Can Netflix’s Seaspiracy Really Shock People into Not Eating Fish?

March 2021

Hi X,

Seaspiracy has struck a nerve. It’s rocking up Netflix’s top ten, blowing up on Twitter and springing up in headlines across the media. In a culture feature for Wired, I would like to explore the potential of climate documentaries to cause lasting behaviour change. Namely, will people who watched Seaspiracy really be convinced to stop eating fish?

Netflix is certainly bringing the threats our planet faces into the mainstream, but the potential of this to translate to concrete behaviour change are poorly understood. Knowing this is important – Netflix is a massive market and if filmmakers knew the qualitative impact their films were having, it could inspire more to expose corruption and improve the conversation around climate change beyond ‘reuse and recycle’.

Anecdotally, people are shaken. It’s shocked Twitter users, my housemate, and their boomer dad’s into vowing never to touch fish again. I’d like to speak to experts to explore what psychology tells us about shock-driven behaviour change.

There’s a fair amount of research in this area, which shows that in general, the screening of films on climate issues increases the number of online requests and media discussions on these issues. I would love to trawl this to summarise what the data can tell us about previous big hitters (e.g Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth 2006) and the efficacy of climate change communication through film. Of course, we cannot conclude cause and effect, but we can explore how cultural weight can shift attitudes.

I will

– talk to researchers in the space, such as an expert in parasocial behaviour.
– consolidate the data from studies over the years (like this, this, this, this, this and this.)
– Talk to 2-3 people who believe they will stop eating fish after watching the doc
– If needed, talk to Sea Shepard and charities such as Fish for Thought to ask if they have had an influx in engagement and requests since the doc came out

Thank you for your time!

Warm regards,