Creative Documentary and the Rise of Narcissism

Australian chef Pete Evans is the latest filmmaker to be criticised for making “dangerous claims” in his creative documentary, The Magic Pill.

In the film, Evans claims that the paleo diet can successfully treat conditions such as autism and cancer (“Controversial chef’s documentary”, 2017).

However, Dr Michael Gannon, president of the Australian Medical Association, has slammed the documentary as “just plain hurtful, harmful and mean” (“Controversial chef’s documentary”, 2017).

Evans’ self-proclaimed expertise about the medical benefits of paleo could be said to be narcissistic, and an attempt to “…attain self-gratification, achieve dominance, and satisfy ambition” (Bushman & Baumeister, 1998, cited in Blachnio, Przepiorka, & Rudnicka, 2016).

For example, Evans continues to make these claims despite having no medical background or qualifications, and contrary to opinions from appropriately qualified professionals.

This attempt to politically engage viewers through film is considered a common trait of the modern documentary, in which filmmakers’ “…cameras [are] always pointing directly at… social and political spaces” (Goldston, 2015, p. 88).

Bainbridge, Goc and Tynan (2015, p. 136) describe this style of creative documentary, in which the filmmaker’s position on an issue is blatantly presented, as performative documentary.

These documentaries “…use a potent mixture of facts, attention-grabbing journalism and opinion” in an attempt to sway their audiences, with recent examples including Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me and Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 (Bainbridge, et al., 2015, p. 136).

Perhaps Evans should take the advice of Chris Varney, director of autism support network iCan: “Stick to healthy eating, Peter, I don’t think you know anything about autism” (“Diet doco slammed”, 2017).


A Current Affair. (2017, August 7). It’s the new documentary by ‘Paleo Pete’ Evans that has doctors seeing red… #9ACA | FULL STORY: [Twitter post]. Retrieved from

Bainbridge, J., Goc, N., & Tynan, L. (2015). Media and journalism: New approaches to theory and practice (3rd ed.). Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.

Blachnio, A., Przepiorka, A., & Rudnicka, P. (2016). Narcissism and self-esteem as predictors of dimensions of Facebook use. Personality and Individual Differences, 90(1), 296-301. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2015.11.018

Chan, A. (2014). 18 ways to spot a narcissist. Retrieved from

Goldston, A. (2015). Journalism plus? The resurgence of creative documentary. Pacific Journalism Review, 21(2), 86-98. Retrieved from

Pete Evans’s diet doco slammed for ‘dangerous’ claims. (2017, August 7). 9News. Retrieved from

Where to see controversial chef’s documentary. (2017, August 11). The Chronicle. Retrieved from


One thought on “Creative Documentary and the Rise of Narcissism

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  1. Good argument and example and i agree that the documentaries cannot be trusted as evidently he has not researched autism and it is just a money making ploy to attract some poor mothers who try anything to help their kids.

    Liked by 1 person

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