Bigger, Stronger, Faster: The Side Effects of Being American


Let me be very frank regarding the title of this post.  I don’t want to stir any sort of bad vibes and wind up in a flame war with some far right wing, mullet-bearing redneck who gets up in arms about everything that uses the name America without extolling the virtues of it therein.  This is not an attack or some sort of anti-american, terrorist propaganda.  But to my possibly mullet-sporting brother, let me be perfectly clear in saying I love you and I wish you would get some help and maybe a dose of reality, wherever you are.  **sniff**

Anyways, let’s move on to the soul and heart of this post and that is for me to give my thoughts on, what I thought, was an awesome documentary on steroid use in American sports and other sorts of vocations where being trim and muscular is a prerequisite.

This film got off to an interesting start fairly quickly by talking about issues in Iran and comparing them with the feud in the WWF between the Iron Sheik and The Incredible Hulk Hogan.  The narrator relates his life to how big of an impact professional wrestling had on his and his brother’s lives, especially the very fit [yet still bald…] Hulk Hogan.  A promo of his is played where he addresses the audience encouraging them to, “Train, eat your vitamins and say your prayers” because thats what real Americans do.  You can already see where this is going to go, but the innocence of this time is not yet lost.

First thing you have to understand is it is created by Christopher Bell, narrated by him and it surrounds his family, specifically his brothers.  The brothers lose their childhood heroes one by one to the “demon” that is steroids, including one Hulk Hogan.  This is where this documentary starts to gain some flesh and I really got into it.  The issues are raised from baseball to the olympics that there are professional athletes taking illegal performance enhancement drugs which have since been banned by the US government without a valid prescription.  Though the congressman Chris visits to ask questions about the band can’t remember what the legal drinking age is let alone what the regulations were for anabolic steroids.  Only ironic because it was the same guy who began some huge inquiry on anabolic steroids a while back.

So, the three brothers are all now feeling quite jaded because all their heroes were liars.  Chris’ two brothers then tell their stories about how steroid use has affected their lives.  One is still pursuing a career in professional wrestling and taking steroids, trying to get into the WWF obviously not aware of their Wellness Policy.  The other is a professional powerlifter and they actually show him bench 705 lbs.

This documentary raises a lot of good points about performance enhancement that I wasn’t even really aware of.  Air Force fighter pilots are not only allowed but required to have amphetamines with them during their flights, apparently.  That makes sense, but I also find it somewhat strange.  There is a lot of noise brought up about how steroids will kill you and cause all sorts of other ailments but there is no proof.  It’s like the marijuana ban in the ’50’s.  It’s widely been demonized and ridiculed and I’m not just saying that because I’m brainwashed by this film.  I watch a lot of documentaries and, while I’m no doctor, I would say that Chris’ two brothers who have been regular steroid users for years show no real sign of change.  So, to me the burden of proof was on these so-called “experts” who say that these drugs are dangerous.  It’s not to say there are no dangers at all but they proved that even vitamin C has its own dangers.

So, in a country built on taking short cuts, Chris Bell attempts to expose the fact that the government and the media’s fear of these drugs are really unfounded.  I certainly wouldn’t take the stuff but I would like to think this documentary presented a fair view from both sides as to whether a pursuit of being “Bigger, Stronger, Faster” was really as dangerous as people make it seem.  If America is a country of cutting corners in similar fashions why are we so quick to judge people who do the same.  Chris interviewed the man with the largest biceps in the world who got that title by taking steroids and it’s hard not to agree that in a culture where taking Adderall to improve your study habits or taking beta blockers to reduce anxiety before a musical performance, that, “Taking steroids is as American as apple pie.”

One thing that I did find very beautiful in this documentary was Chris speaking with his parents about his trying steroids and his brothers usage.  His mother brought up the standard “God made you who you are,” line which is alright with me.  The truth is okay, but it doesn’t always work.  But she argued with her son, yes argued, that the Bible outlines a standard of how we should live.  She ripped apart the promo that was shown earlier in the film that told the kids to,”Train, eat your vitamins and say your prayers,” stating she doubted that Hogan was a Christian because she’d never seen him pray or talk about Jesus. His father later explains to his son that though his heroes have left him jaded that if he looks to his Bible, all the good men were “heels” despite the work they did for God.   They reminded me of my parents and I thought that was just a beautiful and honest thing.  I was glad that Chris Bell decided to include that in this documentary.

So, overall I’d say this was a pretty good film.  It kept me engaged and thinking despite the fact that I’m not much of a sports fan outside of professional wrestling.  To use a Wiggly-ism, on a scale of none to five bears I give this five bears.


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