In case you’ve been going about your life without spending too much time thinking about fictional events, there’s a new show on Netflix that’s the consuming teenagers. Or rather, teenagers are consuming it.
13 Reasons Why is a show about the suicide of teenager Hannah Baker. She leaves behind a set of 13 tapes that are to be passed around to classmates. Each tape gives one of the reasons why she committed suicide. Each episode covers one tape, and each tape focuses on one person who had a major influence in her decision to kill herself.
Fun stuff. So when is the next superhero movie coming out?
As unappealing as all of this sounds you really need to pay attention to this show, talk about it with your kids, and possibly even watch it yourself. Maybe not all of it, but some of it. If your kids are old enough, and they want to watch it, make them really uncomfortable and watch it with them. I’ve only watched one so far, I’m committed to watching at least a few more just to be able to competently talk about it. But from what I’ve seen and read, here are 13 Reasons Why you should pay attention to this show if your kids are older than 3rd grade:
- “Everybody’s” talking about it. Or at least enough of them to make it unavoidable if your child interacts with peers. My ninth grade daughter has not seen any of them (and doesn’t want to at this time, we’ve got enough real life drama), but she knows the entire plot of every show because of school discussions.
- Kids are binge watching this. The series was released with all thirteen episodes at one time. Many kids are consuming the entire show in all of it’s non-glory in a single day.
- The show brings up some real, important issues that many of our kids or their friends are facing. I’ll go into them below, but the point is that this fictional show can spark great conversation about real topics.
- The show depicts social media bullying and the consequences of how a risqué picture can be turned against you. In this show Hannah was relatively innocent when the picture was taken (except for lying to her mom, sneaking out, and making out with a dude she barely knew). But it still destroyed her reputation in school. Lots of good stuff to talk about there.
- There are graphic rape scenes in one or two of the episodes. You should know this before allowing your kids to watch it.
- The last show actually shows her committing suicide by slicing her wrists in a bathtub. It’s graphics and shocking. But there’s a perverse way in which some might find it alluring and cool.
- From what I see, parents tend to come across as disinterested, disengaged, or idiots. Also there’s a really unfair depiction of the school guidance counselor who also gets blamed for her death, since he wasn’t a psychic who knew off the bat the validity of everything Hannah told him.
- Plenty of drinking, drug use, and generally foolish teenage lifestyle choices are shown.
- The supposed purpose of the show is to how we should be kind to one another to keep people from killing themselves. Given the context of the show, it’s naive, foolish, and impossible considering how Hannah even blames people who were basically nice to her and genuinely cared about her.
- For a show that’s supposed to be against bullying, the entire premise is perverse. 13 Reasons Why is a revenge fantasy where the dead girl gets to manipulate and destroy everyone’s life for making them feel responsible for her death when there’s nothing left for them to do to make it right.
- Mental health counselors are very concerned about the show, as it glorifies suicide and might very well inspire unbalanced kids to create their own suicide-revenge fantasies.
- The show starts to feel like a caricature. Every bad thing that happens to anyone happens to this girl. Impossible things when you start adding them all up. But let me point this out as well: everybody has bad stuff happen to them. The world is broken. We have to be resilient, and the ability to press through darkness and despair is what’s truly wonderful about humanity.
- OK, I’ve only watched one show so far, but I can already see a disturbing pattern that others affirm carries through the show. Hannah makes tons of stupid choices. She lies, manipulates, gets herself into bad situations. But there’s no ownership of that. It’s everyone else’s fault.
OK, I need to stop, because I promised 13 reasons. Maybe I’ll write a bonus “13 MORE reasons” after I watch a few more shows.
So what should you do?
- Talk to your kids about the show. Ask if they’ve watched it, ask if their friends have watched it. Ask what’s being said about it. Ask if they want to watch it.
- If they want to watch it (and haven’t), and you think they are mature enough to handle it, watch it with them. Make an agreement together to watch it as believers in Jesus who are looking for the brokenness and sinful thinking that’s causing so much havoc in everyone’s life.
- If they don’t want to watch it or you don’t want them to, talk through some of the responses and reactions they might have with friends who are talking about the show. As ambassadors of Jesus, what are big or subtle ways they can be salt and light in those conversations.
- Ask about who they know who might have experienced similar circumstances as those portrayed in the show. How might your child respond or help them?
- By all means, Pay Attention To What Your Kids Have Access To, What They Watch, What They Listen To! You remember being a kid. We’re sneaky, curious, and like to push limits. Times were tough enough back then. But the access to media and social media your kids have is beyond anything we could have imagined. The stuff deemed suitable for 13 year olds to watch is wicked. It’s hard, it seems never ending, but it’s our job.
You’re the shepherd of the little hearts in your home. Guard your flock.