Friday, July 10, 2009

Bigger, Stronger, Faster: a movie review

Photo by jcoterhals

My first take on Bigger, Stronger, Faster was that it might be an interesting documentary about athletes and the use of steroids. I am convinced that writer/director Christopher Bell would have crafted a fine documentary even if he had simply examined the athlete subculture. Instead, he broadened his inquiry and crafted a superb revelation of our fascination with appearance and performance.

Bell is a stocky young man who enjoys lifting weights. He can bench press more than 500 pounds. He has known for years that he could probably lift an additional hundred pounds if he added anabolic steroids as a part of his training regime, but he doesn't. Bell's two brothers do use steroids, and the benefits seem clear to them.

Bell conducted research, performed interviews, and reviewed media depictions. He is incredibly diligent. His hard work lends a depth to this film that any documentary should aspire too. In addition, Bell investigates with a cool detachment, yet he also has the dogged persistence that is most often seen in zealots. Bell chased the facts and sought the truth. Many myths about anabolic steroids are blown away. He also exposes the strange incongruities and the hypocrisy in our attitude to drugs of many kinds.

As the investigation plays out, the viewer begins to realize that steroids are a bit player in the drama that unfolds when hundreds of millions of people decide that they need to be not just better, but best. Looking good is just not enough. We want stunning physiques. We don't want to compete well and do "our best", we want to be "the best".

We struggle to find simple indicators for success in life: riches, strength, beauty. We know that it is unlikely that we will attain the pinnacle, but oh how we long to rise above the herd.

A quiet, anonymous life blessed with simple pleasures and genuine love should be enough. However, our discontents and secret longings reveal that too often we discount what we have.
And we don't just want more. We want more than others have. We crave reassurance that we are better than others.

Pride has been called the greatest of sins, even "the father of all sins". Pride powers our obsession with being bigger, stronger, and faster. See the movie. It will give you a clearer view of what is worth pursuing and what is not.

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