[This post discusses topics such as suicide and sexual assault. We can all help prevent suicide. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone.]
I’m sitting here and my hands are shaking.
I am outraged.
Honestly, this may be the first time I am at a loss for words. Well, maybe the opposite…
I just finished watching the second season of 13 Reasons Why. And I have SO MANY THOUGHTS.
I wrote about the show when the first season came out last year, and the title of that outspoken piece was called, “The Negligence of 13 Reasons Why” if that gives you any inkling of my position on the show. And I highly encourage you to read it before you go on.
But basically, as a refresher, it was a Netflix series, produced by Selena Gomez, geared towards teens, that all but glorified suicide. It told the story of a teenage girl, Hannah, who took her own life, and left behind these 13 cassette tapes that blamed 13 people as to why they contributed to her decision to take her life.
It was incredibly controversial, not only for the subject matter, but for the disturbingly graphic scene that showed her committing suicide. And then, after it s release, the tragic result of “copycat” suicides that occurred.
They claimed that they were setting out to start a conversation. I call BS, and shake my head at the sheer negligence and irresponsible decision making skills on the part of Netflix, as well as Selena Gomez.
So why, then, did I watch Season 2?
Because I wanted to be part of the dialogue. This show is having an incredible impact on teens and touches on a mental health topic matter that is akin to eating disorders, and so I wanted to know what is influencing our culture.
I’m going to just go out and say what needs to be said.
Do not watch Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why.
Don’t let your mailman watch it. Don’t let your dog watch it. But especially, don’t let your kids watch it. Do not expose them to the dark and disturbing images that this negligent show is impressing upon the viewers.
It is rated TV-MA for a reason.
I have just so many thoughts. So many thoughts. My brain is going a mile a minute, so I apologize in advance, this may not be as well put together as I would like.
First and foremost: The absolute most harmful aspect, in my opinion, about Season 2, was Hannah, the Spirit.
Yes, you read that correctly. Hannah – the main character who took her life in Season 1 – comes back in Season 2 from the afterlife and “interacts” with her love interest, Clay, to the point where they almost kiss.
This is just so problematic.
First, a little set up. The entire storyline of season 2 is the aftermath of Hannah’s suicide. The whole show is centered around a trial: her parents have filed a lawsuit against Hannah’s school, trying to hold them accountable for her death. So as a result, every kid/adult/teacher etc, on the tapes has to testify in this widely publicized trial. The news is covering it, people are writing blogs about it, the kids keep talking about her, and reliving the past, and obsessing about the details of her suicide.
Interesting story line, right?
This is just awful. Awful. This is hammering the harmful perception of “celebrity” or “notoriety” that can be so devastatingly influential to kids at risk of suicide. Season 1 was bad enough – that after her death, the entire school was still fixated with her death because of the cassette tapes. Now in season 2, they’ve included the whole city and internet, captivated by her death.
Couple that with the fact that Hannah keeps appearing to Clay, and having him profess his love for her, and conversing with her in his mind — it erases the lethality and finality of suicide.
When a person commits suicide, they are no longer alive. Period. There is no “Romeo and Juliet” love story that can occur between them and their crush. There is no more communication with friends. There is no more connection or physical touch. They are gone.
And this show – it is infuriating how carelessly and just blatantly negligent it is to portray the victim of a suicide, still communicating and having relations with their loved ones.
And then with the world – and media – revolving around her and the intricate details of that time before her death – it is making Hannah into the cover model of People Magazine, or the headline of Page 6, rather than AN OBITUARY WHERE SHE SHOULD BE.
I just can’t. I am so angry I need to get up and take a walk for a minute. Excuse me.
OK, I’m back.
This season felt like they were trying to tackle, head on, every single major issue facing teens today, in the most graphic and in-you-face, get-people-talking way possible.
There was drug abuse and addiction; rape; sexual assault; homophobic assault; teens “coming out” for the first time; gun violence; self-harm; homelessness; bullying; cyber bullying; vandalism; teen pregnancy; hazing; suicide; school shooting; heroin detox.
If you think reading that list was exhausting, imagine watching – in graphic depiction – those topics.
The most disturbing scene in the season was when this outcast boy was ganged up on in the boy’s bathroom at school. And this is a highly graphic description, so please be warned. The four jocks repeatedly slammed his head into the sink, and then dragged his nearly unconscious body to a bathroom stall where they kicked and beat on him while flushing his head down the toilet 5 or six times. And then finally, sexually assaulted him by repeatedly ramming a broom handle up his rectum. This scene lasted for two minutes. And it ended with him naked, buttocks exposed, lifeless over the toilet, with the top 12 inches of the broom handle covered in blood.
This boy would then go on to bring a rapid-fire assault rifle to the school dance.
I’m sorry for that description. But that is what this show was. It was horrific to watch.
And what made it so sickening to me, was that it was being targeted to teens.
It just makes me sick.
Selena Gomez is a producer of the show. Kids and teens worship her. They idolize her every move. They buy what she’s wearing, listen to her music, and watch what she slaps her name on.
No “TV-MA” rating is going to keep them from doing so.
Next, the other thing about it was that the show made it seem like this heinous behavior was normal. They were portraying that, every kid is excessively sexually active in high school. Making it seem that heroine addiction is a common occurrence, and bullying to the point of anal penetration with a janitorial tool is what happens at every school. Oh yeah – and that kids have unlimited access to guns and assault rifles.
They were depicting a desolate reality that frankly is not the norm. And making is seem like it is is SO IRRESPONSIBLE.
It makes kids think, “Oh, well, there must be something wrong with me if I’m not sleeping with 2 or 3 different partners in one night as a sixteen year old kid.” Or that they’re a loser for not drinking or doing drugs like the “cool kids” are doing in the series.
This is not what we should be putting out there for our kids to watch and mull over and think and talk about.
Sure, it starts a conversation, but it completely destroys them and their innocence in the process.
And yeah, kids aren’t naive. I’m not dumb. But it is just so disgustingly ironic – the behaviors and patterns that they are trying to prevent, are the exact same behaviors and patterns that they are perpetuating by glorifying them on their show!!
It is just so counterproductive. And harmful.
I turned off the show, and all I could think about was this one very specific thing:
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
When I was in high school, I had this beautiful mosaic mirror in my bedroom, and on it was written that verse.
And after watching such highly disturbing material on TV for the last several hours, it was as though God was reminding me that I need to be filling my mind with pure, good things that point to Him, not the garbage and filth this world is producing.
That’s the thing. God was excluded from the dialogue. Hannah’s parents in the show were openly “untrusting” of the church and made that clear when they were planning her memorial service.
If 13RW really want to start a productive dialogue about those horrible things, why not include the one thing – the One Person – who can truly turn things around?
Arrogantly shoving God out of the storyline in 13RW does such a horrible disservice to anyone truly needing help from suicidal thoughts, bullying, self harm, rape, etc.
And the only other mention of God was by the student body president who claimed to be a Christian, but ended up literally having the word “HYPOCRITE” spray painted on the back of his car, after he lied about the rape.
God is not the enemy.
And perhaps, if we were to put true, admirable, pure, excellent material out into the world for teens to watch and emulate, the world might be a better place.
Filling our minds, and the minds of our future generation, with a bleak, disturbing portrayal of “teenage reality” does nothing more than throwing a cow into a field of mud and telling it to eat.
13 Reasons Why, you have been a detriment to our teens. And Selena Gomez, shame on you for endorsing this negligent material, when you know full well the impressionable age range of your fans. I pray that those watching will decide to turn it off, before the damage is done.
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