At the risk of sounding clichéd, The Game Changers Netflix Documentary, I would go so far to say really is a game changer. Speaking as a vegan, I decided to make the change 11 months ago for environmental and then ethical reasons but never have health-reasons played a part in my diet choice.
Watching The Game Changers, I found it incredibly hard not to be left feeling very impressed by the elite athletes showcased, living off plant-based diets. From Patrik Baboumian winning the title of Germany’s strongest man in 2011, Dotsie Bausch winning the silver in the 2012 London Olympic Games in women’s track cycling to Morgan Mitchell representing Australia in the 2016 Olympics as a 400m sprint runner.
When I look at these athletes, I can’t help but think, the age-old tale that meat is needed to be strong, powerful and fast simply can’t be true. This documentary aims to invalidate “the world’s most dangerous myth” that meat is indispensable, needed to get enough protein and crucial for optimal health. If meat really was so fundamental to not only our survival but to being able to excel, how have these athletes reached such excellence without it? More importantly I ask myself, why would these athletes switch to a plant-based diet if they did not really feel so much more empowered and strong by doing so.
Watching this documentary evoked feelings of surprise, motivation, inspiration and lastly a morsel of anger and frustration. It made me question the role media plays and has always played in portraying a diet based around meat, eggs and dairy as a leading force of optimal fitness, health, strength, balance and even masculinity. It made me question how much lobbying and marketing the meat industry do for their own advantage and to simply gain profit.
Why did I grow up being told I needed my glass of milk for strong bones? And to eat my red meat in order to grow properly? Because that is the believed norm. It is what the meat industry and advertisement leads us to believe, and boy have they done a great job of it.
Furthermore, this documentary brought my attention to the myriad advertisements over the years and to this date, that have constructed a strong and succinct cultural association between meat and men. Meat has been gendered, linking it directly to a big strong man. Because to be a real man you need a beef burger in front of you. Right? Not right. Similarly, salads have been gendered as a female food with women most likely being used in adverts eating a salad. Again, not right.
Carol Adams, author of The Sexual Politics of Meat, makes the very interesting point that “meat – supposedly a symbolic of strength and virility – is being eaten because men are too afraid to change in front of other men” and eaten when thinking ones masculinity is threatened. Ironic. I’ve often heard it in my own house: “but your brother is a growing boy, he needs his meat”. But does he? By telling men they need meat to be ‘manly’, society is ingraining the message that meat is manly and making them believe that they would need social permission to not eat it.
In 2015, Scott Jurek broke the record for the Appalachian Trail which he ran in 46 days, 11 hours. Just let that properly sink in, that is the equivalent of running two marathons a day, for 46 days. Scott Jurek, a man, living on a plant-based diet, achieved this.
I appreciate the fact that this documentary focussed on athletic performance, as there can be a stigma of vegans as lanky and thin. Game Changers however focusses on athletes who have turned to veganism to improve their performance. And if elite athletes can win medals and break records on a plant-based diet, then who’s to say a ‘regular’ vegan can’t run that Saturday morning park run or even challenge themselves to a marathon, with the same amount of energy, fire and gusto as a meat-eater.
This documentary also made me ponder and query the amount of money spent on curing diseases – from diabetes, obesity and cancer – that have all been linked to eating meat and dairy. If eating a plant-based diet was a step in the very right direction towards preventing these diseases in the first place, leading to a healthier population and therefore saving nation’s health systems a great deal of money, then why wouldn’t we do it?
Watching Game Changers naturally led me to research and read up on the criticism towards it, making me realise that there are always two sides to any argument, irrelevant of what you argue or believe. Personally however, Game Changers more than ever made me feel good about not using animals as middle men to get my source of plant-based protein. Veganism for me has always fundamentally been a question of doing my little bit to help the environment and the cruel treatment of animals, but watching this documentary and considering veganism for health reasons now feels like the cherry on top of a big, scrumptious, plant-based chocolate cake.
Ultimately, I believe the best way to be informed, is to challenge oneself to see and listen to both sides of any argument. It is far too easy to have debates with people who share your opinion and to watch documentaries enforcing what you believe. By always surrounding yourself with too like-minded people you could be preventing yourself from learning without realising. So if you don’t believe in veganism, think it could be detrimental to your health or are a manly man who needs meat, I would argue that more than anyone you should give this documentary a watch.
At the end of the day, eat whatever the hell you want to eat, but at least do so informed. I would implore you to spend 1h25m of your day, making yourself think, challenging your beliefs, potentially pushing yourself to try meatless Monday’s and seeing how you feel and questioning an industry and information you have always taken as fact. This documentary really does make you think, and that above all is reason enough for giving it a watch.
Last modified: 3rd December 2019