'Horrific' TV show inspiring suicide, says filmmaker
Evangelist Ray Comfort, the maker of a new film on suicide that emphasizes the value of life, is warning that the Netflix series on suicide, “13 Reasons Why,” goes the wrong direction on the issue of self-destruction by teens, which has engulfed communities and even has drawn concern in the left-leaning Rolling Stone.
Comfort points to the Netflix series’ portrayal of suicide through a character named Hannah Baker, who leaves behind 13 tapes for her friends.
“She doesn’t jump off a bridge, leaving what happened to her to the imagination,” Comfort told WND. “Rather, she sits in a bathtub fully clothed, takes a razor blade, and slits her wrists lengthwise.”
He continued: “I forced myself to watch the scene, and even though I know it’s only acting, with special effects, I found it horrific. It brought me to tears.”
His concern is also raised by Alexa Curtis in Rolling Stone.
“Despite the heartbreaking scenes and soul-crushing realities depicted, as I watched the show, I wondered, does ’13 Reasons Why’ glamorize suicide?” Curtis wrote.
“As a 19-year-old who deals with the issues of online bullying every day – both as a blogger and as the founder of Media Impact and Navigation for Teens (MINT), an organization that works directly with teens in school – I think it’s important to approach the conversation of online bullying and suicide carefully. And I’m not sure this show did that.”
She explained: “As I watched, I found the aftermath of her suicide troubling. In real life, when someone commits suicide, their story ends there. ’13 Reasons Why’ failed to end Baker’s story, since she lives on through the tapes. We become captivated by the drama of the suicide rather than the actual suicide itself.”
Comfort, the Living Waters evangelist whose projects include “Hitler, God and the Bible,” “You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think,” “Nothing Created Everything,” “180” and “God Doesn’t Believe in Atheists,” recently released his new film shedding light on the darkness of depression, “EXIT: The Appeal of Suicide,” which now is available for pre-release download.
Recently, there have been periodic epidemics of teen suicide in the United States in which three, four or more kill themselves in a short time period.
The London Daily Mail reported two families near San Francisco lost their daughters, Bella Herndon and Priscilla Chiu, to suicide in April.
The families specifically blamed “13 Reasons.”
“Both girls had just finished watching the Netflix drama, which was filmed in the Bay area,” the report explains. “Both of their families are speaking publicly for the first time about their daughters, to say the show was a trigger for the two girls.”
John Herndon, Bella’s father, said in the report the images from the show are offensive.
“There are no words that describe my contempt for the people who did this. You can’t convince me that they were trying to attract attention to the issue of teen suicide by showing a little girl killing herself. There’s nothing positive about that.”
A spokesman for the Netflix show told the Daily Mail viewers were alerted about the content.
“Our hearts go out to these families during this difficult time. We have heard from many viewers that ;13 Reasons Why; has opened up a dialogue among parents, teens schools and mental health advocates around the difficult topics depicted in the show.”
Comfort explained the controversy “is over whether this scene will deter young people from committing suicide or will stir up copycat suicides because the character seen taking her life is a celebrity in their eyes.”
The images shown, he said, were “a horrible mistake.”
“This is because I greatly value my life, and the thought of taking a razor blade and cutting three-inch slits in my wrists sends me into a shudder of horror. I had a similar feeling as I interviewed a suicidal girl for our new movie, ‘EXIT: The Appeal of Suicide.’ She said that she wanted to end her life, and explained to me that very few are able to kill themselves by overdosing with pills, because of complications. She then described why other means of suicide were very difficult. We left that part of the interview out of the film for fear of giving ideas to vulnerable people.”
He asked her about being scared by “continually contemplating suicide.”
“You get used to it,” she responded.
“And there is my concern with the death scene in ’13 Reasons Why.’ It seems that the series producers didn’t take into account the thousands of young people known as ‘cutters.’ These people regularly cut their skin and draw blood, and in doing so repeatedly, they get used to it. It loses its intuitive horror. Studies show that 40 percent of cutters have thought of suicide. In essence, many cutters may be actually rehearsing their own deaths. Someone slitting their wrists is not as horrific to them as it would be to you and me. Couple that mentality with a celebrity hero who slits her wrists and you have potential copycats,” Comfort warned.
He cited the two teen girls who ended their lives in San Francisco and the fact reported by Newsweek that emotions “and behaviors can be contagious – from moodiness to yawning.”
“Young people are especially susceptible; they obsess over fads and fashion trends and copy illicit behaviors from peers, such as smoking, drinking or speeding. Or suicide.”
Comfort said that also “EXIT” includes clips of two suicide jumpers leaping from the Golden Gate Bridge, “we have left their hitting the icy waters of the San Francisco Bay to the imagination.”
“There are big differences between the two films. The people shown in ‘EXIT’ are not actors; nor are they celebrities. And most importantly, the film offers the solution to the tragic problem of suicide. It doesn’t leave viewers hopeless in the face of the horror of death, as ’13 Reasons Why’ does. ‘EXIT’ gives people a reason to live, and explains that we all have great worth because we are made in the image of God.”
In Rolling Stone, Curtis expressed concern for the impact of “13 Reasons Why.”
“Most teens don’t leave tapes for 13 people to realize how they assisted in someone’s suicide. Due to the tapes, we don’t witness the utter emptiness and grief that occur after someone commits suicide. Dead is dead, and as much as it may be hard to portray on that screen, 13 Reasons Why fails to end the last episode with closure,” she wrote.
“For teens who are battling mental health issues, witnessing the end of a life as easily as the show portrayed it could help desensitize kids to this very serious matter.”
She explained teen suicide is the second leading cause of death of teens and “we have to educate faculty and adults about the negative power that social media has with regards to suicide and rape culture.”
“There will always be people who feel like they have no one to talk to, and those are the people most at risk whom we have to figure out how to reach. Suicide is not the answer. You don’t have to be part of a statistic larger than any of us can understand to end your pain.”
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