Bigger, Stronger, Faster
Hard Issues... Rock Hard!
“Image is everything”—or so pitched American tennis legend Andre Agassi for Canon photography. Though the idea of “Image” obviously serves as a metaphor for the pictures that the Canon Rebel could produce, the marketing is equally obvious: from athletics to academics to politics, Image has not merely exceeded Content—at this point Image threatens to replace Content in a world without truth. This theme—of which steroid use and abuse in merely a symptom of the broader Image/Content dispute—forms the compelling foundation for Chris Bell’s new documentary regarding steroid abuse in the U.S.
Bigger, Stronger, Faster focuses on Chris Bell and his two brothers, Mark and Mike, who, while growing up in
It wasn’t until Chris’ older brother, Mike “Mad Dog”
According to the film, Mike grew up as the “black sheep” of the brotherly trio, struggling with harder drugs in addition to life’s disappointments in general. His identity is clearly immersersed in his achievements, body type, and self-delusion, rendering him shackled to a life of depression, alcohol, and drugs. He tells Chris “he was born to achieve greatness.” That single delusion forms the core of his paralysis in personal maturity and growth.
Chris’ younger brother, Mark “Smelly”
Personally, I found the film to be fascinating and extremely well done.
In addition to the strength of his research, Bell asks the appropriate questions of the appropriate people and/or group representatives; also to Bell’s credit is his dedication to giving both sides of the issue an equal voice. It appears that little is left on the editing floor, à la Michael Moore. Fortunately,
Unfortunately, many viewers may interpret
Also to his credit, Bell deftly brings to light a few specific examples of glaring hypocrisy: the Olympic committee and its failure to set strict standards; Senator Waxman (the Senator who forced the steroids hearings, and whose astonishing ignorance is well worth the movie’s price of admission); and other politicians like Schwarzenegger—who not only used steroids to achieve his popularity and success, but still hosts a yearly body-building contest bulging with clearly ’roided contestants before returning to public condemnation of steroid use in true PC fashion. The public sentiment is ignorant and rabid, and I, for one, am deeply grateful and appreciate
Despite its controversial nature, Bigger, Stronger, Faster is intriguing and fascinating. My hope is that parents will watch it with their children, who are often the biggest losers when it comes to steroids. The saddest moment in the film is
When the audience is permitted (via camera) to enter the young man’s room, my heart was crushed. Left untouched, it’s reminiscent of any boy’s room—right down to the mud-stained baseball cleats still sitting where he left them the night he took his own life the year before. While this moment is touching and persuasive, Bell sensitively asks the hard questions, and continues to leave us torn between allowing pro athletes like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Ben Johnson the right to enhance their careers, and keeping drugs like this as far from our children as possible. Don Hooten’s son is a tragedy, but is more likely the product of a broken system than of the peril of steroid use.
While Chris Bell demonstrates that steroids are no worse than any marketed drug, the haunting take-away from this film is
I played college football, and though I did not use steroids, many of those with whom I competed used them to enhance their game. In spite of that, I never felt any animosity or jealousy, or believed they cheated for gain. I had my choices, and they had theirs—they were just a bit more willing to inherit the risks for the sake of gain, and I apparently was not. There are plenty of “legal” enhancements that have revolutionized every sport (including equipment like golf clubs, tennis racquets, and baseball gloves), destroying old records. I’m still not sure why certain drugs are okay while others are not.
In the long run, Bigger, Stronger, Faster is a film about a country that has lost its mooring, destroyed its identity, and is now looking to re-create itself through hubris, though smoke and mirrors. Image is indeed everything, and we are certainly paying the price. My thanks to Chris Bell for a balanced, honest, and controversial look at a persistent problem in
Bigger, Stronger, Faster is rated PG-13 for “thematic material involving drugs, language, some sexual content and violent images.” That’s true enough, but I believe the movie could be viewed by most age groups, with appropriate supervision… though some content will be a bit too intense for younger children!
Courtesy of a local publicist, Mike attended a press screening of Bigger, Stronger, Faster. Also be sure to read Mike’s interview with director Chris Bell.e74