I typically stay away from hot topics in public forums but this one is pressing on my heart so much that I need to give it a lift. At first, I thought I would do a FB live video about it as if I had some special insight into the topic, but at the end of the day, I can’t keep my emotions at bay about this issue. So writing is my release of choice this time around.
I’m not a TV person. I prefer real life or a non-fiction book. I guess it’s the realist in me. But I heard about this trending Netflix series from several sources. A few mentioned it casually as they had shows like Walking Dead or Stranger Things in the past, therefore I dismissed it. But then I had a few messages sent to me from random people in my circles asking me to watch this series and then share my thoughts with them about it. They said it would intersect with the type of ministry I am in. I was told its message resonated with the issues my students and small group members are battling with and it would be a good resource for me to know more about what I am walking people through daily. While I didn’t run to my TV right then, I sat with the lingering possibility of watching it for awhile. During that time I saw multiple people posting about it on FB. Both sides of the issue being represented everywhere I turned and I found myself being drawn in by the conversation it had started.
So one night, I grabbed the remote and watched the first episode. To be honest I was hooked, intrigued and wanted to see the rest of the story play out which isn’t my typical response to shows. So I watched the next episode and the next and the next until I had completed the series. I didn’t binge watch it all at once, but I was definitely losing track of time as I became engulfed in a story that was too familiar to be comfortable and yet I couldn’t turn it off. So here are my reflections after the fact.
Are you glad you watched it? No. Why? Because the images of rape and suicide included in the story are burned into my brain and my heart hurts at the reality this story portrayed. The scenes play over and over in my head and only bring sadness and burden with them to darken my every day.
Do you think other people should watch it? No. Even if you are just doing research, this story is painful moment after painful moment until it ends in death. As a follower of Christ, I continue to want us all to fix our eyes and thoughts on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. This show was none of those things and the way it made me feel by the end was a direct result of fixing my attention on the opposites of those things for hours on end.
Do you think its realistic? Yes. The story is true, even though it’s not based on an actual person specifically. It is a universal story that I have encountered, experienced and seen exposed over my years in ministry that is too common to be acceptable.
Then don’t you think it’s a good show to have out there from the standpoint of bringing a dark reality into the light? If it were being used to bring light to people then yes. Many good conversations COULD have happened in the aftermath of this, but from what I am seeing, it is only continuing to cause harm. Based on the way the story is told, “pain wins” or at least gets the last laugh. Not only does a woman walk through some unimaginable hardships, she turns that pain into revenge and death which perpetuates the ugly cycle of darkness. It’s ‘pay it forward’ of the very worst kind. So while the potential might be tucked in there to do some good, it’s not close enough to the surface of the story that people are grasping it and leveraging it to help someone or to seek healing for them self. Instead, we have a massive group of, understandably so, wounded people exposing themselves to the harshness of this story. Instead of being led toward hope and help for their own broken places, they are left questioning the worth of their own lives. This show is triggering hurt not ushering in hope; perpetuating darkness not pointing towards Light. I believe we can do better than that.
So what, you think every story should end in happily ever after where everyone holds hands at the end and sings Kumbaya? Not at all. Real life is messy and hard. Like I said, the story shown in this series was not shocking to me. It should have been, but it wasn’t. I have seen and heard stories just like this one before. Some of the people in those stories have ended it all in death just the same as the show did, while others have chosen life and are still showing up for it day after day. What I think this series made sure to focus on was the 13 reasons why her life sucked. What it failed to do was develop the rest of the story, the full story, where we could also see the 13 reasons why her life did NOT suck. The show forced the viewer to only see the negative, which as a culture comes naturally to us, just look at the depression statistics right now. We honestly don’t need help figuring out that life sucks. We all know that. What we DESPERATELY need help figuring out is why life is worth showing up for. We are all dead men and women walking if we are trying to live without hope. We are desperate for light in this dark world and this show, though insanely and not surprisingly popular, offers none. (For example: In the show, we see her parents interact with her periodically. They were amazing and loved her well, but that relationship gets completely skimmed over while the story continued to develop only the negatives.)
So where does one go from here? Honestly, I think we need to go in and together. Instead of standing on pedestals and expressing our opinions we need to align ourselves side by side and walk this life thing out together. I know many of us are hurting. Yet what hurts the most is thinking we are alone. So as I have said before, we need people who stand up and say ME TOO. If more people start sharing their dark stories from places of healing and hope, we wouldn’t be seeing suicide as the number one cause of death amongst young people today. Pain is real and deep but pain cannot continue to get the victory. We need each other. So let me leave you with this:
13 Reasons Why NOT:
- You are NOT alone
- You are a masterpiece
- We want you here
- What has happened to you, does not define you
- Only you get to decide who you are- no one and nothing else gets a vote
- There is a gift inside of you that the world desperately needs
- You are loved
- Freedom is possible
- Pain is temporary
- Life is worth it
- Beauty is all around you
- Fear is a liar
- Death is not the end