So I finished watching 13 Reasons Why last week. I almost didn’t finish the series. I didn’t want to. I already knew how it ended (no real spoilers there), and I even knew the premise of the episodes based on what I was seeing shared online. I skipped quite a few scenes, because I didn’t need the graphic story-telling on repeat in my head. Sidenote: I’m a visual person, and experience like watching movies or shows resonate with me, so I knew it would potentially deeply impact me, so I did my best to guard my eyes while trying to approach the media with limited judgment (I already have my slanted perspective that it’s going to be “off” since it’s not something based in the truth of God’s Word). If you want a full review of what content is in the show, I recommend reading this review.
NOTE: In this post I am mainly referring to the TV Series. For a review of the book separately, go here.
Anyway, let’s get to some talking points.
Here are a few things I liked about the show:
- I appreciated the attempt at producing media that opens the eyes of its viewers and prompts a conversation for awareness, education, etc. However, I don’t think this was done in the best way possible. I agree with others who are saying that there will be a significant negative impact from this series.
- I appreciated the creative way they told the story, weaving the past and present together.
- I appreciated the vulnerability they tried to portray-real life, raw, and the true brokenness of this fallen world.
They got that last one spot-on. 👆
Here are a few reasons I was bothered:
- The show was not produced in a way that helped facilitate a conversation. I can at least appreciate Free Form (previously ABC Family) for putting targeted messages at the beginning of shows that address particular social issues. I know that I saw this from time to time as I watched a few of their shows in the past. This is particularly helpful for teens who often have a distorted view of reality, and having an actor who they otherwise only see as a character on the show break the third-wall and speak directly to them, charging them to act or take notice of an issue can be helpful.
- The main character was clearly someone who I believe could have potentially been diagnosed with a mental illness and if not that, certainly needed a lot of help. She couldn’t see any semblance of hope. This series was the telling of her downward spiral, and there was no alternative perspective. It was very narrow and dark.
- This article talks about how the media guidelines were blatantly ignored. I have to say that media includes books, the original source for this story, so let’s not expect the filmmakers, screenwriters, or anyone else involved to hold themselves to a standard that the author didn’t uphold either. All are at fault.
- Suicide, drugs, sex outside of marriage, rape, lying, stalking, same sex attraction, homosexuality, and more were glorified, sensationalized, and normalized. This is the world my children are growing up in, and the media is doing their job of marketing it as an accepted part of life.
- This was a “revenge” fantasy as I have deemed it. Basically, the idea that the main character, in taking her own life, gets revenge on everyone who ever hurt her. Important to recognize-revenge doesn’t actually get you what you want: love and acceptance. (see a little further below about the 2 main needs we have for connection). NOTE: NO ONE is responsible for your mental health but you! If you are struggling, reach out and get help. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for some information and resources for help.
- in this series, suicide was portrayed as her only option. I get that they were portraying her story and “her truth”, but again, this was an area where they should have also been marketing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or other support options, even if not in the storyline. This was quite bothersome to me, because as I have heard it said before, suicide is a very permanent solution to temporary problems!
Some may wonder why I watched the series, and this is why: my children very well may see this series one day. This is a conversation and a topic I need to be prepared to talk with them about. Also, I have known friends, acquaintances, and community members who have taken their own life. For my children, one of their friends, family members, or acquaintances may take their own life. Our world isn’t moving the other direction, and sadly, I believe that in 10 years when they are pre-teen/teenagers, this will be mild in the media. PARENTS, we need to be aware of what is talked about, how the conversation is being portrayed and marketed to our kids, and more. This disintegration that happens on screen in 13 Reasons Why is not necessarily any heavier than what I see in a preschooler watching the animated movie, Inside Out! Be prepared to have that conversation and guide your kids to God’s Word!
Also, WE are watching it. Yes, adults are watching this simply for entertainment. My generation is soaking this in, and we are struggling with life. We are feeling defeated and in need of help and hope. We, adults, need to have these conversations–TOGETHER.
Are WE talking?
Are WE turning to truth?
Are WE leading others to truth?
I believe that I have the hope and solutions for life that can turn this kind of situation around, and after watching the series, I am confident even more of the truth and this work God has called me into. This good work of counseling and coaching women to completely transform their lives. I won’t tell you how many of my own counseling and coaching clients have struggled with depression and have considered taking their own life. This is a REAL issue, and we need to start talking about it.
Each of us has within us a deep desire for connection, belonging, and being known vertically (to God) and horizontally (with our fellow man). Hannah Baker, the main character in this series, had neither. It’s time to get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations. It’s time to learn to respond with truth and grace.
If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.