Nov 082014

bigger_stronger_fasterAn examination of America’s win-at-all-cost culture from the perspective of bodybuilding and performance enhancing drugs, as it focuses on a pair of siblings chasing their dream.

In America, we define ourselves in the superlative: we are the biggest, strongest, fastest country in the world. Is it any wonder that so many of our heroes are on performance enhancing drugs? Director Christopher Bell explores America’s win-at-all-cost culture by examining how his two brothers became members of the steroid-subculture in an effort to realize their American dream.

Genres: Documentary | Sport; Motion Picture Rating (MPAA) Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving drugs, language, some sexual content and violent images; Release Date: April 2008 (USA)

Director:  Chris Bell
Writers:  Chris Bell, Alexander Buono
Stars:  Chris Bell, Mike Bell, Mark Bell

We watched this last weekend during a marathon of documentaries. I did not expect to like it (this was Lay’s pick), but it turned out more interesting than I expected.

The producer, Chris, explores both sides of the argument over steroids through the experience of himself and his two brothers. You can sense the conflict within himself as he takes us through his life. On the one hand, he believes the drugs to be morally wrong. On the other, he knows he can’t compete without them and proponents of steroids  make a compelling case for their usage.

I really did not find the documentary to be biased in either direction. He interviewed people who are in favor of its use for nothing more than increased size and strength, but he also discusses the possible side-effects and concerns. When Chris quietly challenges some of the assertions of anti-steroid campaigners, notably Congressman Henry Waxman, it is done with respect and genuine interest in the factual basis for some of the widely held beliefs about steroids. Through these questions, Chris shows that the issue of just how destructive these drugs are is not as clear-cut as we tend to think. Whether right or wrong, you can find studies that will support your claims either way.

It really comes home when he turns the camera on his two brothers,  both of whom use steroids regularly and both of whom have been negatively affected by their habits. It is a truly compelling moment when Chris’ dad tells him point-blank that he expects Mike to turn up dead sooner than later. It’s even more hard-hitting when you know that just a few months after the filming of “Bigger, Stronger, Faster”, Mike did die at the age of 37.

We watched it on Netflix and I’m glad we didn’t have to pay a rental fee to watch it, but it wasn’t time wasted. If you have Netflix, and some time to watch something thought provoking, it’s worth the time.

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