Thirteen Reasons Why, Has Me Asking WHY?

 

There has been lots of hype and controversy surrounding Netflix’s original series Thirteen Reasons Why. Produced by Selena Gomez, the original series exists now as Netflix’s most-watched series ever and most tweeted about series for 2017. Crazy!!! Given it was released just a month ago (3/31/17) worldwide on Netflix streaming. Even crazier was the decision to release ALL 13 episodes at once thus providing viewers the choice to either slowly watch or binge. Clay Jensen narrates Hannah Baker’s last hours and plays the leading role throughout the series.  Jenson took his time to listen to the tapes, unlike his peers who quickly listened and passed it on to the next person. WHY is this series so hugely popular?

The series is rated MA for Mature Audiences ONLY which means the series is designed to be viewed by adults, and therefore may be unsuitable for children younger than 17. It contains all of the following: graphic violence (V), explicit sexual activity (S), and crude indecent language (L).  WHY is a show targeted at teenagers depicting sexual abuse and suicide in such graphic detail?

This series will be shaping kids both positively and negatively. What will your response be? Hannah Baker said, “ there’s so much wrong in the world, there is so much hurt.  I couldn’t take knowing I’d make it worse nor could I take knowing it would never get any better.”  Do you want your child believing this lie?  WHY such hopelessness?  It helps to remember that our attitudes impact our children. May we actively be empowering our children to be world changers, to know their life can make a difference, and remind them life after high school usually gets better as their brain fully develops around 25.  Age matures you. More importantly, God’s plans are to prosper you, not to harm you. He has plans to give you hope and a future.

Personally, I found Thirteen Reasons Why, toward the end of the series, to be disturbing and several episodes were too graphic for me to watch entirely without turning my head.  Netflix warns about the disturbing content in episodes (9, 12, & 13) with the following statement, “the following episode contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing and/or may not be suitable for younger audiences, including a graphic depiction of rape and sexual assault or suicide. Viewer discretion is advised.”  Is this warning enough? Many schools are now also warning parents about the show. While experts urge caution in letting teens watch it.  New Zealand last week banned teenagers from watching it alone.  As parents, we should be asking WHY?

Curiosity got the best of me and I sort of binged watched the series during my mid-April flights to and from Vancouver, BC. I was totally sucked in as I’m fascinated with youth culture.  In a nutshell, the series is about a teenage girl (Hannah Baker)  who commits suicide and leaves behind audio cassettes detailing the 13 reasons why she ultimately decided to end her life. The series begins with Clay Jensen finding a mysterious box with his name on it and inside are cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker,  his classmate, friend, and crush. Who two weeks earlier tragically ended her life. My biggest frustration is with the show’s premise that the main character is basically blaming others for her ultimate decision and seeks revenge through the tapes she has left behind. She begins by saying, ‘I hope you’re ready because I’m about to tell you the story of my life.  More specifically, why my life ended. And if you’re listening to these tapes, you’re one of the reasons why.” This is so messed up and wrong! When is revenge ever an option? God is the ultimate judge.

If you have a middle schooler wanting to watch the series as, “everyone is…”  I’d encourage you to be the parent.  It’s ok to say no if you feel the content would be triggering or mature for your child.  Thirteen Reasons Why is wildly popular among middle school kids (ages 11-14) who are watching it without the knowledge of their parents and often in one sitting. I think many parents are afraid. They really are unaware of what their kids are doing or what goes on with their kids at school.  WHY not ask your tween if they have watched it and if it’s being discussed among their friends or at school?

If your teen wants to watch it, I would suggest to view it together with caution. Consider watching beforehand to know when or if to fast forward through troubling parts.  Use this opportunity to discuss the hard but real topics teens are likely encountering themselves or those around them. Don’t minimize their experiences.

I feel the series did a great job of realistically conveying some of the difficulties teens face during high school. I can’t pretend to fully understand what today’s youth are experiencing. However, I believe cyber bullying and social media have added to the complexity of teen issues by providing an ease with which peers can rip apart one another.

I was extremely frustrated by the parental and adult authority portrayal. All of the characters other than Clays’ are seen as independent of their parents. The parents were “depicted” as absent, uninvolved, and clueless to their teens’ struggles. WHY dismiss the importance of parents in a teen’s life? Then there’s Mr. Porter, the school guidance counselor, who did not adequately address Hannah’s plea for help.  Mr. Porter provided Hannah with no help and even insinuated she might have contributed to her sexual assault and should move on thereby adding to her isolation, shame, and hurt.  He shut her down by minimizing her complaints which were the last straw for Hannah. I hope teachers and counselors are not all viewed as untrustworthy and incapable of helping when needs are expressed.

Below are a few issues covered in the series that parents could discuss with their child even if you or they haven’t seen the series.  I think the best practice is to be proactive versus reactive.  Let’s be honest many of these are sin issues. We all have the propensity towards sin, however because of Christ’s atoning sacrifice we have no condemnation in our shortcomings and inclinations.

  • Deceit and lying
  • Body Shaming
  • Choices (good and bad)
  • Depression
  • Death
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Gossiping
  • Cyber bullying
  • Rape
  • Alcoholism and drug use and abuse
  • The consequences of driving while under the influence
  • Being responsible for your actions
  • Being willing to face the consequences of our actions
  • Disrespect of parents
  • Reputation
  • Worship of athletes
  • Social Pressures
  • Sex before marriage
  • Same-sex attraction
  • Homosexuality
  • Voyeurism
  • Stalking
  • Etc.

 

Suicide is sadly nothing new.  The tragedy of a young person dying because of overwhelming hopelessness or frustration remains devastating.  Parents, siblings, classmates, teachers, and neighbors are often left wondering if they could have prevented such terrible actions taken in a  young person turning to suicide. This was true of fictional character Hannah Baker, in the series Thirteen Reasons Why which shows Hannah’s suicide in great detail. I was stunned and horrified at what I did see and sadly, I can never erase those images. WHY did the producers choose to not follow the book where the character ends her life by taking pills?  Remember, that no one thing leads to suicide, and many people who experience bullying or the array of issues Hannah experienced do not go on to attempt suicide. I felt like the series implied that there was no other option. However, there are resources for our young people to connect and be guided by in their times of need.

It was reported that Netflix did seek professional insight from psychologist Dan Reidenberg who is the executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education regarding the series and Netflix’s was advised to NOT go ahead with the project.  Reporting on suicide indicated that research studies have found that news coverage of suicide can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals.  So, WHY not heed the expert’s opinion?  Was this series made responsibly?

Below are other helpful resources.

I struggled with how to end this post. Watching this series has haunted me as it triggered a few personal issues from my past prompting me to want to speak out. During my Sophomore year of high school, the homecoming queen tragically ended her life.  She was beautiful, liked by everyone but I was left with the question WHY?  Sadly, there are several others I know who have ended their life leaving behind loved ones with guilt, shame, hurt and questioning WHY?

Let’s each do our part by connecting, being available, knowing the signs of depression, being kind, basically, do whatever you can do to make this world a better place.

 

Character Matters, A Few of My Favorite Resources

character2

One of the best ways to teach character is to surround your children with good literature. Simply put, read to your kids. When you read to your children, it opens the door for conversations to ensue. Stories have the ability to teach, motivate and inspire our children to dream bigger.

There are so many wonderful books that can help teach our children about love, honor, respect, care, etc.

Below are numerous resources regarding character traits that have somehow benefited my family. Please know that while I have enjoyed these resources I do not necessarily agree with ALL content presented. 

Whole Heart Ministries I am little bias, as I adore WHM. Sally has been my mentor from afar since 1997. Today she is my real life friend 😉 My husband and I serve on the board of WHM and highly recommend their resources. Start with Our Family’s 24 Ways, which is a great devotional for teaching character to children of all ages.
Character First This is one of my family’s favorite resources especially as my girls began school.
Doorpost
  • The If-Then Chart
  • The Blessing Chart
  • The Go To The Ant Chart – understanding diligences and laziness.
  • The Brother Offender Chart – teaching children conflict resolution in a Godly way.
  • Be sure to check out the package deals
Character in Action I have not personally used this but I did look it over and it seems to have great content.
Family Life Today Encouragement and practical help for you personally, for your marriage, and raising your parenting. So many great articles and resources.
Family Matters I highly recommend Raising Kids For True Greatness and Home Grown Kids.
Focus on the Family
  • Kids of Integrity tools for growing Godly character. This is so good!
  • Kids Clubhouse
  • Adventures in Odyssey
  • Lots of wonderful family resources. Catch their daily message via the Internet.
Generation Virtue Generations of Virtue, is a non-profit ministry staffed by full-time volunteers. They sell resources to empower parents to continue the purity training in their own homes. If you desire to bring up pure kids they need to be taught character.
Lamplighter Publishing The mission of Lamplighter Ministries is “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord, by building Christ-like character one story at a time.” This is a wonderful resource for parents on Character Development born out of 25 years of research and personal experience. They carry many old and rare books highlighting various character traits.
Character Education Character education books can definitely add a powerful kick to your character education lessons — either as a fun supplement to use with formal character education programs or as lesson-building materials for teachers creating their own compelling character education curriculum.

Other Misc. books and resource titles I’ve enjoyed. I usually shop at CBDAmazon, and Half Price Books. Keep a list of resources you desire as you can find really good deals at Goodwill, yard sales, home school used book sales, etc…

Resource list

Biographies and books about Christian hero’s.

Reading about hero’s and life changers who have gone before us is a great way to ignite character in children.

Help me add to my list;  I’d love to hear some of your favorite books and resources for teaching character. Coming soon, Five Easy Ways to Instill Character Because It Matters.

Opposites DO Attract – 10 Ways To Not Attack

Photo by Cherie Werner

Photo by Cherie Werner

For better or worse…. That’s what we agreed to.  I had no idea that many of Jon’s endearing and quirky differences I once appreciated while we were dating would become the same things that drive me crazy.  I’m sure he feels the same about me 😉

Recently in preparation for the couples group we lead, Jon and I sat down to discuss and listed out some of the ways we are different.  Too often, differences can tear a marriage apart but sometimes they can actually bring couples closer together!  We’ve come to realize that while frustrating at time our differences are the very thing that keeps our marriage exciting and well balanced.

JON CHERIE
Optimistic Pessimist
Idealist Realist
Carefree Organized & Structured
Adventurous Cautious
Night Owl Early to bed
Lives to eat Eats to live
Avoids conflict More direct
OK not doing anything Looks for what needs to be done
Views movies as an escape & relaxation Movies are a waste of time
Get things done when they need to be done List maker and multi-tasker
Record keeping not as important Record keeping very important
Shops for what he likes = higher end items usually. Shops for bargains
Enjoys the snow & skiing. Not a big fan of sand. Enjoys the beach, sun & water sports. Not a fan of the cold.
Humorous & light hearted Much more serious
Reads for entertainment Reads to grow
He’s an ENFP – “An Inspirer” She’s an ESFJ – “A Caregiver”
Physical touch is his #1 primary love language. Physical touch is her lowest love language.
Appreciates nice, fast cars Appreciates safe, mom mini-vans
Risk taker Cautious

Etc…..

We are all probably familiar with the old concept and expression “opposites attract.” Research by Columbia University says, “couples who agree with each other all the time may find they are actually too close for comfort.”

After being together for almost thirty years we’ve come to realize that most marriages tend to go through stages in regards to differences.  Starting with the first date, then through engagement and being newly married, couples tend to be enchanted with one another.  However, after several years of togetherness, those same differences that were once admired in each other often became irritants that annoy.  Therefore, we must allow God to change us so we can see and appreciate the valuable traits we each bring to the marriage relationship.

If we see our differences as gifts verses hindrances, we are drawn towards greater acceptance of each other. As I reflected on many past upsets, I realized I was often judging Jon’s behavior as annoying, ridiculous, or a waste of time rather that trying to understand his perspective. I also know it’s not my job to change my husband; I’ve tried without much success.  I can only change myself and how I choose to view these annoying behaviors.  We’ve learned that it’s best to communicate annoyances so they don’t escalate.

So if you and your spouse are struggling because of annoying differences, here are 10 suggestions to stay on the same team:

  1. Focus on the irritating behavior and not your spouse as you can’t change people.
  2. Find time to communicate about the problem calmly rather than getting upset and stonewalling.  Change can’t take place without both of you sharing and listening.
  3. Carefully choose the best time to share.  I have learned that it’s best not to share in the moment especially if you are upset.  Once words are spoken they can’t be taken back.  Also consider what your spouse has going on.
  4. Sandwich your concerns by first finding something positive to share about your spouse. Then calmly explain the issue. Finish up on a positive note.
  5. Don’t use the words “always” or “never” as your spouse will probably feel attacked and get defensive and discount what you are sharing because of the one time your statement wasn’t true.
  6. Discuss ways to bring about change or share benefits of changing.
  7. Acknowledge any growth and cheer your spouse on.
  8. Be patient as change takes time.
  9. Find 2-3 positive traits to balance out each negative one.  Consider memorizing Philippians 4:8 then practice it.
  10. Pray for your spouse and ask God to give you grace to be more accepting.

Back in the 90’s Focus on the Family’s published the insightful video, Vive La Difference. Actors Paul and Nicole Johnson present a humorous yet poignant skit that illustrates a couple going through the metamorphosis of recognizing their differences. As you watch the video clip identify the various differences that annoy them.  Notice how she tries to get her husbands attention when she wants to talk. Notice how he chooses the wrong time to communicate.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER after watching the video.

  1. What are some of the differences that first attracted you to your spouse?  Why do you feel you were attracted to those qualities?
  2. How do you view these differences today? Are they still attractive or do many of them drive you crazy? Is you perspective helping or harming you relationship?
  3. The couple struggle in four areas: in-laws, finances, flexibility, and communication.  Which of these areas do you tend to struggle the most with?  Maybe there is another area of contention between you. If so, what is it?  How can you work through these issues?
  4. When there is a disagreement about an issue (family, finances, work) that each of you views as important, how do you find a compromise?
  5. As a couple, how do you handle conflicts when it comes to your differences?  Do you discuss them calmly, argue about them or ignore them? Which method do you think is the healthiest emotionally? Why?
  6. Read 1 Corinthians 12  What does the passage tell us? Do you think the same applies to our marriage relationships? We should work together; emphasizing the various gifts that each of has to contribute to the good of the marriage.  Has your goal as a couple been to find sameness or oneness?  How can you work to find oneness by allowing your differences to complement your relationship rather than destroy it?
  7. How about you?  Have you learned to allow God to change you by helping you to see and appreciate the valuable traits your spouse brings to the marriage?

Blessings