In the coming weeks, theaters worldwide will premier Vlad Yudin’s sequel to Generation Iron; many gym junkies have high hopes for this film to be a step in the right direction for bodybuilding. But is this movie really going to change the perception that laypeople have of bodybuilding subculture?
Moreover, will Generation Iron serve the same iconoclastic purpose that Pumping Iron did back in the ’70s? Or will it merely perpetuate the stigmas attached to bodybuilding? As someone who’s watched Pumping Iron umpteen times, I may be a bit biased. Yet, I just don’t see Generation Iron having the same impact on the general public’s perception of bodybuilding subculture. In fact, I won’t be surprised if it further harms the already poor acceptance rate of bodybuilding as a sport/lifestyle.
One of the more outspoken, spiritual bodybuilders who stars in Generation Iron is Kai Greene (see image below). Kai is rather firm in his belief that bodybuilding is a way of expressing feelings and creating art. I can see why when you look at classic Greek mythology and historic portrayals of higher powers. Gym goers often wish to have the body of a “Greek god,” which is rather attainable with years of dedicated training and proper nutrition.
Now on the flipside, when I see a modern-day IFBB bodybuilder the first thing that comes to mind is “Man, that guy’s a freak,” followed closely by “So how much ‘gas’ is he on?” Honestly, most bodybuilders these days carry around cartoon-like proportions so absurdly beyond what a natural trainee could ever hope to achieve; it’s rather laughable.
In Pumping Iron, Arnold (Schwarzenegger) makes the analogy that being a bodybuilder is essentially like being a sculptor, and when you look at the more classic, aesthetic physiques of Frank Zane, Serge Nubret and other early bodybuilders it’s hard not to agree with him. Now yes, I’m aware that most of the bodybuilders in ’70s were using performance-enhancing drugs as well, but their usage was much more “reasonable” and that was reflective of their more aesthetically pleasing physiques.
I’m sure the first thing conjured up in most people’s mind when they hear the term “bodybuilder” is someone who has the intellectual capacity of a rock and an abnormally muscular body; colloquially, such people are known as “meatheads”, and Generation Iron features plenty of them.
Honestly, most modern pro bodybuilders just drone around the gym, looking like they’re just going through the motions, which is then followed by an ever-so-eventful day of eating meals precisely every 3 hours around the clock like there is some sort of time bomb ready to go off in their head. Seriously, watch one video of a modern-day IFBB bodybuilder and you’ll fall asleep before the opening credits are through.
Contrast that to the flamboyant bodybuilders of yore in Pumping Iron, where they actually had lives outside of the gym and the camaraderie was much more apparent. Which is more entertaining: Ronnie Coleman saying “Nothin’ but a peanut!” 1000 times per day and laying on the couch eating grits or Arnold playing mind games with Louie backstage to get him off kilter before the final pose down? If you find the former more enjoyable then clearly you are from another planet.
Consider this, Arnold and Louie were/are both successful actors, but how many modern-day IFBB pros will have prospered in Hollywood prior to Generation Iron‘s release? Not a single one. Coincidence? I think not; today’s pros just lack that pizzazz that made Pumping Iron much more than just a film about bodybuilding.
While I don’t intend to go into much detail about drug use in the sport of bodybuilding, it is still necessary to address said topic. Most of the general public is well aware that steroids and performance-enhancing drugs are commonplace in bodybuilding subculture, but what they’re not aware of is that most of the top IFBB pros are blurring the line between use and abuse with the dosages they take.
In fact, I often tell people that steroids in and of themselves are not “a bad thing” and in nominal doses, they are actually rather healthy (especially for older individuals with less endocrine integrity). This is why modern medicine actually promotes the use of hormonal pharmaceuticals in physiological doses. The side effects of steroids are somewhat negligible if you’re not abusing them.
Nevertheless, the difference between medicine and poison is in the dose; Generation Iron portrays characters who are flirting with poisonous dosages of performance-enhancing drugs. As aforementioned, the earlier eras of bodybuilders did use performance-enhancing drugs as well; however, their regimens were more along the line of physiological doses as opposed to pharmacological doses that today’s pro bodybuilders employ. Why do you think many of the bodybuilders shown in Pumping Iron are still breathing? Because they weren’t abusing steroids. I’m curious to see where Jay Cutler and Phil Heath wind up in the next 40 years.
As stated above, most modern IFBB bodybuilders are taking toxic amounts of performance-enhancing drugs and actually hurting their overall health/longevity. Select pros are actually aware of the risks of using such large doses of performance-enhancing drugs; worse yet, they stand by the mantra of “Live fast, die young”.
It’s sad that the individuals who grace health and fitness magazines across the globe are far from healthy. These guys carry around mountains of muscle, but can barely walk up the stairs without passing out; not to mention they usually have numerous cardiac issue due to the stress placed on their vital organs. Excessive food intake and drug abuse are not healthy, no matter how someone looks on the outside. Again, the connection between bodybuilding and health/fitness is swiftly being severed by today’s IFBB bodybuilders; it’s a shame that the sequel to Generation Iron will only hasten that disconnection.
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