The guy who made the movie Supersize Me, Morgan Spurlock, has a show on right now (literally right now– I’m typing this during the show) on the FX Network called 30 Days. The premise of the show is pretty simple: what if you could live in someone else’s shoes for a month? What would that teach you about other peoples’ lives? In this premiere episode, Morgan and his fiancee Alex try to see what it’s like to live on minimum wage for a month. Or really, around minimum because Morgan (and I think Alex, too) manage to get jobs that are slightly higher than that. Future episodes (apparently) will feature folks other than Morgan and Alex in the role of “live this life for 30 days” person.
Oh, it turns out that Morgan has a blog.
Now, on the one hand, this episode does a good job of showing some of the obvious hardships on living on minimum wage. They live in a craptacular apartment, they are eating rice and beans for pretty much every meal, their jobs are horrible, and they end up going to the free clinic and emergency room because they don’t have health insurance.
On the other hand, there is an element of the way these two come across that seems awfully spoiled to me. As they point out at the beginning of the show, ol’ Morgan and Alex are living majorily high off the hog after the success of Supersize Me and beyond. So, in a couple places, they come across as big babies, sort of like Paris Hilton– okay, not that bad. Plus they have some significant bad luck with health issues and the like, the sort of thing that wouldn’t happen all the time. And really, I think that a lot of people who earn minimum wage do so temporarily, not for the rest of their lives.
I mean, I’ve lived poor before. When I was in my MFA program in the late 80s, I think I made about $6500 a year, and I defintely remember eating a lot of Cherios. When Annette and I were in our PhD programs together, I don’t think we ever made more than $25,000 between the two of us. Yeah, it’s hard, but you find ways to make it work.
And on the third hand, I read back a couple paragraphs and I think a) I’m getting to be one insensitive son of a bitch because it’s been quite a while since I’ve been close to that poor, b) this show and the idea of living on minimum wage puts the idea of “not having enough money” into perspective, and c) if I ended up somehow out of a job and having to get out there and take a minimum wage job like that, I’d be screwed in oh so many different ways.