Documentary Site started as an outlet for my interests in documentary 15 years ago. Since then, my presence has expanded to writing, managing Twitter fans, and connecting with makers, promoters, and fans of documentary. Probably three of the coolest things to come from this endeavor are being invited to write for POV, visiting Kartemquin studios, and leading a discussion after a screening of The Trials of Muhammad Ali. My current project involves watching and writing about 365 documentaries in 2014. Feel free to send along your suggestions via Twitter @documentarysite!

#365Docs: Bigger Stronger Faster (75/365)

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I’m watching 365 documentaries and writing about each one in 2014. Tweet your suggestions to @documentarysite, or send an e-mail to Read more.

Note: This post may contain spoilers.

Chris Bell’s Bigger Stronger Faster (2008) is a detailed exploration of the use of steroids in sports. In the process, Bell also explores the nature of American masculinity.

Bell begins this documentary by highlighting the muscled icons of the 1980s: Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Hulk Hogan. His questioning starts with the steroid use among himself and his brothers, who participate in strength-driven sports such as football, wrestling, and lifting. While Bell himself feels uncomfortable taking steroids, his brothers use them toward achieving their athletic goals.

From there, Bell serves as our guide as he raises questions about the uses and understandings of anabolic steroids. He interviews various experts about the panics surrounding the use of steroids and about the media’s perpetuation of that panic. He interviews others about the ethics of using steroids in sports, pointing out the contradictions in how they enhance performance and how many athletes use them even though it is commonly held that athletes should not use them.

From there, he delves into the larger question of performance enhancers in various aspects of life, such as Adderall and schools, and in aspects of business, in that performance enhancers are a multibillion-dollar industry that goes largely unregulated.

Throughout, Bell weaves in interviews with his brothers, mother, and father about steroid use. While many documentaries that use a personal voice tend to lean too heavily on that perspective, Bell manages to find just the right balance between the personal sides of these issues and the larger social questions.

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Heather McIntosh
Heather McIntosh
Heather McIntosh started Documentary Site as a resource for documentary media and has greatly enjoyed the connections it has fostered over the years.