The series "Thirteen Reasons Why" has become the most watched show produced by Netflix - not without controversy. I take this opportunity to share with you some thoughts and reactions.
This series is based on a 2007 novel by Jay Asher. In the book, a young teenage girl named Hannah Baker is raped, then bullied. She commits suicide. But first, she makes 13 tapes giving 13 reasons why she is killing herself. More precisely, she singles out 13 individuals or groups whom she blames for her death.
My purpose here is neither to condemn nor to recommend the show. I simply want want to provide you with some resources to help you talk with our young people. If you follow our parish teenagers' Twitter feeds, Facebook pages or Instagram accounts at all, you know that they are already watching and discussing this! I have been impressed by many of their comments so far.
Both Catholic and secular groups have written warnings about the show. In short, the consensus is that for strong youth not in danger of suicide, this show can help them resolve to be better friends to people, to take the suffering of others seriously, and never to bully. For vulnerable youth - that is, those who already have suicidal thoughts - the show can lead them precisely to carry out the act. In any case, doctors and clergy alike strongly recommend that parents and teachers TALK about this show with their children.
The people who made the show are serious people. The executive producer is Selena Gomez, a serious artist - although her involvement might make some young people think that there is a certain "Walt Disney air of approval" over the series. Gomez herself has a passionate desire to PREVENT suicide by getting people to talk about things like school rape, school bullying, and the like. She has dealt with her own psychological problems and suicidal episodes. The problem is that the show "13 Reasons Why" never deals with psychological issues - it only blames other people. In the end, I believe that Gomez missed the mark. (But please do check out Project Semicolon.)
Our Sunday Visitor had an excellent review of the Netflix series. Read it here.
National Public Radio aired discussions of the original novel back in 2007, and has followed up with several good shows about the new Netflix adaptation. Here is the link to one of their better discussion, as a podcast, featuring several doctors. And here is their link to a summary article.
Over at catholicmom.com, Lisa Hendey has gathered some very good resources. I especially recommend the discussion by the cast and crew of the actual series (a half hour Youtube program), as well as the two medical articles. By the way, if you do not already know and read www.catholicmom.com, for Heaven's sakes take a look at it. It is an excellent resource!
As teachers, parents and religious, we will be expected to give some guidance. I hope that these resources can help.
Peace and all good,