Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bigger, Stronger, Faster

This weekend in theaters in California and New York, "Bigger, Stronger, Faster," subtitled "The Side Effects of Being American," will be shown. The movie, which comes from the producers of "Fahrenheit 911" and "Bowling for Columbine," will be released more broadly the first weekend in June, and hopefully it will make its way to theaters here in Canada. I have not yet seen the movie, only the movie trailer, and I have only poked around the movie's website, and yesterday, heard a radio interview with director Christopher Bell on Primetime Sports. But because of my longtime interest in weight-training and athletics I am very interested in a movie that brings out into the open the reality of steroid use by professional and amateur athletes. Based on the radio interview I am also intrigued with the director's look at steroid use and drug use in general in American (and, of course, Canadian) society. As the movie subtitle indicates he views the steroid problem as part of a much larger issue. He suggests that it is one of the inevitable consequences of living in a society where so much importance is placed on looking-good and being the best, that people are willing to do whatever it takes in business, politics, war, sports, entertainment and in their personal lives to get ahead.

Another theme that the movie explores is hypocrisy, like that of a former steroid using professional bodybuilder turned actor and then republican governor, who talks about playing by the rules in the land of the brave and the free. He, like many other steroid using big name actors and professional wrestlers, and beta-blocker taking musicians, and amphetamine popping air force pilots, and baseball players on Ritalin, apparently like to talk about playing by the rules more than they actually play by the rules in real life. I can sympathize with director Christopher Bell's experience to some degree because I vividly remember as a teen believing the hype of the fitness industry and the protein and vitamin manufacturers who told us that if we had solid genetics and we were willing to work hard, we too could make progress similar to the stars around us. I also remember the disappointment I felt when it became apparent that we were lied to and that there was more to their 'success' than just quality protein, dedication and hard work.

As I listened to the radio interview yesterday I thought about how what is done in secret is eventually declared openly. I also thought about the contradictory messages that swirl around our world. So often situations and people are not what they seem to be. The message that 'looking good is more important than being good' is everywhere. I also contemplated how often those who are on the top of their game and profession have the most ingenious ways of justifying their behavior and for a time appear untouchable until the right person comes along and starts asking the right questions and then the mythical existence that they have created for themselves begins to crumble like a house of cards.

None of this should be a surprise for Christians because the Bible tells us that human beings are corrupt by nature, even those with careful scripted and maintained public images. The Bible also tells us that human beings look at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart. And it further tells us that God will bring all things into judgment and that no one will escape his omniscience eye. With these things in mind movies like Bigger, Stronger, Faster should not only inform us and push us to think about steroid use, but they should lead us to think about even more basic questions and realities of which steroid use is but the tip of the iceberg.

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