Some might call it Extreme Body Modification. I call it Dysmorphia.
It can be hard to understand the lengths some people will go to so they can achieve a particular aesthetic. And it’s even harder not to look at someone who elects to inject themselves with synthol (85% oil, 7.5% lidocaine, and 7.5% alcohol) and wonder just what happened on the way to the gym. This strange subculture is the tip of an image-obsessed iceberg that gives little or no credence to strength, health or function. Rather, it masquerades as masculinity in what can only be described as an adult’s action superhero costume. Synthol is not a steroid, it does not enhance performance or muscle growth. It is literally a filler, the bodybuilder’s version of Botox, used to inflate muscles like cartoon balloons.
I won’t even begin to get into the horror stories of synthol use or the bizarre Popeye characters who have become internet anti-stars as a result of their own personal experiment. But there is undoubtedly a deeper, darker side to the freak show, a place where men, young and old, feel compelled to compete with some strange caricatured version of masculinity. We all elect to promote ourselves in some shape or form. Perhaps in an effort to feel comfortable exposing our most vulnerable selves we first need to feel armored. Whatever the case, the answer won’t be found in needles, steroids and artificial performance enhancement.