The thought occurred to me after watching The Wolverine the other night with my wife that Hugh Jackman probably took steroids for that role. The guy is a 45-year-old actor and he looks like this:


He may be a fitness fanatic, but I suspect to get in shape, and stay in shape, he’s aided by chemistry. And so long as he’s taking them under the supervision of a doctor, that’s fine. Steroids are used in a medical context all the time. We only get bent out of shape about them in sports, when we feel they are being used to create an unfair advantage. (Some people argue that the full legalization of steroids in sports would recreate a level playing field. It might, but it would also distort comparisons with athletes from the past.) We also don’t like it when kids take them, because of health concerns. I have no ethical issue with an actor taking steroids to prepare for a role; there’s no competition at stake here, besides with the egos of other 40-something males, and no party is injured.

But should steroids only be for actors? If they can be taken safely and legally, should others in professions that rely on strength – and where the artificial rules of competition are not enforced – be taking them? Do we want our fireman and soldiers to be as strong as possible, to fulfill their missions? Probably. How about sanitation workers? Would a regimen of safe steroids enhance garbage collection?

And that took me back to Wolverine. In the fictional comic book universe, would super heroes with only normal human strength be on steroids? If you accept the premise that their heroics are protecting lives and saving the world , then shouldn’t they maximize their strength by any (safe) means possible? Maybe some characters would shun them on moral grounds, but even Captain America, that pillar of rectitude, was created by  vita-rays, a 1940s version of steroids. I’m guessing characters like Batman and Wolverine, who look for every other advantage, would quite naturally be on the juice.