About two months ago, a friend and I sat in one of six sold-out Asheville theaters to watch the new documentary The Game Changers.
I had timidly invited him at the last minute — not because he’s anti-plant (he ate a veg-heavy diet already), but because I’m always anxious when inviting non-vegan friends to a vegan event.
But as we sat in the crowded theater, surrounded by strangers just as eager to see the film as I was, something was different. It felt like a big deal.
And since then, the hype has only gotten bigger…
…More pre-orders from iTunes than any other documentary.
…Instantly making waves on Netflix.
…The talk of just about every vegan podcast out there.
But now that the film has been out in the world and the initial energy is starting to fade, has The Game Changers become as big — and important — as it felt sitting in that movie theater?
2 Reasons Why
The Game Changers Has an Advantage
If you haven’t seen it, The Game Changers documents injured UFC fighter James Wilks’ journey as he discovers a new (to him) way to think about protein and nutrition for athletes.
Along the way he meets with Olympians, NFL players, bodybuilders and strongmen (even one of the strongest men in the world), sprinters and endurance runners, and countless doctors, all thriving on a plant-based diet.
It’s a bold message made even more powerful through the elite-level athletes featured.
With all the hype surrounding The Game Changers, I’ve been thinking a lot about what made this one feel so different than other documentaries promoting a plant-based diet, because there are plenty…
Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives, What the Health, Earthlings, and Vegucated, just to name a few. All important and powerful films that made a splash both inside and out of the vegan community.
But while some of those hit the mainstream conversation and became popular on Netflix, as far as I know, none of them made it to the big screen or had this much anticipation before the release.
As I thought about it, two reasons immediately jumped out about why this one is different:
1. The vegan diet is having a moment.
From Impossible Whoppers going
Plants are a part of pop-culture like we’ve never seen before.
I’d love to give credit to James Cameron and the others for planning it this way, but I honestly think they just got lucky. Still the timing is great.
Speaking of James Cameron…
2. It has James Cameron, Jackie Chan, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Never before has a vegan documentary had such A-listers as The Game Changers has, nor people who know the film industry like James, Jackie, and Arnold.
The outro credits include James Cameron talking to you from the set of Avatar 2, for crying out loud. You can’t get much bigger than that.
And there’s just something wildly powerful about Arnold Schwarzenegger — the man many of us grew up picturing when we thought about “strong” — saying that you don’t need meat to build muscle… and, the kicker, that he was more successful without it.
Add in a long list of staple plant-based athletes and doctors like Scott Jurek,
Dr. Esselstyn, Patrik Baboumian, and Dotsie Bausch, plus NFL players and so many others, and the movie brings a level of clout that would have been hard to imagine not that long ago.
That all has to really help. But even with the big names and the good timing, I think there’s more to the story.
The Real Reason Why This One is Different
Documentaries have long played a major roll in convincing people to go plant-based, or at least warming them up to the thought.
But to me, the tidal wave of enthusiasm around The Game Changers has more to do with the subject matter than anything else.
(A reality I had to admit, by the way…)
But fitness — looking good, feeling strong, achieving your goals…
That appeals to our most primal desires.
And the “what if” feeling of hope that you could be as fast, strong, or fit as the people in the film if you just made a change.
The film promises results, and leads you to believe that the goals you already have — run a marathon, get stronger, complete a triathlon — are only going to be enhanced by taking a closer look at what you eat.
The Game Changers knew to tap into that desire. Not to try and get you focused something new, but to focus on what you’re already into and take it to the next level.
Something even the best eye-opening health or animal rights documentaries can’t compete with.
That’s why this one is different. And yes, why I believe it’s changing the game for the vegan movement.
Remember My Non-Vegan Friend?
Guess what, he now eats a plant-based diet.
When we got in the car on the way home, I was nervous to ask him what he thought. I anticipated some push-back or questioning of the science.
But instead it was him processing the film, asking questions, and talking through what the transition would look like for him.
Something about that movie struck a chord — hitting him with the right message at the right time — and almost immediately, he started eating only plants.
Two months later he’s going strong, and while I’m not sure he’d call say he’s all in just yet, I can confidently say that right now he’s thriving.
Being a Vegan in a Post-Game Changers World
Alright, I admit, that header is a bit dramatic. Waking up today doesn’t look all that much different than it did a few months ago.
But I do think that this documentary has presented us with a golden opportunity…
Everyone is paying attention.
But how do we act on that attention?
For starters, we can encourage people to watch the movie, and all the countless other great vegan documentaries available on the big streaming services.
But more than that, we need to lead by example.
People are watching, so let’s show them what’s possible.
Do big things. Train hard. Eat well. And don’t be afraid to share books and resources, or get personal about your lifestyle.
Take a page out of The Game Changers playbook and tap into the primal desires of others, and inspire them to do something great.
The vegan movement is having a moment. Let’s not let it slip through our fingers.