13 Reasons Why Not

May 2017
Dr. Abby

Prepare yourselves. Dr. Abby’s ‘bout to go on a rant.

So, I’m cleaning up my phone - closing apps, touching that x on the corner of safari windows to get rid of them, and the last safari window I come to shows the results of a Google search done several weeks ago on 13 Reasons Why. I refreshed the page, and there’s a brand new article from Entertainment Weekly, posted at 11:00am today. EW’s Samantha Highfill interviewed the series’ showrunner, Brian Yorkey. Here’s the final sentence or two; words are Brian Yorkey’s.

“. . . those two boxes of tapes are still hanging around and matter to people - but there will be a new piece of technology for 13-year-olds to Google and try to understand what it was.”

I want to shout, “SERIOUSLY??!!,” but, no point. I am not at all surprised they’re planning a second season. Of course they are. I am not at all shocked when the showrunner fully acknowledges middle school students are a targeted audience. Of course they are. I am, regardless, appalled.

Several weeks ago, I watched the entire series, all 13 episodes. I watched it, not because I wanted to, but because I felt one of us (mister or me) should have an informed opinion should we be asked, either professionally or personally. I’ve written literally dozens of pages trying to process it all, make sense of it, find something, anything cohesive to publish on our Facebook page.

This show is dangerous. It is dark and twisty, and I DON’T mean Meredith Grey fictional dark and twisty. Suicide is glamorized. The taking of one’s own life is presented as a plausible, perhaps even preferable “way-out” or means of exacting revenge. And today I see this interview.

Here’s the thing - until we are pretty firmly into the journey that is puberty, neuro-cognitive-developmentally speaking, abstract thought is not our “strong suit,” much less the idea of “forever.” The viewer watches Hannah Baker, the character, brutally slit her wrists clean through and bleed out. The young actor, Katherine Langford, who portrays the character Hannah, can also be seen, alive and well, going from one press junket to the next. Now, at pushing 50, I totally “get” that one version of this young person (the character) has passed through the proverbial veil, and the other, her actual self, is just living her life. High schoolers, for the most part, will also understand this differentiation. Those middlers though? Sure, they “know” Hannah is dead, but in seeing the actor alive, their brains are sent confused messages about the finality, the permanence, of the act of suicide. So what? So, sixth grader Susie Q. watches this show, and believes suicide is a reasonable solution to her problems, not fully grasping the lethality of her actions. Don’t even get me started on the truly vulnerable kids here- any child with any form of “mental illness,” any child who’s been or is being bullied; truly, any child.

I understand there are multiple REALLY significant unresolved issues the way things ended in episode 13. Let the tension remain, as in the novel, from what I gather.

We have had 3 suicides in one local high school since Christmas. I’ve been thinking about and praying for these families. famiLIES????? There is no way I can even begin to understand the grief they are experiencing, and are now forced to settle in with for the remainder of their lives, and I’m fairly empathic. I have six daughters and how many patients??. All equally invaluable, priceless; I’m not at all sure Greg or I could survive this. Also, I truly fear we will be in the thick of an epidemic by mid-summer, all over the country.

Please, if your child/ren are going to watch, watch with them. Hit pause and process what is happening as the story unfolds. Be prepared for graphic rape depictions, in addition to the suicide, and, dynamically, some of the darkest television you’ve ever seen. If your child/ren has already watched, TALK with them. Please do not assume even high school kids are going to be okay with all of it. Make sure you are up on your own child/ren’s safety. Call Netflix and demand suicide prevention PSA’s be broadcast alongside every episode.

And, I suppose, this, perhaps most frightening of all: be prepared for this series to not faze your child/ren in any way.

If you’ve read this far, thanks.