• Why We Are Concerned About 13 Reasons Why

    by  • April 23, 2018 • Streaming, Violence • 21 Comments

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    The Netflix series aimed explicit content at children without adequate safeguards or resources.

    The PTC’s major concern with 13 Reasons Why is rooted in the fact that it is being marketed to children.  We understand and appreciate that there are positive consequences that can come from a program that deals realistically with issues like depression and suicide.  But 13 Reasons Why contained explicit language, graphic violence, and depictions of drinking and drug use inappropriate for teens. Netflix acknowledged this by rating the program TV-MA (mature audiences only).

    But despite its contents and its rating (both controlled by Netflix), the show wasn’t marketed to grownups; it was marketed to — and overwhelming consumed by – children, most often viewing alone. Furthermore, there was no effort by Netflix to warn parents of the program’s graphic content, or to urge children to watch the program with their parents.

    In its first season, 13 Reasons Why had a profoundly harmful impact, as demonstrated by academic research which showed a 26% spike in Google searches to learn how to commit suicide subequent to the airing of the program.  We have seen the news stories of grieving parents whose children took their own lives after watching the show.  Sadly, it is children, who don’t yet have the life experience and perspective to adequately process a romanticized suicide drama, who consumed 13 Reasons in the highest numbers, and who took its dark, depressing messages to heart.

    When a film or TV series centers entirely on high school-aged children for its storytelling, it is high school and middle school-aged children who feel most emotionally connected to the characters. Grown-ups don’t put themselves in the place of high schoolers; but other children do. And even the research commissioned by Netflix and conducted by Northwestern University about the societal impact of 13 Reasons Why demonstrated how much stronger the emotional connection to the characters was for children aged 13-18 than for adults.

    In its first season, 13 Reasons Why made no effort whatsoever to provide a positive resource for those struggling with depression. The worst human behavior — the bullying and sexual assault — was depicted in graphic form, and the lead character took her own life as a result. There was no effort to offer a semblance of hope or redemption; there was no public service angle that provided guidance for viewers struggling with depression; there was no phone number to a hotline where people could find help.

    For these reasons, Dan Reidenberg, a psychologist and executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education – whom Netflix had contacted prior to airing the series – advised Netflix not to show the program. “But that wasn’t an option. That was made very clear to me. And although [13 Reasons Why] has created a conversation about suicide, it’s not the right conversation,” Reidenberg says, voicing concerns that teens will see suicide as a glamorous solution for their problems, as the show’s protagonist does. In short, Netflix ignored the very expert they consulted…with tragic results for teens.

    In the run-up to season two, Netflix has desperately engaged in damage control, adding a “warning video” and “aftershow” with discussions about the program, and resources such as suicide hotline phone numbers, to 13 Reasons Why. Yet even now, it continues to market the first season to teenagers – while still rating the program TV-MA (mature audiences only).

    A public service announcement about the program, currently airing before the first season episodes, acknowleges as much:

    Dylan Minnette: “ Hi, I’m Dylan Minnette and I play Clay Jensen.”

    Katherine Langford: “I’m Katherine Langford and I play Hannah Baker.”

    Justin Prentice: “I’m Justin Prentice, I play Bryce Walker.”

    Alicia Bowe: “I’m Alicia Bowe, I play Jessica Davis. ”

    Justin: “13 Reasons Why is a fictional series that tackles tough, real world issues; taking a look at sexual assault, substance abuse, suicide, and more. ”

    Katherine: “By shedding a light on these difficult topics, we hope our show can help viewers start a conversation.”

    Alicia: “But if you are struggling with these issues yourself, this series may not be right for you. Or you may want to watch it with a trusted adult.” 

    Dylan: “And if you ever feel you need someone to talk with, reach out to a parent, a friend, a school counselor, or an adult you trust; call a local helpline, or go to  13ReasonsWhy.info.”

    Alicia: “Because the minute you start talking about it, it gets easier.” 

    On-Screen Message: ”If you or someone you know needs help finding crisis resources, visit 13ReasonsWhy.Info”

    But while the 13ReasonsWhy.Info website provides a list of resources, including counselors, mental health experts, and suicide prevention sites…yet, at the bottom of the webpage, there is a disclaimer stating that “Netflix does not endorse any of the organizations or health professionals listed herein.”

    We can understand why some people are supportive of 13 Reasons Why. It is a powerful drama, which does raise important questions. But we also see the harm that can – and has – come from marketing such a dark, depressing program directly to children, while bypassing parents and without adequate safeguards.

    Ultimately, there was no message of hope in 13 Reasons Why. The message was one of despair…and teens listened.  Had there been a message of hope, several teenagers might still be alive today.

    The PTC was one of the first to warn parents about 13 Reasons Why. Over the past year, we have pushed Netflix very, very hard for positive changes, and we are gratified to see that Netflix has already adopted a few of our recommendations; but we do not think they have gone nearly far enough, and we will keep pushing for even stronger protections…Because Our Children Are Watching.

     

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    21 Responses to Why We Are Concerned About 13 Reasons Why

    1. Unknown
      May 23, 2018 at 8:43 pm

      As a 17 year old girl I have been sexually abused for 8 years on a daily basis. I honestly thought I would relate to the show since it’s about mental illnesses and stuff. I am not a sensitive person to these kinds of things but for some reason this really hit me hard those scenes were way too much and it is the first time a sexual assault scene has triggered me. I would like to say that I cried all night and felt hopeless I have ptsd due to the abuse and all I seen was the abuser all night long. This was not a show I would recommend. I thought the show would give me more comfortness and happiness but instead it brought me nightmares and felt like I’ve been violated. I know there is a warning but again I never get triggered so easily.

    2. May 11, 2018 at 7:13 am

      I won’t be joining this particular campaign of yours, because I am personal friends with Selena Gomez, who produces the program. I really think you need to contact her directly with your concerns. She is a wonderful young person, with a sincere faith. You should be able to air your concerns openly to her, and at least hear what she has to say about them. The Christlike thing to do would have been to initiate contact prior to making the cause public. That’s not just my opinion – it is in the Bible.

      • TrueSensor
        May 15, 2018 at 7:29 pm

        You really think Selena Gomez will listen to you when you ask her to stop financing episodes of 13 Reasons Why?
        She won’t. She fired her own mother as her manager. If her mother has no power over her, neither do you.

        If you want 13 Reasons Why off the air, why don’t you take action? Why don’t you cut off the power supply to the Netflix server, or hack into the server and make it permanently inoperable? If you do that, then they’ll be a trillion times more careful what shows and movies they make. Also, they’ll have to raise prices dramatically, so parents will be less likely to get subscriptions, thus leading to less viewers.

        Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”. Talking is not the same as doing. Talking has gotten us nowhere. We cannot let evil triumph. We have to do something. We have to teach them a lesson they will never, ever forget.

        • Sarah Williams
          May 23, 2018 at 1:50 am

          Ok I don’t normally get invoved with things of this nature but I had to say something this time. If you were disturbed watching what happened to that boy in the show then good! You were meant to be the point is that censoring doesn’t stop these things from happening. The point is to shine a light on the fact that this does happen children are raped and beaten and harassed and bullied daily. You think that you demanding to remove it from tv is going to change that?? The only one thing that anyone has said here that makes any rational sense is making a show where it the person that killed themself continues to live in in her own mythos could cause some kids to think that is what would happen in real life. It makes it look romantic and that she showed all of them. Which is what a suicidal teen would like to hope is going to happen. But this incesant ridiculous need to sensor tv and radio bc you think it will make your kids act this way or that is ridiculous. These are art forms that reflect what happens in the world our children live in. To make people appalled at the evil so they stop turning their head to it when it does happen i.r.l. we as parents have to inform not censor, listen not stick our heads in the sand. Its denial of the evil in the world that gives it the ability to flourish. Shutting your Netflix off doesn’t stop these things from happening in the world, your energies should go towards stopping it from happening in the first place so shows like this have no reason to reflect it!!

          • Ethan
            May 23, 2018 at 5:52 pm

            Sarah,

            I agree with you that denying evil gives it the ability to flourish and if scenes like that do in some way contribute to people who are in denial realizing that rape happens, then that is certainly good. If some sort of discussion evolves from such depictions and leads to a world where these things happen less then that would be very great and a worthwhile result, and one worth the discomfort and shock many people experience seeing such depictions.

            However, I believe that the kind of rhetoric promoted around depictions like is really just a convenient and callous disguise for sensationalism. I actually think that the way this show is talked about is itself a kind of denial in which evil flourishes– people make shows pretending to self-righteously advocate an end to bullying, discussion about rape, suicide prevention and awareness–– well wouldn’t that be great? But in reality this is all a marketing ploy. Suicide and rape sell and if we can pretend like we’re good people for watching them then all the better for the profiteers who callously disregard mental health professionals’ advice, literally selling suicide to at-risk teens (again this is not imagination, kids have died because of this show) while countless articles written by clueless critics and promoters praise the show as bravely confronting audience for the good of the world.
            The real problem with the show, from what I have read, is that it sells kids a pessimistic, hopeless, chaotic, cheap, romanticized view of the world, and it is marketed towards at-risk teens. Any discussion that results can only be confused and mystified by such depictions. I am fine with depictions of anything in art, no matter how horrific, and I believe that art should be honest and brave, which is why I agree with this article that this show is a morally disgusting. This show appears to me to be anything but honest and brave.

            With regards to censorship in this case I would err with pragmatism– you cannot yell fire in a crowded theater and you should not release a show that psychologists say will result in the deaths of children. Netflix should drop it, or at least release it discreetly at a later date with no promotion. That is my opinion anyway.

            Really all of the publicity will probably boost ratings and they will spin it so that they’re just informing a challenging and necessary discussion, and other such nonsense. The cheap, self-righteous magical thinking espoused in discussion of this show in my opinion is very naive about human psychology and the issues allegedly being discussed. Also I just noticed that a comment by Donald below expresses the main problem with this show better than I could. The show plays into the narcissistic, romantic aspect of suicidal ideation. As if the answer to the problems to be discussed is suicide, which is the conclusion of the shows protagonist, who apparently serves and promotes justice in this way.

    3. Donald
      May 7, 2018 at 10:50 am

      One common adolescent fantasy about suicide is that “everyone will be captivated with passionate interest when I kill myself.” A story with a plot that reinforces the narcissism element (which is not crazy for a kid– for example see Twain’s Tom and Huck attending their own funeral) is not starting the conversation in the right manner. As a four decade school and mental health counselor, I find the honest talk will include the fact that our peers will be upset in the first few days after the loss, quickly putting it behind them, but that mostly mom, dad, immediate family including grandparents will be heartbroken forever. And, even this must be done with great care not to fan a flame of hurt and/or anger.
      Also, the belief that God wants us to respect the gift of life can be key in prevention, if that is present for the individual.
      Thanks to this PTC group for caring about the dangers of exploiting children as they grow and develop.

      • DC99
        May 10, 2018 at 7:32 pm

        You make an excellent point, and I am glad you made that point. There are also instances in which a person’s suicide makes everyone feel happy.

        Last year in Chicago, a man named Anthony Milder crashed his car into a utility pole, killing his passenger, Alejandra Damian. She was only 21. People suspect he had been drinking. And he fled the scene of the crash.

        Doesn’t that make you angry? Don’t you absolutely hate Anthony Milder right now? Don’t you wish he would just die?

        If you said yes to the last question, you’re in luck. Anthony Milder went back to his apartment and killed himself.

        I am 1,000,000% certain people cried for Alejandra Damian. I do not think anyone shed a tear for Anthony Milder. I believe that people would be glad to hear that Anthony Milder would never hurt anyone else ever again.

        There are other positive things that came from Anthony Milder’s death. First, he saved the criminal justice system thousands of dollars. By not having to lock him up, the state of Illinois could certainly find better ways to spend that money. Second, if Anthony Milder had stayed alive, the family of Alejandra Damian might have been motivated to seek revenge, and in doing so, might have ended up killing one or more innocent bystanders instead of or in addition to Anthony Milder.

        I imagine a lot of people who heard the story of Anthony Milder wish that Ethan Couch did what Anthony Milder did.

    4. Donald Feldman
      April 25, 2018 at 10:23 am

      I have been a Broadcaster 35 years. PTC is operating under the mistaken impression that this is 1957 and there are 5 TV Stations. Progress and technology have accomplished what your organization can not .
      The NAB states that Less than 3 per cent of American Households have only “over the air” TV without access to internet services such as Netflix.
      Your groups also believes that American are so naive that they don’t understand how to make a choice.
      The number of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO and Showtime subscribers sure indicate your group thinks that tens of millions of us don’t know how to choose for ourselves.
      The PTC can not and should not be the self appointed dictator of what is appropriate for families. That’s a decision to be made in the homes of every American.
      In the end, technology will be the ultimate determiner of what families choose to watch.

      • Christopher Gildemeister
        April 26, 2018 at 1:46 pm

        What I Learned From Your Post

        Warning parents that a program, which Netflix itself rates TV-MA, may not be appropriate for children makes PTC a “self-appointed dictator.”

        Technology — and not the viewers themselves, armed with adequate information — is the “ultimate determiner of what families choose to watch.”

        Presenting facts and a different perspective for potential viewers to consider is the same as saying viewers “don’t know how to choose for themselves.”

        You’d think a broadcaster with 35 years’ experience would be familiar with the concepts of analysis and presenting different sides of an issue…not to mention respecting other peoples’ First Amendment right to express an opinion. Yes, even one with which a “broadcaster of 35 years” might disagree.

        The PTC doesn’t “ban” or “censor” anything. We present analysis and encourage advocacy…but in the end, of course everyone is free to make their own choice.

        You might want to tone down the hyperbole a bit, Donald. Otherwise, someone might get the idea that YOU are trying to tell other people what to think and what to do. Like, oh, say…a “self-appointed dictator.”

        • Crystal
          April 28, 2018 at 8:04 pm

          Are you the spokesperson for PTC?

          • Christopher Gildemeister
            May 7, 2018 at 9:51 am

            Yes.

        • Crystal
          April 28, 2018 at 8:07 pm

          Because if you are.. I am very appauled about how you go about expressing the PTC’s concerns. Why would anyone listen or care to hear or see ANYTHING you have to say after how sarcastic and unprofessional you answer questions?

          • Christopher Gildemeister
            May 7, 2018 at 9:56 am

            Donald didn’t ask a question. He posted a rant, and an insulting one at that. Claiming the PTC is a “self-appointed dictator” “still living in 1957″ and which thinks “viewers are naive” — these aren’t questions. They’re hyperbolic, opinionated assertions, unsupported by fact.

            I correctly called Donald on his hyperbole. Yes, I did push back. This is the PTC’s blog, intended to advance PTC’s advocacy. We are not obligated to simply sit here quietly, making no response, while other people — especially people with experience in broadcasting, who ought to know the principles involved — insult us.

            Crystal, you claim to be appalled by my response; but you had no problem with Donald when he was insulting us. That doesn’t seem very even-handed.

            We welcome discussion. But if people come onto this blog just to hurl insults, they can, and should, expect to be deleted, or answered in kind.

        • Donald Feldman
          April 30, 2018 at 5:04 pm

          The PTC in constantly attempting to censor TV programs with petitions, letter writing campaigns and political advocacy. That’s what I mean by”Self appointed dictator.”
          Point is, people vote with their remotes. The shows on your list of “ no no’s” seem to be the most watched, in the end, the number of viewers is the ultimate determiner of what stays or goes.
          You have every right to express your opinion but no right to dictate content, language or programming by legislation or FCC mandate.

          • Christopher Gildemeister
            May 7, 2018 at 10:04 am

            Petitions, letter-writing campaigns, political advocacy. What you call “self-appointed dictatorship” others would call “exercising their First Amendment rights.” Or does the First Amendment only apply when the user is advocating opinions with which you agree?

            As a broadcaster with 35 years’ experience, you are surely aware that broadcasters and networks make decisions about what to show every single day. Which news stories get covered, and which don’t? Which sitcoms and dramas get picked up or renewed, and which don’t? You may say this is a matter of news, editorial, or business judgment — and I’d agree. But one could just as easily say the networks and broadcasters are also engaging in “censorship” of ideas and programs with which they don’t agree.

            The PTC and our members are simply attempting to influence those decisions…just as GLAAD and the NAACP does. It appears as though you are saying that groups voicing concerns about children committing suicide, or the negative effects of media violence, sex, and profanity, are engaging in “censorship”…but groups concerned about portrayals of blacks or gays aren’t.

            Finally, we’re not “dictating content, language, or programming.” We’re just expressing an opinion, and advocating for it. We can’t make anyone do anything; we’re just a voice. The networks and broadcasters have all the power. They can do whatever they want. Obviously, they just don’t like it when people disagree with them.

    5. Shinji
      April 23, 2018 at 5:51 pm

      The program is rated for ages 17 and older. Netflix knows very well that parents are too lazy to set parental controls and have literally given this show as many safeguards as possible to protect younger viewers who may want to watch it, and give them resources to reach out to help them understand what they’ve watched if they choose to do so. What more do you want them to do?

    6. Jonathan
      April 23, 2018 at 9:03 am

      71% of teens and young adults found the show relatable, and nearly three-quarters of teen and young adult viewers said the show made them feel more comfortable processing tough topics.More than 50% reached out to someone to apologize for how they had treated them.Nearly 75% of teens said that they tried to be more considerate about how they treated others after watching the show.Two-thirds of parents asked to have the cast come out of character to discuss how to get support. (In response, a custom intro will be added at the start of each season with the cast: see it above.)More than half of parents want more guidance from mental health experts. (In response, additional resources have been added to 13ReasonsWhy.Info, which will now also include a viewing guide.)

      Only reason you guys are “concerned” is because it’s a popular show. There are no “dangers” with the show at all.

      • Christopher Gildemeister
        April 26, 2018 at 1:57 pm

        If you really believe that no one younger than 17 watched 13 Reasons Why, you’re a fool.

        All your talking points come from a report done by Northwestern University — which was PAID FOR BY NETFLIX.

        You think you’re rebutting us, but everything you say was contained in our article above. And all the alleged “safeguards” were put in place ONLY for Season 2. Or supposedly will be, once Season 2 premieres. If it does.

        If PTC is so totally wrong about the proven harm this program has done, why didn’t Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why launch Easter weekend, as it was originally intended to? Gee, it’s almost as if Netflix is making some kind of changes to the show before airing it. But since, as you say, the program is perfectly fine for kids now, why would they bother?

        • Jonathan
          April 27, 2018 at 7:31 pm

          Did I ever say that no one under the age of 17 watched the show? No, that’s not in my comment at all. I could care less if someone under the age of 17 watched it. It’s not my business what a parent let their kids watch and it’s not yours either.

          Even if Netflix paid for the studies they are still relevant studies that debunk everything your censorship group claims.

          I hope once season 2 comes out it’s a lot more brutal than the last just to hear you guys cry even more.

          No one in the industry cares what your group thinks. One of these days someone is going to sue you again and I can’t wait for the day.

          • Christopher Gildemeister
            May 7, 2018 at 10:11 am

            By your logic, all the “research” paid for by tobacco companies “proving” cigarettes don’t cause lung cancer should also be accepted, because “they are still relevant studies that debunk everything” anti-tobacco groups claim.

            Maybe “no one in the industry cares” what the PTC thinks…but you sure seem to. If we’re as irrelevant as you say, why have you wasted so much time posting here?

    7. Christopher Gildemeister
      April 26, 2018 at 1:53 pm

      Jonathan,

      Your comment is ridiculous.

      The PTC doesn’t oppose HBO — or, for that matter, the Playboy Channel, or the literally dozens of openly pornographic channels available on pay-per-view. If we were the blue-nosed puritans you want to believe we are, we would. But we don’t, because adults have the right to view whatever they want.

      But when a program that has done proven harm to children is aired without any regard for those children’s safety, all while flying under most parents’ radar, yes, we will warn parents about it.

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