Several months ago, I received a handwritten letter from a lady named Patsy Howell. Her letter was a cry for help. In it, she detailed the death of her granddaughter Anna Bright, who killed herself after watching the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.
I had heard about the series and knew it was a popular one, but beyond recognizing its title, I knew very little about it at the time.
In her letter, Mrs. Howell wrote: “I think bullying at school and watching 13 Reasons Why were the reasons she did this.”
Taken back by what I read and unsure of what to do, I called Mrs. Howell to acknowledge I had received her letter and to express my condolences to her. She was heartbroken, polite yet adamant that AFA do something about this show.
The way she connected with AFA is what her daughter Patrice Bright calls a God moment.
“My dad had gone to the post office, and he looked in the trash can and there was an AFA Journal in there,” Bright said. “I know it was meant for him to find it.”
Mr. Howell had seen a story about prayer on the cover of the September 2017 issue that piqued his interest, so he pulled it out of the trash and took it home. Mrs. Howell then found a brief story about 13 Reasons Why on the inside. She read it and wrote a letter to AFA. She connected me to her daughter, and several months later I found myself, along with a film crew from American Family Studios, in the living room of the Brights’ home listening to them share their story in an effort to save lives.
Our interview with them that day turned into a three-page story in the May 2018 issue of AFA Journal, an online video that shows the power of media as told through the death of Anna, and a ministry-wide campaign to put an end to Season 1 of 13 Reasons Why and it’s upcoming second season.
If you are unfamiliar with the series, you may be wondering why all the fuss about a show. If you know anything at all about the series, then you are probably aware of all the controversy surrounding it.
The first season of the series is based on a young adult novel written by Jay Asher. Both the novel and the series revolve around the suicide of teenager Hannah Baker who leaves behind 13 cassette tapes that blame 13 different people as the reasons she ended her life. The tapes are her means of revenge, her power over them after death.
Targeted at teens, the Netflix series is rated TV-MA for mature audiences only; it is full of gratuitous profane language, excessive drug and alcohol use by high school students, homosexuality, empty friendships, bullying and violence, graphic sex including two rape scenes – one likened to soft porn, and a full-on, raw, very real and gruesome three-minute depiction of a teenage girl committing suicide.
Yet teens are drawn to it – immersed in it and, in ways, controlled by its haunting darkness. For people dealing with anxiety, depression, or any type of mental illness, it becomes a trigger for suicidal ideation and copycat suicides.
The Bright family wants to put an end to this series in an attempt to save lives; AFA has come alongside them in their efforts. And you can help too.
Sign the petition to pull Season 1 of 13 Reasons Why and to cancel the upcoming release of Season 2.
Netflix needs to know that lives are at stake, all for the sake of entertainment.