13 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Watch This Show
In case you spent all of last year under a rock, let me take a moment to tell you about a little show produced by Netflix that was a huge hit with kids (for all the wrong reasons).
13 Reasons Why is a series based on the book by Jay Asher. It’s the story about Hannah Baker, a teenager whose suicide triggers the events in the series. The story revolves around Clay Jensen, a survivor of that suicide, and his journey towards justice and personal redemption. From the trailer for season 2, I expect this to be a continuation of the same drivel from last year. Here are 13 reasons why you should not watch this show (and encourage young people to do the same):
1. The show teaches kids that you don’t have to talk to people about your problems, and instead develop (or think you can develop) an elaborate scheme to get your message across post mortem.
2. The romance that develops between the protagonist and the victim is depicted through a series of flashbacks and ghostly encounters. Contrary to what the creators would have you believe, you can’t have a romantic relationship if you are dead. Other people cannot have a relationship with you if you are dead.
3. The victim is viewed as a hero or martyr to some type of cause. Committing suicide does not make you a hero. It makes you a statistic.
4. This show falls under the unique category of what I would describe as “suicide porn”. People with suicidal tendencies will oftentimes fantasize about the events that will take place in response to their death: the people who will mourn them, the attention they will receive, etc. This show not only encourages such thoughts, it severely exaggerates them to the point of utter ridiculousness.
5. The show depicts (spoiler alert) a severely inept counselor who functioned as the “last straw” for the victim, who tried to ask for help, and received only judgment, and indifference. This teaches our kids that the trained professionals who are available to support, will fail to do so when they reach out for help. It is inaccurate and atypical at the least, and deeply offensive at the worst. It is a slap in the face to all the mental health professionals who work tirelessly to support people in need.
6. The show simply fails to portray suicide as a bad choice. If anything, it comes off as a rewarding and meaningful thing to do. Just consider the series of ridiculous events it triggered in the aftermath.
7. The show teaches viewers that suicide is the fault of survivors. Let me be abundantly clear: when a person commits suicide, it is their own choice to do so and no one else’s. It is never the fault of those who survive the loss.
8. Not once is the thought of suicide brought up until the protagonist acts on it. There are no real conversations about the idea. This teaches viewers that the very idea of talking about suicide is inappropriate or taboo. It is not. Talking about suicide will not trigger the victim to commit suicide. It’s OK to talk about it. Don’t judge, just listen.
9. The show may give viewers the impression that suicide is a reasonable solution, or at least, a solution that one is quick to try. If one were to create a list of solutions to a problem or set of problems, suicide would not be high on the priority list. The protagonist’s painfully subtle attempts to reach out before committing suicide shortly thereafter are not an accurate reflection of life.
10. The show glamorizes suicide. This is dangerous and highly irresponsible. Please consider the well-being of your target audience.
11. When you are dead, you don’t get to feel the satisfaction of victory or revenge.
12. The show depicts kids memorializing the deceased, and a school that seems to approve of the behavior. Memorializing a person that committed suicide is not appropriate. There is research that suggests that other students who are at-risk for suicide may be affected by such memorial tributes. The reward of attention, vigils, and memorial plaques may seem like something that would never override our instinct to survive, but in the mind of someone contemplating suicide, it just might.
13. The show does an extremely poor job at teaching viewers what you actually should do if someone is contemplating suicide. In fact, there is probably not a single situation where one can see any character engaging in anything that remotely resembles effective suicide prevention strategies. For me, this is the one factor that may have redeemed the show despite its numerous flaws. The creators had an opportunity to teach, but instead chose to sensationalize the journey and glorify self-harm all the way to its bitter, inevitable end.