A Godzilla of Corny Hype

It never takes much for the food scolds at Center for Science in the Public Interest to rev-up one of their stale diet-nanny crusades. Today, CSPI is breathlessly telling media outlets about its shocking, shocking discovery that movie theater popcorn (which CSPI dubs the “Godzilla of snacks”) has lots of calories. No starch, Sherlock.
Should we care? Not really. According to calculations from the Motion Picture Association of America, the typical American only goes to the movies six times per year. Something that the average American eats—at most—once every two months is hardly worth a frenzied media campaign. Besides, CSPI doesn’t exactly have the best record of sticking to its own recommendations.
CSPI’s popcorn hysteria is actually a warmed-over 15-year-old story. As the Los Angeles Times notes, a 1994 CSPI report on the matter prompted theaters to switch to air-popped, lower-calorie popcorn. And how did consumers react? Movie patrons promptly shouted en masse that they wanted the traditional popcorn back.
Most moviegoers already know that a large bag of buttered popcorn has salt, fat, and calories, but they order it anyway. Why? Because, well … they like it. As one commenter aptly notes on The New York Times’ coverage of CSPI’s popcorn panic, pleasure “is a concept that drives lifestyle minders and other nanny-culture nuts crazy.”
It’s fine with us if CSPI wants to host office movie nights accompanied with buckets of broccoli, butternut squash, and rye crackers. The rest of us, however, want to enjoy the occasional nachos, candy, and popcorn—without a side of fear.

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