Changing the Game
By Jennifer Green,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Mature themes, language in poignant, persuasive documentary.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Transgender teens deserve equal treatment, acceptance, and the same respect as other people, yet some state policies don't allow them to participate in sports teams or use bathrooms and locker rooms of their gender identity.
Positive Role Models
The three teens profiled in the documentary demonstrate courage and perseverance in living their truths and withstanding bullying and suspicion from others, mainly adults. They’re aware that they’re role models for others. Their parents, grandparents, coaches, and friends support them. One helps advocate for a piece of legislation to change rules regarding transgender people in her state. Adults bully and insult transgender teen athletes online and in person.
Violence & Scariness
Statistics cite that more than 40% of transgender teens commit suicide and that African American transgender female students are five times more likely to be killed. The teens react to these statistics and also reflect them -- one admits he once took a lot of sleeping pills and has suffered serious depression since he was 13. A parent tells the story of her son who killed himself after revealing he was transgender. Other parents worry about suicide. A grandma who works as a deputy sheriff shows off and talks about her vast gun collection. A comment online suggests a transgender teen "kill itself."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Teen boys and girls talk about dating and relationships. A woman discusses female athletes competing despite having their periods and menstrual cramps.
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"S--t," "bulls--t," "bitch," "hell," "fricking," "suck," "d--k," "balls," "vagina," "pee," "poop," "idiot."
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Products & Purchases
Fox News, Diet Coke, Mac laptops, Salomon skis, Life University.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A teen talks about taking too many sleeping pills. A transgender teen must inject himself with testosterone. A parent mentions struggling transgender teens turning to drugs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Changing the Game takes on mature themes in following the experiences of three transgender teen athletes, and it advocates for their rights and equal treatment. The teens talk about gender dysphoria, transgender transitioning, and reassignment surgeries. Some also suffer from depression, online and in-person bullying, and the weight of media attention or not being able to just live a typical teen life. Scary statistics are cited concerning suicides among transgender teens and violence against African American transgender females. One teen admits he once took a lot of sleeping pills and has suffered serious depression since he was 13, and his grandmother suggests he wouldn't be alive today without their acceptance of his transition. He has to inject himself with testosterone. Other parents worry about drug use and suicide, and one parent tells the story of her son who killed himself after revealing he was transgender. The profiled teens have different rights depending on the state they live in, and they show courage and perseverance in being visible and in speaking publicly about their experiences. Language includes "s--t," "bulls--t," "bitch," "hell," "fricking," "suck," "d--k," "balls," "vagina," "pee," "poop," "idiot."
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Where to Watch
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Changing the Game
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What's the Story?
CHANGING THE GAME follows the stories of three transgender high school students who have all suffered backlash for wanting to compete on athletic teams of the gender they identify with. Mack Beggs sparked widespread controversy when he won the state championship for girls' wrestling, with angry parents and pundits opining that his testosterone injections should disqualify him. Beggs wanted to compete on the boys' team, but the state of Texas doesn't allow it. Andraya Yearwood lives in Connecticut, a state that allows students to choose their teams based on their gender identity. Yearwood is an African American transgender girl who runs track. Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, skier and transgender female Sarah Rose Huckman aims to help get a bill passed to reduce discrimination against transgender teens in her state. The three tell their stories in the documentary, which also includes interviews with parents, grandparents, coaches, and friends.
Is It Any Good?
This engrossing and timely documentary sends a powerful message of acceptance of transgender teens by letting them and their loved ones tell their own stories. Some of their experiences will stick with viewers long after Changing the Game's end credits roll. A key message of all three profiled teens is that being transgender isn't a choice. Yet, depending on which state they live in, some aren't allowed to compete on the team of their gender identity, and all suffer insults and bullying, mostly from adults, when they walk away from competitions. "I do train as hard as a man. I fight as hard as a man. I am a man. And I'm the state wrestling champion of female high school wrestling," Mack says wryly at the film's opening. "We are females, we don't have to identify as females," Andraya's transgender teammate Terry insists towards the end. Sarah admits she sometimes underperforms so as not to call attention to herself in races.
Parents, coaches, and principals open up their homes, training sessions, and baby albums to director Michael Barnett. Mack's Southern Baptist grandparents searched their Bible for help and seem to slip up regularly with pronouns, but the teen breaks down in tears when he talks about how much they've supported him. He probably wouldn't be alive today without that support, his grandma admits tearfully, a statement backed up by frightening statistics about transgender teen suicides. Sarah's self described "conservative" dad comments that being transgender "isn't political," though people do try to "politicize" it, and his daughter courageously advocates for policy change at the state level. This documentary also clearly advocates a side of this overtly politicized issue of allowing transgender teens the right to play on teams, and to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice. In the process, it portrays most of the critics of this policy -- parents and pundits alike -- as angry or even belligerent. One of the most dispassionate but convincing arguments is given by Andraya's track coach, who reminds us that the ultimate goal of high school sports isn't about who wins or loses, but what kids learn from participating. "You have to think about fairness beyond the track," he says. Sports are about "teaching life lessons." Changing the Game wins at doing just that.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the legislation, still in place in a majority of states, that restrict the athletic teams transgender teens can compete on, as discussed in Changing the Game. What is your opinion about these regulations? Did the documentary affect that opinion?
How does this compare to other documentaries you've seen?
How do Mack, Andraya, and Sara show courage and perseverance, and how has this helped them in their life journeys so far? Why are these important character strengths?
- On DVD or streaming: June 1, 2021
- Cast: Mack Beggs, Sarah Rose Huckman, Andraya Yearwood
- Director: Michael Barnett
- Studio: Hulu
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Activism, High School
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 28, 2022
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