Netflix's Seaspiracy review: How will this exposé on the fishing industry and the future of the ocean change our habits?
Another day, another food documentary about how everything we eat is killing us and the planet slowly. Yes folks, I'm talking about the latest doc-on-the-block: none other than Netflix's Seaspiracy.
This latest socio-entertainment feature by Ali Tabrizi attempts to lift the veil on the fishing industry, in particular its harmful impact on our oceans and the lasting damage we are causing to the earth through the over-consumption and production of seafood. Think of it as a pescatarian-focused The Game Changers — Netflix's 2020's runaway hit on veganism. The 90-minute film has also been subjected to a tremendous amount of scrutiny and controversy since its broadcast, with many marine biologists disputing the statistics flagged out as well as the prediction that "the ocean will be empty by 2048".
Now, if I had a dollar for every time I've received unsolicited advice from an entertainment channel about my nutritional patterns and food consumption choices, I'd probably have enough money to produce my own documentary on the topic. It feels like we're suddenly obsessed with taking advice on the state of what goes into our bodies from any source but a medical one, instead giving rise to experts and social commentators across the globe who are touted as specialists in their fields, be it muscle composition or the fishing industry. Is the documentary compelling? Yes. Does it make you want to sit up and take notice of take notice of the issue? Yes. Does it mean you're going to miraculously become the world's strongest environmentalist overnight? I don't think so.
Not to mention that these films are often far from the objective narrative they purport to sell. After all, they're not beng financed by educational institutions but Hollywood producers looking to trade sensationalism for eyeballs and eventually, revenue.
Which is where my question arises:
Do we watch documentaries such as Seaspiracy because we truly want to educate ourselves on the social issues affecting our generations and re-program our behaviours and habits to serve the plant. Or is this just the millennial way of fulfilling our social conscience tank and expelling the guilt we're bombarded with by endless touch points, reminding us of how little time we have left before the world ends every time we eat a cheeseburger?
It feels like the answer is somewhere in between.
We all know we're the most connected cohort of human beings that have ever existed across time and the rise of social media has been intrinsically influential in enabling this. As a result, we often find it impossible to avoid information exchanges, be they solicited or unsolicited, making us hyper-aware of more causes and social issues than ever before.
However the flip side of this is also that our guard has been significantly lowered when it comes to the filtering and absorption of falsehoods and often, straight out lies, when we consume content. All it takes is one little Instagram post about climate change or a 30-second clip about the impending explosion of middle earth and we're suddenly scare-mongered into believing that we've got minutes left to influence everlasting change for all generations to come.
And this delicate balance is the tipping point documentaries such as Seaspiracy undoubtedly tap into: presenting us with just enough facts to keep believing the truth is somewhere beneath the crashing of the waves. They do this whilst subliminally delivering traces of propaganda to ensure there is enough alarm to drive a call to action — an action they very much intend for you to take based on their version of the story.
The truth is, we do care. We don't want to kill the fish and murder the cows and consume all the water in the world doing so. We want a healthy, happy, prosperous planet for ourselves and our children and we understand the irreversible damage being done on a daily basis, eroding the earth one plastic bottle at a time. And that's why we watch. We watch because we want to know how we can help. We watch because we want to know the facts and the expert opinions and the insights of those we can't access on our own. And lastly, we watch because even though deep down, we know we're being sold only part of the truth and some of a lie, we believe starting the conversation is better than not having one.
But this is where we also fall short. What use is starting a conversation if it ends as soon as the first question is asked and answered? Whilst our intentions start noble, the failure behind documentaries such as Seaspiracy are that they're not rooted in an intrinsic desire that stems from within ourselves to mould and evolve. We all know true change, particularly of ourselves, can only start from within ourselves for it to be lasting and that's why no matter how many Seaspiracies we may watch, at some point, they fall short in driving tenure in our endeavours to save the world. At the end of the day, they become yet another external force, a bombardment of ideals, a moral-shaming of sorts and our guilt starts to transcend into compulsion and compulsion to resentment until that in turn forms to an explosion of stagnancy, whereby we're so crippled and overwhelmed by who to listen to and how to change, that we simply stop trying all altogether.
Does that mean we don't need these documentaries and they serve no purpose? Of course not. All be they entertaining, they do very much serve a purpose in highlighting and drawing awareness to a number of interesting topics and discussions that we should at a human level, be aware of.
But by focusing more on the facts and less on the fear-mongering, we may find that we are able to penetrate the barriers between true change that is self-started and enduring versus simply eating our guilt. Because I have a guilt-spiracy about that.
Seaspiracy is now streaming on Netflix.