I’m a pastor; a pastor who has responded, on average, to one suicide in my community per year. I am a pastor who’s sat in the hospital beside young people who recently attempted to take their own lives. So it may be unsurprising that I was concerned when many of my teens became infatuated with the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. I’m not against art tackling taboo or difficult subject matter; but I am opposed to adolescents, especially those with tendency toward self-harm, becoming infatuated with this glorification of suicide (the second leading cause of death among young people). Minor spoilers included.
And before we begin, if you struggle with suicidal thoughts or self harm, you can get help today by calling the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255. Your call is confidential and you will always be treated with respect and dignity.
1) Pandering to the Wrong Audience
The filmmakers actually note that the teenage mind is not yet able to put experiences into perspective. The trauma that we adults often dismiss as teenage angst can be blinding when experienced in high school. Unfortunately, this does not keep them from making a series, seemingly targeted at such impressionable minds, that blurs the lines between art and documentary. Parents are quick to turn off entertainment with intense gore, vulgar profanity, or graphic violence. A show like 13 Reasons Why sneaks by parent’s filters because it appears to be a teen drama. In truth, it is as more akin to Saw than Dawson’s Creek.