Dear Netflix Viewers,
About a week ago my ten-year-old daughter, Daisy, had her nine-year-old friend over to our house. They wanted to watch the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”, so like any responsible parent I decided to watch it with them. Fortunately, my well-informed husband stepped in and said they shouldn’t watch it at all. After our kids went to bed, I convinced my husband to watch one episode with me. I have personally known six people who committed suicide, so it didn’t take me long to figure out that this series portrays an imaginary suicide victim whose story does not reflect reality. Here is a list of thirteen lies that this series is subtly teaching our children, which is literally killing them. Please leave a comment below if you think I missed something.
- Blaming Other People for Your Choices is Good
“You’re one of the reasons why.” Says main character Hannah Baker in the first of thirteen tapes, explaining the thirteen reasons why she chooses to kill herself. The show begins with the ancient art of blaming other people. Hannah chooses thirteen people that she thinks drove her to suicide, then she makes tapes about them and forces them to listen to those tapes after she kills herself. Great idea! I’m going to send tapes to Krispy Kreme for making me fat. Then they’ll be sorry.
Guess what? Suicide is a personal choice. And it is not the choice of someone who is mentally stable. Someone with the mental capacity to spend countless hours in accurate self-reflection will probably find a better solution to their problems than suicide. Maybe you know that Hannah is not real, but a binge watching fourteen-year-old might not see that. And therein lies the problem. Hannah’s character is a dark fantasy dreamed up by people who don’t understand suicide at all.
- Mental Health Issues Aren’t Worth Mentioning
As humans, one of our strongest instincts is to survive. Anyone who has lost the will to live is mentally ill. “13 Reasons Why” never once mentions depression or any kind of mental illness. Not. Once. The audience is left to assume that Hannah may have been perfectly stable and sane while choosing to end her life. This reinforces the lie, “she’s just like me.” No, she’s not. Once again, we see an unrealistic illusion.
- Revenge is a Noble Goal
If Hannah’s thirteen chosen individuals don’t listen to each tape, then a person she trusts who has extra copies of the tapes, will “release those copies in a very public manner.” The choice is to listen and be manipulated by a life-long guilt trip or not listen and be exposed to the world for something awful you did.
The first listener is Clay, who is visibly distressed by the tapes because he had a crush on Hannah. He doesn’t have a clue that he did anything wrong, but he will be scarred for life by Hannah’s sick game. He can’t apologize because she’s already dead.
- Law Enforcement Doesn’t Exist
There are real crimes committed in this series. Hannah herself witnesses the rape of a friend and does nothing about it. Later Hannah is raped. We don’t see police involvement. There is no hint that a justice system even exists. Whatever happened to calling 911 or filing a police report? This gross oversight is sending a message of passivity and helplessness to young people, which is reinforced by the next problem:
- Adults Are Not Going to Help You
After making her tapes but before killing herself, Hannah tells a teacher, Mr. Porter, about her rape. She, of course, tapes this conversation. Mr. Porter does not help her. How often does this occur in real life? Very rarely, because teachers are mandatory reporters. They are, by law, obligated to disclose any information to authorities that they know about a student who has been assaulted or plans to assault someone else. And they do, because their job is on the line. By portraying a teacher as not taking responsibility and helping Hannah this series is showing youth that adults can’t be trusted. This series is not opening the lines of communication between teens and adults as it claims. It’s cutting them off completely.
- Getting Drunk is a Normal Part of Your Teen Years
While under-age drinking is common, it is still illegal and not everyone is doing it. “13 Reasons Why” portrays attractive teenagers drinking and getting drunk in a normal and casual way. This will encourage more teens to drink alcohol. Several years ago, our government concluded that more youth were smoking because they saw it portrayed on television as normal and attractive. Smoking was then banned from commercials and almost completely removed from TV. Teen smoking has decreased dramatically since. If you want kids to drink show them beautiful peers drinking. I guarantee you, more of them will start drinking. And of course, alcoholism has been linked to suicide.
- You’re a Disney Princess
Fictitious Hannah is styled after a classic Disney Princess. She is young, beautiful, vulnerable and helpless. She has waited for a rescuer. The people she blames for ending her life include not only people who hurt her, but also those who didn’t help her enough. The one adult she goes to for help, fails her. Beyond that she does nothing but plan her own death as a form of vengeance. All resources available to her are ignored. Parents, professional therapists, law enforcement, and her own power to persevere aren’t even considered. While many young people have this narrow frame of reference, portraying it in a popular show only reinforces it as an acceptable world view. It’s not.
- Suicide Prevention is a Joke
The only hint of suicide prevention in the show depicts high schoolers openly mocking it. These students rip the suicide prevention posters off the walls of their high school with the idea that the whole thing is a joke. When a young person sees this behavior, they are less likely to turn to a suicide prevention resource for help. This is not the message we want to send to young people.
- Killing Yourself is the Best Option
The trouble with this portrayal of suicide is that Hannah’s plan is super effective. Even though numerous people in Hannah’s life failed her, her own plan to force them to listen to her sad story after she’s dead works perfectly. Those tapes aren’t lost in the mail or apprehended by an observant parent. Neither are they accidentally destroyed or chewed up in an old tape player. Nope. Her choice to die is actually portrayed as the best choice. Her tapes achieve her desired results- pouring wrath on her enemies like a postmortem Carrie.
Here is the stark reality: most suicide victims don’t leave a note, let alone a thirteen volume anthology. Those who do write a note, sometimes write things that sound insane, because sane people don’t kill themselves. Suicide does not clear up any mysteries. It creates more questions that will never be answered because the only person who could answer them is dead.
- Suicide Will Bring About Vengeance/Justice
Some of Hannah’s tapes are used to expose the crimes that certain people have committed in order to shame and/or humiliate them. In reality, this doesn’t work. If someone assaults you in real life and you kill yourself, your attacker wins. If some tell-all tape or letter makes it to the police or the public, they may ignore it. Why? Well, your last act unequivocally proved that you’re not mentally stable and you shouldn’t be trusted. If you want someone to be held accountable for their actions you need to be alive and well, so you can testify against them.
- Suicide Bombers Have It All Figured Out
Hannah is more submissive than a Puritan farmer’s wife. She is not assertive and never stands up for herself. The audience doesn’t get the privilege of seeing a young woman who knows how to keep herself away from dangerous situations or fight for her own honor when she is being bullied. What we do see is the most extreme form of passive/aggressive behavior ever. With the tapes left behind to torture her enemies (or friends that didn’t help enough) she is more like a suicide bomber than a victim to be pitied. She’s been hurt, and she wants everyone else to hurt too, even those who care about her. She carefully prepares a weapon and ignites it as she dies.
- Suicide Is Not Contagious
This is where the show reveals its own hypocrisy. After Hannah’s suicide many of her friends seriously contemplate suicide and one attempts it. The writers accurately depict suicide contagion within the show, yet somehow they believe the show won’t inspire copycats in real life.
Both common sense and history reveal that this is an unrealistic expectation. Suicide contagion has been scientifically documented. The reality is that since the book “13 Reasons Why” came out in 2007 the suicide rate among girls ages 15-19 has doubled. Let that sink in a minute. A New York Times Bestseller, whose target market is teenage girls, depicts a suicide for 288 pages, and in real life the suicide rate of teenage girls doubles.
Everyone knows correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Right. And cigarettes don’t necessarily cause lung cancer. Wake up people! This is one hell of a correlation.
- It Is Not Their Fault
In the final episode of season one of “13 Reasons Why” Hannah’s suicide is depicted in graphic detail for three minutes. As an adult who has known six people, including my uncle, who have committed suicide I know to stay away from this stuff. It is poison. But do teenagers know this? Does your teenage daughter/friend/neighbor know this? What about your average nine-year-old?
“Ok, maybe it’s unhealthy. But is there any evidence that people who watch this show actually kill themselves after watching it?” I’m glad you asked.
Meet 15-year-old Bella Herndon. No wait. You can’t. She’s dead. She killed herself a few days after watching “13 Reasons Why.” As did Anna Bright, Priscilla Chiu, and Lily Mae Sharp. Educators and health professionals have cited an increase in self-harm since this series aired. But no one involved in making this show thinks that they are to blame. They believe that they are bringing issues to light that need to be discussed. The truth is that they are bringing important issues to the forefront because they are making them worse. Using a book or show like “13 Reasons Why” to raise awareness about bullying and suicide is like giving crack cocaine to a bunch of junior-highers so they can learn how bad it is. The makers of this series are as delusional as the fictitious characters they have created. They should be held accountable and they should be stopped.
To make matters worse, Netflix was warned of this very issue before the show even aired. At that time, psychologist Dan Reidenberg advised Netflix to stop the project. They ignored him. Since then, Bella Herndon’s father has sued Selena Gomez, an executive producer of the show, but the show still goes on. The Parents Television Council has called for the show to be removed from Netflix. It’s still there. Over 70,000 people have signed a petition for the show’s removal. Now we have season two. It is possible to put an end to this series. But until we can do that, we need to talk to our youth. They should know that they are being lied to through this show. There are a number of ways to help. Share this post. Or write your own. Or sign the petition. Or call Netflix until their phones break. Most of all, talk to your kids and your grandkids and your neighbor’s kids and your nieces and nephews. They need to know that this show is lying. We will help them with their struggles or we will find someone who can. Lord knows Netflix won’t.