West Long Branch, N.J. (The Verge) – One of my three hour classes watches a movie every week introducing some kind of sociological factor ‘ usually out of the norm. This week’s movie really hit home for me. Let’s face it, as much as we don’t like to admit it, living on the Jersey Shore, we tend to see a lot of body-building juiceheads, sky-high blowouts, and glistening tans – of course I’m referring to the male population. These self-proclaimed guidos disperse there time evenly in the gym, tanning salon, or (the lack there of) doing laundry. (It’s always the same black rhinestone shirt with neon stitching that matches his “True Religions.”)
Bigger, Stronger, Faster: the Side Effects of being an American is a documentary about the modern day “American dream” among men: who he who is the biggest, fastest, or strongest will be the most successful and enviable. According to the video, Ronald Reagan was quoted saying, “We set our eyes on the stars and we’re going for the gold.” Even from so many decades ago, Americans pride themselves on winning and striving for achievement, or in this case, having the biggest muscles.
Nothing is wrong with wanting to be successful or setting high goals and standards, but when does it become too much? Bigger, Stronger, Faster follows a man whose brothers are succumbed to a life of steroids, protein shakes, and heavy weight lifting. This documentary shows the not-so-beautiful side of being an obsessive body builder or heavy weight champion. The film focuses on iconic musclemen, including Rocky, Hulk Hogan and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
It starts off by introducing us to a fifty-something year old man who lives in an insect infested van (that definitely wouldn’t pass inspection or any health codes) so that he can afford his membership to Gold’s Gym in California, “where all of the legends have trained.” He admits to have used marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, acid, pain killers and sleeping pills to “escape [the] reality” that has become his life. Although he doesn’t seem very proud of his past and who he has become, he keeps his mind set on the amount of weight he can lift and the next contest he can be a part of. It seems hard to believe that so much stress and endurance on the body can be beneficial for a man of that age and living situation.
Next, failed musician, Victor Conte is introduced. Victor’s claim to fame is that he sold undetectable steroids to over 250 professional athletes. A few years ago, tons of professional athletes, especially in Major League Baseball were accused and tried for using illegal steroids to enhance their abilities. Some people are not bothered by the players drug use andother find it absurd and unacceptable. US Congress spent 8 days discussing steroids, which is more time than they spent on the War in Iraq and National Healthcare. Shocker.
Steroids, when used by a prescription and not abused, can be very beneficial and potentially lifesaving to many people. Some doctors and professionals argue that there aren’t any health risks for people using steroids without a prescription and that they should be made legal and less frowned upon. Others argue that it can destroy the human body, if used incorrectly, and there should be more intense consequences to face if caught with the substance; after all, it is an illegal drug. According to a physician in the documentary, heart, joint, and reproductive problems can arise from illegal steroid use. “Tobacco kills 435,000 people every year, alcohol kills 75,000 and steroid use is linked to only three deaths per year … Anabatic steroids are the 142nd leading cause for death in America, behind multivitamins.” Doesn’t seem so bad, right?
The evolution of action figures is proof enough that Americans constantly strive to be bigger and stronger. When these children games were first introduced in the early 1900’s, they were usually army action figures, depicting average sized, fully clothed men. In today’s world, action figures are shirtless with 8-pack stomachs and arms as big as their chest! As the narrator of the film says, “steroids are as American as apple pie!” It is hard to determine if there will be an end to illegal steroid use any time soon. However, I’ve seen steroids used as commonly as a cup of coffee every morning in today’s society. How big is too big? Is it wrong to judgementally accuse every vein-popping, tan, muscleman at the gym as a steriod user? Someone tell these walking cartoon images that the body building look they’re going for is much more threatening than attractive, and I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt their life expectancy to put down the needles and pick up an apple. How do you guys feel about steroid use for nothing other than gaining muscle mass?