Friday, June 13, 2008

The Side Effects of Being American

Bigger, Stronger, Faster* is a new documentary that explores the cultural and personal issues surrounding steroid use in the United States. Stylized in the same vein as Moore and Spurlock, first-time director Christopher Bell develops an engaging personal account of steroid-use within his family of three testosterone-filled brothers as they are driven to the limits of hypermasculinity.

The Bell family drama provides an emotional and humorous tone for the film, which is craftily mixed with key interviews and nostalgic images of muscle wrenching from the likes of Hogan, Schwarzenegger, Stallone and company. Bell's experiences allow him to successfully engage gym rats, athletes, policymakers, and others, adding a unique mix of voices to the debate. One of the more interesting interviews in the film involves an individual living with HIV/AIDS who claims that steroids saved his life.

Ultimately, the film explores an ambitious male body image, which can at times be both disfiguring and crippling to the human condition. At the same time, there also seems to be a series of contradictions between the moral consensus against performance-enhancement and a culture of masculinity committed to being Bigger, Stronger, Faster*, and American.

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