The Point: 13 Wrong Reasons Why

A worldview is more than curse words. For the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, I’m John Stonestreet with The Point.

“13 Reasons Why,” a Netflix series that wrapped up last week, offers a very important lesson on why Christians must rethink how we often approach TV and movies.

Writing at Mere Orthodoxy, Samuel James points out the series has all the features that normally disqualify a show for evangelicals: sex, violence, substance abuse, and lots of language.

But it’s the series’ message—that suicide is a powerful way to take revenge—that really makes it horrible. Too often, says James, we treat ratings and tallies of curse words, nude scenes, and body counts as the only basis for rejecting a film or TV show. Absent these, we assume it must be okay.

But even if “13 Reasons Why” were squeaky clean, its message aims to subtly change us, and how we see human value, in a very dark way. That’s how art works, in fact. Unless we’re asking “what worldview does this teach?” and not just, “what is this rated?” our defenses will be down.


A Last Word About “13 Reasons Why”
  • Samuel James | Mere Orthodoxy | May 3, 2017

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  • Robert Cremer

    John, I am confused by your message here. Yes, we cannot accept something based only on a good content rating (the morality, the violent, language abuse, etc.). The message may be corrupted so we need to pay attention to that as well. But the example here, “13 Reasons Why” apparently failed on both counts so knowing that, how does it help. Should you have picked something that passed the content measurement but failed in the area of the message for your example?

  • Phoenix1977

    “But it’s the series’ message—that suicide is a powerful way to take revenge—that really makes it horrible”

    Did the author even watch the show? Because if this is what he believes the message is he really needs to educate himself.

    Yes, there is a long of strong language in the show (although you will hear worse in the average high school) and there is substance abuse and sexual content (although, once again, hardly as “explicit” as the author wants us to believe). But most importantly, you see how a young girl is systematically destroyed by her peers and let down by those who should protect her and make her feel safe. You see how a successful athlete gets away with sexual assault, destroying at least 2 young women in the process, simply because he’s an athlete and because he’s what the school needs in order to reach trophies so the school can gain more prestige and more donations.

    The last episode is powerful. Several teenagers testify about the climate at school and by the way they tell their story it’s like they are not even going to the same school. That’s the climate in which a young girl gets defamed, raped and ultimately destroyed. And THAT is the true message of “13 reasons why”. Perhaps people, especially Christians, should do something about that, instead of trying to defame a show because we don’t like how it depicts what happens. Apparently the message doesn’t matter, simply because the way it’s shown is not fitting to certain people. And that’s a shame because if only one person is saved because of “13 reasons why” it was all worth it.