What is it that makes man reach for the stars? What makes mankind dream? Why do we engineer monstrous constructions that scrape the sky? Why do we ride rockets to the moon? What is the mysterious intangible that inspires? One theory is love or companionship or shared intimacy or sex or whatever you want to call it. Against the competition of the rest of the humanity, man is forced to build bigger, reach farther. Another theory is that man is longing for the approval of his father. An intense, instinctual need for love and care becomes a need for paternal approbation. Or perhaps it is even to impress his peers as an effort to be accepted or feel normal. The reoccurring motivation across the board is the feeling of inadequacy. But how do you measure a man?
Greg Bergman seems to have an answer. How do you measure a man? You measure his penis (while erect - from the side, not the top). Big Like Me is the story of a man and his average-sized penis. Dabbling in parody, psychology and philosophy, this dissertation is alternately fascinating and disgusting. You have to genuinely commend the courage of Greg Bergman for going all the way with the exploitation of his own obsession. Through his journey we see the other side of body image issues. Bergman seems to have a decent life, a loving wife, even a perfectly adequate penis. So there is one question we're left with at the end of the movie: Why would somebody risk everything to enlarge his phallus?
There's another dickumentary currently streaming on Netflix called, Unhung Hero. It's interesting to note that both self-proclaimed protagonists longing for a larger lot in life are comedians. It leads one to wonder at the psychological make up that makes a stand up comic. Marc Maron had a great line, "It took me years to figure out Hollywood wasn't my parents." The implication being he sought out whatever he was missing from his childhood in the entertainment industry. It's an introspective idea we can all learn something from. You can't cure yourself of your shortcomings without confronting their source. Furthermore, nobody else is responsible for your flaws. Once you're an adult, you own your scars. Which is the power of Bergman's movie. While it may seem shallow to some, he completely and emphatically owns it all.
It would be easy to write off the whole thing as one long dick joke. However, there are some deep sociological revelations that are undeniable. This immersion into compulsion and self-obsession is a poignant statement on our modern culture. It leaves us with an unsettling feeling the way only art can. The emotional core and true interest of the subject are often traded for gags and parodies, but there are a few intense scenes of uninterrupted truth. In the end, the whole thing seems a little empty and superficial. Which may be the reason it is so effective. If it were different. If Bergman learned a valuable lesson about self-worth and came away with some message of "believe in yourself" or "it's what's on the inside that counts" we would be satisfied to go along with our merry lives. Instead, we are left with the idea that what matters is what you put inside another person. Self-obsession the victor, and to the victor go the spoils. Depending on where you're coming from, this documentary can be rather upsetting.
There was another recent movie that had a similar effect on audiences: The Wolf of Wall Street. Not to compare a man on the quest for a bigger member with a white-collar criminal, but there is a definite parallel in the way these hedonistic exploits confront something in us. These two movies mirror something about our society that is often glossed over. It is through the charisma of the leading man that we can relate to the hunger for status. We all want something. We are all longing for something. But what is the price we would pay to get it? What is the price we pay for our modern culture? How are we corrupted? How are we damaged? What is the cost of convenience? Perhaps it is not why we build that matters, but what we neglect in the process.
See Big Like Me in Los Angeles this week at the Downtown Independent.