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The Dangerous Message of "13 Reasons Why"

13 Reasons Why

Teenagers are flocking to Netflick's new original series 13 Reasons Why, based on the 2007 novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and adapted by Brian Yorkey for Netflix. The Netflix series was executive produced by Selena Gomez. Each installment follows audio recordings left by a 17-year-old named Hannah Baker for her peers articulating the reasons why she chose to kill herself.

The show revolves Hannah Baker, a young woman who takes her own life. Two weeks after her tragic death, a classmate named Clay finds a mysterious box on his porch. Inside the box are recordings made by Hannah -- on whom Clay had a crush -- in which she explains the 13 reasons why she chose to commit suicide. If Clay decides to listen to the recordings, he will find out if and how he made the list. This intricate and heart-wrenching tale is told through Clay and Hannah's dual narratives. 

Writing on his website Thursday, Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he believed the series could tempt teens to attempt suicide because of the way it's portrayed as a solution to problems.

"What concerns me about the show is that the central conceit of the series feeds one of the drivers of teenage suicide, and that is the sense of suicide as storyline," Moore said.

"Many depressed teenagers that I've talked to over the years, and others with suicidal tendencies, don't actually want to be dead as much as they want to end one story and start another. In many cases, the suicide becomes, in the imagination, the way to resolve storylines that one sees no other way to resolve."

Kathyrn Watson of RELEVANT gets to the heart of the issue: death resolves nothing. "13 Reasons Why is a fiction that takes place in an alternate reality (and not just because they call Walmart "the Walplex"). In our world it's true that people are awful, evil and live lawlessly. But suicide will not rein this evil in. It will only give evil a license to be worse. Love that's thwarted by the hardships and trouble of life cannot be realized and fulfilled because of death.

A martyr isn't someone that dies for themselves. They die to save somebody else. And our redemption can never, ever come to any of us through revenge."

Likewise, Kevin Carson, the Pastor of the Sonrise Baptist Church in Ozark, Missouri, warns on his site: "Parents, be on alert in regard to this show. This is a graphic show. Some parents and reviewers have described this show as a how-to guide on committing suicide. Cultural issues relevant to the episodes include suicide, rape, bullying of various sorts, drugs, underage drinking, stalking, betrayal, grief, revenge, lies, blame-shifting, fat shaming, strong language, violence, and other areas of abuse as well. Mental health officials in Australia have strongly urged parents to not let their teenagers watch this. There is concern with copycatting the suicide." 

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