The American Family Association, a conservative Christian organization, is asking Netflix to pull one of its popular shows, “13 Reasons Why,” which they believe glamorizes suicide.
The show details the life of a teenage girl who commits suicide, and the (you guessed it) reasons why. Each reason happens to be a person she interacted with. Before killing herself, she records a tape for each person that describes why they are partly to blame.
Netflix is known for not releasing show ratings, but Variety reported that there were over 11 million tweets on Twitter regarding, “13 Reasons Why,” making it the most tweeted about show in 2017.
The American Family Association asked Netflix to pull the series after it was reported that several teens took their lives because of it.
“This is not a partisan issue, not a conservative issue, but an issue of what we’re putting in front of our teens,” said Walker Wildmon, assistant to American Family Association President Tim Wildmon.
Walker called the series “a very dark show.”
“… it’s dark towards our teenagers,” he said. “It targets them, it’s very dark, it glorifies suicide. We’re trying to inform adults you need to keep an eye on what your kids are watching.”
The Mississippi-based group created a petition for the show’s cancelation, which received over 30,000 signatures.
The AFA sent a letter to Netflix CEO Reid Hastings in March asking the company to pull the show.
“Fourteen-year-old Anna Bright from Alabaster, Alabama, killed herself April 18, 2017, after binge-watching the … series,” the letter reads. “Bella Herndon and Priscilla Chiu, both 15-year-olds from California, also took their own lives just days after watching [the show’s main character] Hannah Baker kill herself.”
Netflix has yet to respond to the AFA’s request and has not issued any comments on Anna, Bella or Pricilla’s suicide.
Nic Sheff, one of the show’s editors and writers, has gone on the record multiple times to defend the show, calling it an accurate portrayal of suicide. Sheff was once suicidal himself and accredits being alive to hearing a graphic suicide story when he was young.
“Facing these issues head-on — talking about them, being open about them —will always be our best defense against losing another life,” he wrote for Vanity Fair.
The AFA might have a longer battle in front of them, as the second season is about to premiere on Netflix.
“13 Reasons Why” is based on a novel by Jay Asher. Although it is ranked MA-17, it might not be suitable for some over 17.
A variety of psychology and medical professionals and associations have called attention to the adverse effects of the show on those who watch it.
Dan Reidenberg, a psychologist from Minnesota, told Netflix they should use caution and not air the series. But a 2017 Syracuse Post-Advance report shared that Netflix “made very clear” to Reidenberg, who serves as executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, that they were not going to think about canceling the show.
Since the show premiered on Netflix, there was a noticeable spike in online searches on how to commit suicide, according to a recent report. Furthermore, a JAMA Internal Medicine editorial addressed their problems with the show, and suggested that the “strong response” to the series “may encourage others to produce similar shows.”
“This immersion into the story and image may have a particularly strong effect on adolescents, whose brains are still developing the ability to inhibit certain emotions, desires, and actions,” the JAMA Internal Medicine editorial stated.