Guest post from Tim Nowell

Confession Time

I’m going to be honest. My wife and I have been watching the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why. It’s a hard watch, but there is clearly a lot of reality in the midst of the dramatization. I must also note that we haven’t finished it, so I don’t know everything that happens. I do, at this point, plan on finishing the remaining episodes.

I haven’t seen a lot written about the series. I read a couple of articles saying, “do not watch,” and a couple saying, “watch it with your kids.” I don’t have the answers, but I’m pretty confident the lines are not so clear.

In thinking through this, I see this has raised several issues that may or may not have anything to do with the series itself. We might need to ask some questions on how we handle certain types of media. It has caused me to ask a bunch of questions. Here are the big things I’ve been thinking about:

Be Thankful

In my role as a high school pastor, I run into different crises pretty regularly. Frequently, when this happens, I ask, “how did we get here?”

The answer frequently is that we don’t talk about certain issues until they are a crisis. I submit that the reason for that is that we just don’t know how. We don’t know how to verbalize emotions. We aren’t aware of how things affect us until some time has passed. We don’t reflect on the day and the week as we probably should. We don’t know what is “normal” and what is problematic. We didn’t see the crisis or how to handle it in advance of the crisis. We only saw it just before things slid into the really bad category.

What we have now is a manufactured crisis. 13 Reasons Why opens doors. It creates questions. It forces us to think about a lot of things we otherwise wouldn’t have as we were so caught up in just making sure that we were keeping our schedules straight, making sure everyone is fed and gets some sleep, and getting homework done.

So I say, “be thankful,” because the door is opened so we can talk about a huge variety of things and for most of us, this isn’t an immediate crisis. It’s an opportunity.

An adult’s filter is different

Have you ever re-watched a movie or show that you enjoyed as a kid only to find yourself asking the question, “why did I ever like this?” Do you find that your kids absolutely love some form of media that you find generally awful? What I mean is that the content is boring, unfunny, poorly produced, painfully slow, choppy, or otherwise of poor quality.

When I was in high school, my dad told me that he heard about a movie that was well-made that was an anti-drug movie. We watched it together and even with my father explaining it to me, as a junior or senior, I thought it made doing drugs look cool. Looking back and re-watching

proved me wrong. It was indeed a tragic story with a tragic protagonist. I needed more of life’s wisdom to see it for what it was.

The same is true when you consider a not-yet-fully-developed teenage brain watching all kinds of content. Something may be viewed as glorified or attractive to them, when in reality it is exactly the opposite. Having not fully developed a more discerning mind means they will view content differently.

When it comes to media, many students I have known were looking for attractive stars, cool explosions and a plot twist or two that they didn’t seen coming (to someone who’s been around a year or two longer, that twist was obvious) to think a movie is good. I will argue that many are watching 13 Reasons Why just trying to get to the end of the mystery. They really aren’t giving a second thought to many of the issues because those are just part of the world they live in. Really.

We have to help them. Simply telling them, “don’t watch that” is insufficient. Neither is just letting them watch it because, “they are going to anyway.” Do they see this in their life? What does scripture say? How does it apply?

Part 2 to come…