend it any more than I could recommend reading a tabloid newspaper for actual news.

About half way through the film, we witness Governor Schwarze-muscle announcing one of the first bans on junk foods in schools – “This will be the toughest school nutrition reformation in the nation,” he proclaims. “We are going to terminate obesity in California once and for all.”

Then comes a scene which one reviewer describes as “Perhaps the most outrageous scene in Killer at Large….  The setting is the perimeter of an enclosed yard; it’s around noon.  A whole gaggle of kids, between eight and ten years old, are pressed up against a chain link fence, grasping through the links to procure some meager sustenance from altruistic aid workers who are unloading supplies of food from stacks of boxes. There’s a certain mad desperation to it all, like we are watching bare survival at its most primal and basic.”

“Is this some sort of refugee camp in a war torn Third World country?” he asks. “Some horrible prison for children in some benighted corner of the globe, far from America? In fact no, it’s an elementary school in California, and the adults handing food to the children are concerned parents. But the “who” involved is not the real shocking part – it’s what they are passing to them:  piles and piles of junk food – cookies, candy, soda, etc.”

Well, the “who” here does matter, I think. Because this particular scene is NOT from Hollywood High, as we are led to believe by the narrator. Here are a few shots from the actual movie:

If, like me, you have been keeping up with the doings of a certain Mr. Jamie Oliver over the years, you’ll very quickly recognise this exact scene as that of the infamous “sinner ladies” who were demonised for selling “junk” to school children after they refused to eat the “healthy” meals that Mr. O helped to put in their canteens. It was The Sun that published the infamous picture in the UK in 2006, which unfortunately I cannot reprint here without permission (!!), but you can click here to see it for yourself.

This one is from The Daily Mail:

The other reason that this was so easy to identify (and therefore seriously sloppy plagiarism) is because Julie Critchlow, the short-haired blond woman, went on to become a bit famous for getting an apology from Jamie Oliver for badmouthing her, and for becoming one of the main players in his Ministry of Food series. Here they are in the first episode sharing a spot of curry in her living room:

But this is not about Jamie Oliver. This is about a piece of sensationalism posing as a documentary on obesity. Could I be overreacting? If we’re having a conversation about whether obesity really is a killer, and at large, then perhaps. There are some truths to those claims, and a small forged scene doesn’t detract from the facts.

But we have to seriously question ALL of the “facts” when it turns out that even one of them is manufactured. Yes, that scene did take place, but in a different time and place, and it is dishonest and shameful to present it as otherwise. Also, why bother? If obesity really is the killer at large that the filmmaker sets out to “document”, then why the need to falsify evidence at all?

Misrepresentation and intellectual dishonesty (or just laziness) are the real threats at large. How are we supposed to get anywhere with this kind of fakery making the rounds?

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