On Sunday, July 28th, I watched Morgan Spurlock's grandmother dying. I saw him stage conversations with his father and aunt concerning his grandmother's welfare. I saw him take a phone call from his father about his grandmother's failing condition on the side of the road, with the camera running, recording impeccable audio of the entire conversation. I was disgusted.
My wife and I began watching Inside Man from the first episode, in which Spurlock got hired for the day at California's top medical marijuana shop. I found Spurlock a very likeable guy with a knack for being whimsical while making a serious point. In a later episode, he joined up with some H2-Visa Mexicans to pick oranges. The series reminded me of Penn & Teller's Bullshit lite. And Spurlock himself Michael Moore lite.
When we learned Spurlock was going to be investigating elder care in the upcoming episode, we were both intrigued. I thought Spurlock would get himself hired for the day at an elder care facility and see, from the inside--as an 'inside man' ought to do--what goes into the care and costs of these facilities. My wife hoped he might touch on the issue of elder abuse. The subject was certainly very fertile.
Instead, Spurlock decided to spend the day with his grandmother and film it. From this footage, I have absolutely no doubt the man cares deeply for his family. Although I found it odd that the question of affordability and a depleting bank account was raised when Spurlock is probably the wealthiest documentarian in America. At any rate, I could see how he intended to integrate his own concerns about his grandmother into his investigation. However, the direction Spurlock takes is one for which I was not prepared and one I frankly find reprehensible.
After spending time with his grandmother and ostensibly moving the show along to the meat of the subject, Spurlock stages the aforementioned conversation with his father in which he learns his grandmother is now in the hospital. Immediately there are questions. Is it possible Spurlock filmed the footage of his grandmother and by pure coincidence she fell ill before the episode was complete? Did he stage his grandmother falling ill for his TV show? Did he have an inkling she would fall ill and decide to capitalize on it?
Whatever the case, Spurlock never really does capitalize on it in the sense of pursuing his point. There is no point, in fact. What follows is harrowing footage of Spurlock's family fretting in the hospital hallways while their beloved 'Tootie' may be on her deathbed. These scenes are nightmarishly similar to my own memories of my grandmother's last days and I certainly would never have wanted nor allowed a camera to record it all. I would not have wanted my family, at this vulnerable moment, to stage agonized conversations. I would not have wanted to show my grandmother in a state of lesser dignity.
Spurlock has no such quibbles. We see his grandmother babbling incoherently in bed. I did not want that image of a woman I found very charming. I don't deserve that intimacy. Yet this continues for the remainder of the episode until, at last, Spurlock shows the funeral. I watch in a stupor at Spurlock's lack of conscience; my wife shouts at the TV, 'Shame on you!'
Of course Spurlock did not kill his grandmother. Yet he used her dying and her death for a TV show. Staged hugs and kisses, false intimacy and very real grief are exploited--truly exploited--for this episode. I have no idea what Spurlock's purpose was. Was it misguided self-aggrandizement? Nothing was revealed about elder care. The woman's dignity was sullied for no greater purpose than filler.
Had Spurlock any integrity, he would have pursued an investigation into elder care facilities. He would have taken that phone call from his father in private. He would have been present at his grandmother's sickbed/deathbed in private. He would have grieved in private. And he would have ended the episode with a note about his grandmother's death after the earlier footage, perhaps tying it in with the episode's content.
Instead, we have this heinous bit of exploitation. Neither I nor my wife have plans to watch Inside Man ever again. Shame on Spurlock and shame on CNN for airing content without any merit.
What Do You Think?
Ella on February 03, 2016:
1- How do you know if he couldn't gain access to work at an elder care facility and maybe that's why he decided to film within his own family?
2- He asked interviewing questions to his family to HIGHLIGHT the difficulties that come with growing old and having to pay for it, often having to rely on your family members for help as well. He did show something about elder care: it's expensive and scary and unpredictable.
3- I'm pretty sure you can't plan an episode around someone's death or force it to happen just for television. The woman was fucking 91 years old and she fell ill 3 months after the initial filming. Do you think that just because an elderly person is fine one day their health will hold up the next day?
4- Spurlock illustrated the raw truth of what happens to these people that we all love to forget about and fear becoming. He didn't exploit his family member. He documented their struggle. Just because it wasn't what you would've wanted to see or something you agreed with doesn't mean you have the right to declare what his emotions or intentions were during that time.
5- Your entire article is basically saying "I have no evidence for the way I'm feeling, but it's how I feel."
6- Nice use of a clickbait title and a way to ruin someone's reputation just for a few views, by the way.
brittain on January 31, 2016:
I have lived this with my grandmother. However she did never have to be placed out of hime and I am grateful. This brought up good questions all families need to discuss. I found it to be truthful honest and a true portrait. I am grateful to this family for what they gave. I do not think he started this journey in the time frame knowing this would happen. Did it take over the episode yes however it was what happens in life. She was fortunate in many ways and she was alert to the activities. I am confident that his aunt and father could have stopped filming and an update could have been given in the end. This shows what happens this shows what family’s must talk about and prepare for. Again I am grateful for him and his family and Tottie. This is not a case of him making money for her benefit it was him showing real life events in real time. No emotions appeared to be fake. My only question was yes about money that if it was my grandmother and I had funds to do so I would have paid it. However consideration also needs to be taken in account of the proud his family may have his aunt and his father to take care of their mother themselves.
Rebecca on January 06, 2016:
I just watched this video and had to look up online whether or not any one had commented on it, I WAS BEWILDERED I am so glad somebody could put my thoughts into words better!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Danny on January 02, 2016:
The show deals with something we all have to deal with. it's pretty hard to prepare for the grief when it happens and he shared it, at least she had people there who loved her. As a former registered nurse I was the only one there to hold their hand and give some measure of comfort during a patient's last breath. While sad what was more disturbing to me was how some people dump their loved ones at the door and are never seen again. That sucks, I have lived a life full of adventure, wealth and happiness but now I have nothing but myself and my memories. I am proud to say I was there for those people when no one else was.
Tina on December 30, 2015:
I saw it and it was appalling how could anyone film their loved one on their death bed shame on him!
DC on March 07, 2015:
She lived a long happy life in her home. The reality of death is just as he showed. I went through this with my Mom and Dad. I don't think Spurlock did this episode with evil intention or financial gain, but rather to show those who aren't in the know the real life process the aged go through. And even more so the responsibility, emotions, and challenges family may members face. When I have spoken to some of my younger co-workers about what my family went through it seems like a far off situation for them. But life happens very quickly and changes come sooner then we might expect. I thought this episode was insightful and done with great reverence. It gives the uninitiated children of aging parent perspective.
K.A.E Grove from Australia on August 20, 2013:
haven't seen the show, and I'm highly unlikely to watch it now.
thanks for the heads up my grandfathers death still haunts me and I would have hated to stumble across this
CMHypno from Other Side of the Sun on August 04, 2013:
Hey Arthur, great to see you back on HP. What people are prepared to do for money and a bit of TV fame should no longer surprise me, but it does.
As a society we seem to have lost any sense of what should be private, sacred moments. Reality TV is continually pushing boundaries and many people seem to be happy to give up their dignity, credibility and privacy in order to perform for the cameras.
But the worrying thing about this example is did his grandmother ever give permission for her last days to be filmed? Was she well enough when the project started to understand what it meant if she did give permission? And why didn't any other family members say anything?