Bigger, Stronger, Faster*
have changed in the post-Michael Moore world.
Faster* is officially a documentary about the steroid problem, and yet
it is at the same time a more broad-based look at the American obsession for
winning. Also, it is an intimate look at a family obsessed with
wrestling stardom, and the changing environment of modern gyms. It
takes side trips to slap at Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hulk Hogan, Sly Stallone,
Orrin Hatch and the supplement industry and say relatively nice things about
Barry Bonds and Mark McQwire. It's anti-steroid and yet at the same
time it is pro-steroid.
It is in equal measure
fascinating, informative and sometimes a complete mess.
However, it is mostly an
Faster* (the asterisk in the title is a reference to the suggestion that
Barry Bonds' home run record be affixed with an asterisk reminding the world
he cheated in getting it) is the brainchild of Christopher Bell, a former
state lifting champ who moved to Los Angeles with dreams of weightlifting
stardom, only to find himself in his late 30s, still working a part-time gig
at Gold's Gym, the legendary Venice Beach mecca which spawned Schwarzenegger
His two brothers Mike and
Mark have also been striving for stardom in professional wrestling, also
with little success. Mark and Mike have used steroids in their quest.
Chris did once and then quit due to guilt.
Bell has gotten the
good-natured comic vibe of Michael Moore's documentary filmmaking -
peppering in clever jokes, topical references and the ironic use of old
films - however I'm not sure I believe he has researched his points quite as
avidly as Moore does. Bell is an ingratiating host and is obviously passionately
invested in his subject. Many of his musclehead friends and family
members are also funny and interesting enough. Most of the
professionals who talk on the subject are a little drier, but informative.
However, Bell seems to be a bit
hazy on his position on his main point. The great majority of the filmed evidence
suggests that steroids are not as bad as has been made out - blaming that
old standby scapegoat the media for distorting facts - and yet Bell still
regularly refers to the taking of steroids as cheating and personally
refuses to use them. He often refers to steroids as bad for sport and
the athlete's health, but the huge majority of expert and personal testimony
on steroids suggest here that they are completely safe if used correctly.
I'm not a doctor. I can't claim to know what the truth is, but I find
it hard to believe that the entirety of the anti-steroid movement is a
whitewash. However, the only person here who pushes the con side is
obviously a corporate stooge. It seems a little like stacking the
That isn't the only time his facts
are massaged to support his personal agenda. As someone who has some
knowledge of the vitamin supplement industry, I know for a fact that a short
section where Bell tries to "expose" the natural products industry is
comprised of half-truths and generalizations. He suggests that the
untrustworthy minority of companies (and they are out there - just as in any
industry) are the norm, when they are actually the exception. He
suggests that supplements can be made in an apartment by illegal aliens,
when in fact mostly they are made in FDA-monitored facilities. I will
give him the benefit of the doubt that he feels that strongly because he has
mostly dealt with body building supplements, which is traditionally one of
the shadier areas of the business, but it is inaccurate and unfair to paint
an entire industry with such a broad brush.
However, when he does hit
the mark, like a section which shows California governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger distancing himself from steroids when earlier Arnold had
acknowledged using them in the past, Bell's film becomes fascinating.
This is starkly shown in a section where Schwarzenegger's people insist on
all of his images being removed from Gold's Gym, which has been a temple to
the man for decades.
I'm not sure I buy into
Bell's final conclusion - that maybe it is okay to use steroids because
Americans always want to be the best. However, there is enough
intriguing info in Bigger, Stronger, Faster* to make it worth
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: July 1, 2008.