If you’ve been keeping up with some sort of pop culture recently, you may have seen the Netflix original series “Th1rteen R3asons Why” pop up. However, if you’re like me, you may have actually waited 9-10 years to see if the Jay Asher book that you loved so much would become a movie or show, and then got way too excited to find out about it becoming a Netflix Original. Either way, most have heard of it or seen it by now. Maybe your students, children, or friends are watching it. I would caution you to advise them to press in and learn more before continuing their binge watching. Here’s why.
“Th1rteen R3asons Why” by Jay Asher was my favorite book in 7th grade. I read it all. Twice. The story follows Clay Jensen who receives tapes from his high school crush who had recently committed suicide. The series of tapes are front and back (A & B Sides) telling 13 reasons why she killed herself: all reasons because of people. She tells those listening to pass it on to the next person that is talked about on the tapes. Can you see how this might be intriguing & damaging at the same time? When I read this book, I was already depressed and suicidal. It spurred me on to write my own list of “thirteen reasons why” I would kill myself. I remember sitting in math class holding back tears as I wrote my own reasons. It burdened & hurt me so much that halfway during class I asked to go to the bathroom so that I could harm myself. I don’t blame the book for my suicidal attempts; however, I will say it did not give me any reasons not to. “Wouldn’t it be awesome for people to know the things I couldn’t say to their face? For me to end my life & for everyone to feel bad for what they did to me?” These are the thoughts I had. Yes, they are incredibly selfish thoughts. But I saw no reason to think otherwise.
Eventually, I attempted suicide and I thank God that He did not allow it to be fulfilled. I found help & healing in Jesus and He made me a new person. It doesn’t mean I never dealt with depression or suicidal thoughts again, but it means that I was able to know where my help comes from and to remember the promises & hope given to me through Jesus Christ.
Fast forward to April 1st of 2017, I realized that the long-awaited Netflix Original Series was finally out. I began to watch Tape 1, Side A of Th1rteen R3asons Why. I left to go to bed afterwards feeling so strange. That night I had some strange dreams. The next day went on, I didn’t think it had affected me, but looking back on it I can see how I was impacted by watching that episode. Not thinking it then, I went home & watched more episodes. I fell asleep watching one and woke up on my couch to a dead-silent house in the dark, no light was on anymore. I went to bed with some crazy nightmares. When I woke up the next day, I felt extremely depressed & hopeless. I had no idea why at first. After trying to hold in tears all morning, I finally sat on the bathroom floor and wept. I felt almost exactly as I had felt when I was depressed as a teen. Similar thoughts & emotions ran through my head. Things such as: no one cares about me, why didn’t I take my own life, I have no purpose, etc. The mistake I made as a teen was not speaking up. I knew that I needed to say something this time so I sat down with my sister & was honest about how I felt and not really knowing why. As I spoke, I knew it was from watching the show. That was affirmed as my sister responded that I should stop watching it. She had seen some clips of it & I had talked to her about it while I watched it. We both knew immediately that it wasn’t right. Even she experienced feeling strange afterwards.
The rest of the day was spent singing worship songs, remember who Jesus is, rebuking the lies of the enemy, and trying to stop the tears from rolling. It is only the next day after experiencing this that I am writing to you. I am not saying that the exact same thing will happen to you if you watch this show. This is a story from my experience, someone who dealt with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. If I didn’t have anyone to talk about this with, a hope that is real, or a God who helped me to see the truth in the midst of lies, I would not be writing this to you today. I would be more depressed than I was the day before. I advise & caution you not to watch this show out of best judgement. Here are 7 more reasons why:
- Lots of vulgar language — Different from the book by far, this show includes lots of cursing and crude language.
- Sex scenes/talk — Part of the story talks about some tough things that happened to Hannah Baker (the girl who committed suicide), and these are the brought-to-life versions of those parts in her story.
- Glorifying sin — Just watching the first few episodes, there were times when sin did not look “bad” by way of the perspective of Hannah & Clay.
- Teen drama — This already goes on so much in society, school campuses, in the home, etc. There is no need to fill your life with more of this. It will drain you.
- Sarcastic underlying tone — For some odd reason, people can be drawn to this type of underlying tone that glorifies apathy and sarcasm. You will not leave this show the same way you came. It was so overwhelming that I felt it in the words I spoke.
- Somber feeling/leaves you empty — Again, this is not a show full of optimism. In fact, I don’t believe there is an ounce of real hope in the whole show. The story goes, Hannah kills herself. Everyone relives it & realizes why. There is nothing you can do to go back in time & save Hannah. So the hope that you feel that maybe you could bring her back, or maybe the plot twist is that she’s not really dead… that is false hope. It truly feels Hopeless.
- Everything you see/hear will embed itself in your subconscious — You may not immediately recognize it, but the things we hear and see impact us daily. That’s why we must be intentional about what we allow in our minds. Garbage In – Garbage Out. What we put into our minds/hearts is what flows out of our mouths. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
If anyone was looking forward to this show, I definitely was. However, I hope you can see the damage that this show can do and the weight of depression and hopelessness that it can bring. Please, I caution you, guard your heart.