Jay Asher’s 2007 novel, “13 Reasons Why,” details the story of a young girl, Hannah Baker, who – after suffering much abuse, both physically and online, and after the tragedy of sexual assault – takes her own life.
Netflix, the online streaming service that has become, in effect, another major TV network, has turned it into a series. Season one has Hannah leave behind 13 audio tapes for those who had hurt her and those who did little to nothing to help her. Season two portrays the aftermath of the effects of sexual assault on young people.
This is a very popular series with young people, and as is the case with those of an impressionable age, has a great effect on the emotions of young people. The Catholic Press, by and large, as on many issues, is divided. The National Catholic Register, in its negative review (May 5, 2017) by Kevin Di Camillo, details things to keep in mind while watching a series such as this. Among the severe critiques of the series is the following: “The total lack of God. Most of America believes in God, much of America is Christian.”
Not surprisingly, The National Catholic Reporter offers a different take in Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.’s article, “Netflix’s ‘13 Reasons Why’ Could Save Lives” (May 2, 2017). She writes: “Each episode played with hope, then the dark cloud hanging over what I knew Hannah had already done, became too much. The producers have managed to make the audience feel something that Hannah felt. We can stop watching, but for the teen Hannah, it became too much.”
Life Teen, the Catholic youth evangelization group, has also reviewed the series and come out strongly against it, stating: “Suicide is romanticized and almost glorified in this show, as Hannah reclaims control of her life by ending it and making sure any person who contributed to that decision is aware of his or her responsibility.”
It is not our purpose to review this television series. We are certainly not recommending that you watch it. But we do recommend that parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, clergy, and religious be aware of this series. Be aware of what “entertainment” your children are ingesting. Be aware of the topics, which are important, that are arising in the minds and hearts (and sadly, in the lived experience) of our children. It is far better that healthy conversations about depression, anxiety, and suicide take place between parent and child than through an online streaming television series. The emotional lives of our young people are far too important to leave up to Netflix to be their primary support and guidance.