A youth pastor wrote recently to share his thoughts on AFA’s campaign urging Netflix to cancel its 13 Reasons Why series.
“I would like to start by saying I respectfully disagree with your current article and am not trying to ‘attack’ you personally,” he wrote. “I have read your article both in the AFA Journal and online (unabridged) ‘13 Reasons Why’ not to watch Season 2.’ (See AFA Journal, 8/18 issue.)”
He felt AFA had not given 13RW a fair treatment, citing the fact that it includes crisis help center information at the end of each episode.
He continued, “I believe the real issue you should be addressing is the lack of good parenting, even in Christian families.”
AFA certainly affirms his concern for family relationships. And, of course, we do print many articles on parenting and cite other resources on the same subject.
In today’s culture, there is a heavy responsibility for parents to be ever vigilant in knowing their children’s friends, their use of social media, and all of the activities their children enjoy.
Regarding the copy-cat suicides tied to 13RW, the young pastor believes the victims should have called the helplines, and if they didn’t, their suicides are the responsibility of the parents, not Netflix.
His insights moved me to revisit AFA’s stance on this issue, and I came to the same conclusion: 13RW is not serving its fans or families or our society. Netflix is, indeed, complicit in the tragic deaths that mimic 13RW. Following are some excerpts in my written response to the youth pastor:
I wonder if you have read the stories of any of the suicide victims who chose 13 Reasons Why as a manual for how to commit suicide. I wish you could have talked with the grieving grandmother of Anna Bright, one of those victims. That leads me to a few of the reasons AFA believes 13RW is doing more damage than good.
1) AFA first interviewed 14-year-old Anna’s parents in early spring and published our first coverage in the May issue.
2) In that story, Rebecca did, indeed, acknowledge that the 13RW creative team insists that the show’s intent is positive (one of your concerns). However, Rebecca interviewed or researched input from several professionals in the mental health field, and not one of them agreed with the show’s claims:
• Counselor Julie Lowe, Christian Counseling and Education Foundation.
• A Washington Post report citing the JAMA Internal Medicine.
• John Ayers, San Diego State University public health professor.
• Dr. Fadi Haddad, psychiatrist (also cited in Time magazine).
3) We believe that the Bright family’s story will awaken and challenge every parent who hears it or reads it.
4) Since Netflix releases a full season at once, we know that teens are binge-watching the whole season in a weekend. Have you watched episodes? Do you believe that 13 hours of suicide, heroin addiction, violence, prolific profanity, disrespecting Jesus, bullying, rape, and consensual casual sex will have a positive impact on immature kids?
5) If Netflix is so determined to provide a service to teens and parents, why create a TV-MA series, clearly intended to capture teen viewers? Do you really think Netflix is interested in helping those teens?
Thanks again for taking the time and putting a lot of thought into your letter. I’d be glad to talk with you. …
God bless you, brother. He has put you in a role where I’m sure every day brings new issues. I’ll be praying that He gives you wisdom to meet the needs of the teens under your care – and to find ways to challenge parents to take a proactive role in their kids’ lives.
Here’s praying for every youth minister and teacher as they help their charges navigate the troubled waters of adolescence. More power – Holy Spirit power – to them!
(Editor's note: This article was first posted on AFA Journal's website here: https://afajournal.org/past-issues/2018/october/rethinking-afa-s-netflix-campaign/#)