Bigger, Stronger, Faster

My first boyfriend was a juicer. Steroids were the drug of choice at my high school, having washed into the Canadian suburbs in the early ’90s on the same raft as crushed-velvet dresses. As described in Christopher Bell’s documentary, Bigger, Stronger, Faster, a similar phenomenon played out in his hometown of Poughkeepsie. Beginning with a Spurlockian account of his upbringing as the second of three sons who all loved the World Wrestling Federation, worshipped Rambo, and developed distorted body images, Bell spirals outward into the culture of outrageous expectations, and the resultant generation of should-be-average Joes who believe that greatness is their birthright. For the Bell brothers, that meant transforming their genetically rotund physiques into bloated beefcake. Having avoided the havoc that steroids wreaked on his siblings, Christopher sets out to interrogate the politics of “cheating” in sports, the disputed dangers of juicing (the pro-steroid testimonials are a marvel of rationalization), and the grotesquerie of an industry that has sprung up to exploit male inadequacy and an entire nation’s grasping, relentless dissatisfaction. Bell finds the epitome of that tragedy in his own family and digs unflinchingly at its roots. Like Bell, my high-school boyfriend became obsessed with body-building; like Bell, he wanted to be as big and strong as his older brother. Like Bell, he’d be 33 years old today, had he not taken his life at the age of 28.
June 30-July 10, 2008

 
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