Bigger, Stronger, Faster

Bigger, Stronger, Faster is a documentary about three brothers and anabolic steroids. While I am not sure Chris Bell intended it, the film is at least as much about his family as it is about the drugs.

Bell and his two brothers all began serious strength training in high school. His older brother, Mad Dog, began using anabolic steroids in college to remain competitive in Division I football, obtaining them from their uncle. His younger brother, Smelly, uses anabolic steroids to remain competitive in powerlifting.

The film does a first-rate job of objectively addressing the subject of anabolic steroids. It shows the hypocrisy in both politics and the Olympics, and the collusion between the two, regarding performance-enhancing drugs. Anabolic steroids are neither praised nor demonized, in contrast to most other treatments of the subject.

Bell attempts to connect the use of anabolic steroids and changing expectations for physiques with a supposed American fascination with being bigger, stronger, and faster. (Hence, the title.) I find it rather naïve to think that only Americans want to be the best. Even just the Olympics, both medal counts and testing failures, show that the win-at-all-cost competitiveness is in no way limited to the States.

Blaming (his perception of) American culture is just a symptom of his general loss of faith. Based on his parents’ devout Catholicism and his brothers’ and his admiration of professional wrestlers, it is unsurprising that he experienced a loss of innocence at some point. Both the Catholic church and professional wrestling have well enough-established façades and enough skeletons in the closet to produce a startling and painful enlightenment for their followers when they become aware.

The documentary is worth watching for its debunking of the before-and-after weight loss photos alone. Bell himself poses for the photos, showing the combination of makeup and Photoshop that allow the photographer to shoot both the before and after photos in the same session. I would hope that anyone who has a weight loss commercial inflicted on them could see this segment of the film first.

Bigger, Stronger, Faster is a fascinating documentary of siblings and steroids. I recommend it to those interested in strength training or documentaries.


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