August 10, 2015
Why Do We Ignore Doping in Entertainment?
Entertainment news is obsessed with the “amazing” body transformations that actors undergo when getting ready for a big role. With big box office hits including countless superhero and action flicks these days, expect no decline in the number of male actors bulking up to take on that coveted leading man physique. But as Chris Gyngell of Oxford University’s Practical Ethics Blog argues, our attitude toward these actors should be submitted to tougher scrutiny. It is quite likely that many of these actors are enhancing their bodies and performances with illicit substances, which have caused such outrage in the world of sports. I am not an expert by any means on bodybuilding, but many professionals in the field argue that the kind of body transformations these actors routinely go through, such as Jake Gyllenhal’s in a Southpaw, are just not possible without steroids. We know some actors have admitted to using performance enhancing drugs in the past. Charlie Sheen, Mickey Rourke and Arnold Schwarzenegger have all admitted to using, and Sylvester Stallone was once caught with human growth hormone and testosterone. Insiders claim that many stars take steroids for their roles, though unsurprisingly, most still publicly deny using. It would be more surprising if there weren’t many actors who did take extra measures to make the grade. There’s endless pressure in Hollywood to be the best of the best or else be left behind. Steroids make impressive gains much more attainable, and the actors are certainly awarded for adding muscle. And finally, there seems generally to be little suspicion, or care, that they might be making these gains through illegal and unhealthy means. So what’s to stop them? As Gyngell pointed out on the Practical Ethics Blog, there are two main reasons we might object to steroid use in non-sports entertainment. First, steroids imperil the health of the user. This is obviously bad for any individual who chooses to use them, but also for anyone in a profession or a culture that is more permissive of their use, or accustomed to expecting the results that steroids and other performance enhancing drugs can bring. Second, given that these substances are illegal, using steroids to win certain movie roles is unfair to others in the industry who choose to follow the law. Actors shouldn’t have to break the law to be able to compete for a role, especially not when it might risk their health. Of course, in the case of sports, there are rules internal to the game itself that prohibit the use of these kinds of drugs, which is why there’s so much outrage at users like Lance Armstrong. Not only did he break the law and endanger his health with performance enhancing drugs, but he was cheating, which to many people is worse. Since we know movies are filled with fake sets, empty props and silent phone calls, perhaps it just shouldn’t matter to us that an actor’s body is just as artificial. When the activity is all make-believe, a fantasy physique is hardly a threat. However, we might still need to make some adjustments in our attitudes, even if a blasé reaction to doping in entertainment were warranted. We should also tone down our enthusiasm over these major physical transformations in the latest trailer and role our eyes a bit more at the canned “Just daily exercise and healthy eating!” interview response. Perhaps we should question wider trends in the entertainment industry, which sometimes expects actors to gain or lose substantial amounts of weight for all kinds of roles, not just those that demand peak physical fitness. But large fluctuations in weight and body shape in short periods of time is very unhealthy. I’m not saying we should necessarily pity famous actors, but we should be critical of a culture that valorizes self-abuse for the sake of art. There’s not really any need for these transformations, anyway. If Christian Bale is too skinny or too fit for a certain part, cast someone else who has the right body type for the role. Contrary to Hollywood orthodoxy, there’s an endless pool of undiscovered talent to cast from, and putting a few more unknowns into major roles wouldn’t hurt anyone. And inevitably, it’s the public that ends up with very skewed ideas about what is possible for healthy people to achieve. Whether it’s bulking up to look like the Hulk, or losing 30 pounds in a couple of months, the images Hollywood promotes in terms of what can be expected of the human body are damaging to society. We should not shy away from being critical of this kind of fakery. Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/why-do-we-ignore-doping-in-entertainment-2.html#ixzz3iR5roZYu