13 Reasons Why - A Second Season of Trauma that Echos Today's Youth Culture
By Craig Kennet Miller
As I was talking with my high school son about the shootings in Santa Fe, Texas, I shared one of the theories about why it happened. The week before the shootings, one of the victims had confronted the shooter. In front of a classroom full of students, she told him to leave her alone. A week later he gunned her down, killing her and many of her friends.
My son replied, “that is so 13 Reasons Why.”
13 Reasons Why, the controversial Netflix series that tells the story of the suicide of Hannah Baker, a student at Liberty High, is now airing its second season.
Be aware, that this post and podcast is in no way an endorsement of the series but it is an acknowledgement that whether we like it or not, this series is spreading through youth culture like wildfire as it was the most-binged show on Netflix last year – a streaming service that is easily accessible to youth on any number of devices.
Bullying, sexual assault, drug use, suicide, and mental health breakdowns are portrayed throughout the show. While Netflix tries to deflect criticism by putting up trigger warnings and links for help, the reality is they know their target audience. Why it says it's for mature audiences, they know youth will figure out a way to watch it.
Cassandra Smith, a youth worker, and writer who has written an extensive study guide available on her site, www.beyondthereasons.com, says, “If you are watching the show for entertainment value alone, that is dangerous. If you are watching it for education, you can actually learn a lot about youth culture. What I keep hearing from students is this, “13 Reasons Why validates my story.”
If you do not have a child in school right now, you are probably unaware of the tremendous struggle children, parents, and teachers are having with the devastating aftermath of school shootings, suicides, and bullying.
My son started high school this year. On the first day of class, a student was arrested for having a gun in his car. About every two weeks, we have received a robo call from the principle with messages like “today there was a threat against the school” or “we had a lockdown” or ”a student was arrested.”
This is the stark reality of life in high school today.
The word that best sums up the life experience of today's youth and the plot of the second season is this - trauma.
In the second season, each character is dealing with the aftermath of Hannah’s suicide. Her mom wonders why she did not pay more attention to what was going on. Her boyfriend keeps seeing her as he wrestles with how he could have stopped her. A school counselor wishes he could have had one more conversation with her. As one character says, “We can’t just move on. Life is different now.”
And that is what we as a culture and we as a church need to understand - life is different now.
A year ago, I would have never imagined that it would be commonplace to walk with my family into worship on Sunday mornings past an armed security guard, there to protect us in case a gunman decides to shoot up the sanctuary.
Proverbs 24:11 says, “Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.” (NIV)
As parents, pastors, youth workers, and concerned adults we need to wake up to the fact that our youth and children are in crises. They are staging walkouts for a reason – they want us to pay attention and do something about the stress and anxiety and danger that fills their lives.
While 13 Reason Why is an imperfect vehicle full of images and language that would make past generations be outraged by its content, it does something we all need to do – it challenges us to pay attention and to talk about the real-life issues facing our children today.
The Future Of...Podcast: 13 Reasons Why features an interview with Cassandra Smith. Go to her website www.beyondthereasons.com to see an extensive study guide and additional resources. To learn more about today's youth culture go to The Future Of...The New Youth Boom Study Guide.
In the second season of 13 Reasons Why each character is dealing with the aftermath of Hannahs suicide. As one character says, We cant just move on. Life is different now.br br And that is what we as a culture and we as a church need to understand - life is different now. br br A year ago, I would have never imagined that it would be commonplace to walk with my family into worship on Sunday mornings past an armed security guard, there to protect us in case a gunman decides to shoot up the sanctuary.br br Proverbs 2411 says, Rescue those being led away to deathbr hold back those staggering toward slaughter. NIV