Set in Colorado, Fast Food Nation, the movie, opens in theaters across the country this weekend. It was by luck, and happenchance, that I got to experience a screening of the film adaptation of author Eric Schlosser’s groundbreaking book sitting next to Kenny and Clara Dobbins.
Kenny Dobbins is the former meatpacking plant worker who was featured in the 2001 bestseller. Dobbins experienced repeated and horrific injuries during 16 years working at Montfort meatpacking plants, first in Nebraska and then in Greeley, doing the unfathomable.
His back was pierced by metal teeth; his lungs and skin burnt by chlorine; leg broken; ankle broken; heart attack; eventually fired; no pension. As he was quoted in the book, “They used me to the point where I had no body parts left to give. Then they just tossed me in the trash can.”
Dobbins is still unable to work. He and his wife Clara are trying to make the best of things.Watching what is a very moving, but not a happy, movie with the Dobbinses was like viewing it in 3D. Occasionally Clara Dobbins would lean over and weigh in on the veracity of a scene, as she did at our first glimpse inside the meatpacking plant. “In real life, it’s not that clean,” she noted. During the gruesome finale in the area where the cattle are slaughtered, Dobbins tilted over to share how their daughter had gone to work on the kill floor when she was 18. Her job had been to cut off the hooves.
The movie was made so clandestinely that it had a code title of Coyote. The actors have big names: Bruce Willis, Kris Kristofferson, Greg Kinnear, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Catalina Sandino Moreno. But Corporate America and the food lobby are powerful and sometimes furious and have ways of making things, shall we say, unpleasant.
Since writing the book, Schlosser has co-written a children’s version, called Chew on This. The result has been sometimes-vicious personal attacks orchestrated by the national food lobby, which has even launched an anti-Schlosser Web site of sorts. They call their propaganda “Best Food Nation.”
Like Schlosser’s book, much of the film, a dramatization directed by Richard Linklater, is set in Colorado Springs (aka “Cody”),-the archetypical all-American city. The author recently sat down for a chat about the film, what it’s like to be targeted by corporate spinmeisters –and what he’s piling on his plate next.
Click here to read the full Q&A with Schlosser, as it appears in this week’s Colorado Springs Independent.