A conservative Christian group is fighting for the removal of the Netflix hit show “13 Reasons Why” after several teens who watched the show took their own lives.
The American Family Association (AFA) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1977 by Donald E. Wildmon, the former pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Southaven, MS. According to the AFA website, the group’s mission is to “inform, equip and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture, and give aid to the church here and abroad in its task of fulfilling the Great Commission.”
The current president of AFA, Tim Wildmon, sent a letter to Reed Hastings, Netflix’s CEO, asking for a meeting to discuss the organization’s concerns toward “13 Reasons Why.”
The letter gave three specific accounts of teenagers who committed suicide after watching Hannah Baker take her life in the hit show: Anna Bright (14), Bella Herndon (15) and Priscilla Chiu (15). Despite the horrifying accounts, the letter was ignored.
“13 Reasons Why” centers around teenager Hannah Baker’s perplexing suicide. Prior to her death, Baker left a series of tapes to one of her classmates outlining the situations and people that caused her to take her life.
The end of the show features Baker’s death in graphic detail. I even squirmed and had to look away, so I cannot imagine what a 14-year-old must have thought with his or her eyes glued to the screen.
Although AFA identifies as a conservative Christian group, Walker Wildmon, assistant to AFA president Tim Wildmon, his father, said removing the show has nothing to do with conservative family values.
“This is not a partisan issue, not a conservative issue, but an issue of what we’re putting in front of our teens,” said Wildmon.
Despite whatever you may think of AFA, in this case, they are right.
After the show’s release, several media reports and studies were published concerning the spike in searches for information on how to commit suicide. One study was released in the Medical Association’s Annals of Internal Medicine, and the study claimed this spike is directly correlated with the show’s premiere.
Netflix also had warnings from medical associations and psychologists stating the show would incur serious repercussions.
A few months following the show’s release, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released an editorial detailing serious concern about the show.
The editorial said: “This immersion into the story and image may have a particularly strong effect on adolescents, whose brains are still developing the ability to inhibit certain emotions, desires and actions.”
Dan Reidenberg, a psychologist in Bloomington, MN gave caution to Netflix to not run the show. Netflix flippantly responded to Reidenberg’s concerns, stating cancellation was not an option.
While the show was released more than a year ago, concerns are beginning to bubble to the surface once more after the show’s actors began making announcements about filming a second season, set to release later this year.
I watched the entirety of the show after its release last year, and after watching each episode, I would never advise anyone to allow their teen to watch the show. Teenagers are in a delicate phase of life—more so than ever before with the rise of social media.
They are constantly comparing themselves to one another, and bullying has become more rampant with the easy access of social media comments and direct messaging.
I understand the premise behind “13 Reasons Why” is to prevent bullying, and I would not accuse the show’s directors of glorifying suicide, but that is exactly what the show does. The show does not encourage teenagers to ask for help. Instead, the show puts suicide up on a pedestal to get back at those who hurt you.
This is not the message teenagers, or anyone for that matter, needs to hear. We never needed the first season, and we certainly do not need a second.