I can see that this is not the place for a serious-minded or nuanced conversation.
Michael Y. Simon
41

“I can see that this is not the place for a serious-minded or nuanced conversation.”

I wonder why not? And I wonder what about my previous post has you believing that I am not serious or nuanced.

“I have information about the show and the people who created it which leads me to believe your defense of the show is unwarranted and somewhat naive.”

I am not, nor have I ever, stating that the producers were in it for the good of mankind, to help teens, or to even promote in-depth conversations. We do not disagree on the production of the show. We disagree on the “now what?” aspect, since the show has already been produced and has aired.

“Next, like anyone interested more in an argument than cutting a path towards understanding, your response to me actually included defenses against arguments or points I neither made explicitly or through inference.”

I apologize that you feel that way. I have attempted to remedy this situation by directly responding to your message line-by-line.

“I don’t really understand the function of your long diatribe on “research.” But you convince me you might make a great economist.”

I don’t know much about economics, so I strongly disagree there. The research? Well, I’m a clinical psychologist holding two faculty positions and co-direct a research lab, so the research is part of how I was trained and it’s part of what I do. After all, my clinical work is just a “slice” of what I do.

“ You actually paint with a broad and hysterical brush the “hysteria” around the criticism of the show. I’m curious as to why you believe that Media Watch or AAMFT or Common Sense Media or the AAP or the American Association of Suicidology or teachers and administrators across our country disagree with your position. And I’m quite certain that you interpreting their thoughtful and often research-based opinions and counsel as hysterical or overkill or as based in a fear of discussing suicide is in itself highly problematic.”

As someone who has been trained in doing and reading research, I don’t blindly accept things, but rather, try to look at them more critically. I try to think for myself. I greatly appreciated your previous rhetoric (not this message, as this one drips with pretentiousness). The organizations that you list off are incredibly impactful in the field, no doubt about that. I have also attended conferences and have worked with leading experts in the field of suicidology. I don’t doubt their assertions. I do cast skepticism on the research that they cite. Which, again, is part of research. We don’t blindly accept research conclusions, but rather, approach them skepticism and empiricism. It was beneficial to delve into some of these studies are often cited as indicating copycat effects, and to discover that the research methods vary greatly — thus meaning we have to take those findings with a grain of salt (again, as is the case with all psychology research in my opinion). I am not intending to negate organizations’ opinions. I agree with them wholeheartedly AND I also think we need to look at the previous research conclusions with some skepticism. I like to hold the dialectic.

“Most of the comments here that are supportive of your views show a lack of understanding of adolescent development or cognition. Of course kids love this show. Of course kids feel like it represents their own lives. Of course kids love the drama. That’s because the show panders to the mindset of a typical adolescent whose capacities around ethical decision-making are very much under construction.”

I agree 100% here. I don’t think we’ve disagreed yet, in fact!

“But folks are nuts if they think that this is an instance of a media product “being real” and “respecting its audience.””

As a “psychotherapist” do you talk to your clients like that? Calling them “nuts?” I find it disrespectful, and quite honestly, stigmatizing as we sit here talking about mental illness issues.

“Mostly ignorant adults think that the show illustrates reasons not to kill oneself by depicting the impact in such graphic ways. Mostly ignorant adults also think that education about the dangers of smoking decrease rates of nicotine use among kids. In fact we know it raises those rates.”

Well this was the point in my bringing up research. We don’t actually know it raises rates of suicide. The research is inconclusive and at best, heterogeneous across study methodology.

I might also argue that smoking education is done poorly because of the way it communicates with teens. It seeks to show graphic representations of what could happen and uses fear tactics. Much akin to saying to a teen, “stop doing parkour you could break a bone.” This is why I think the show is different (note, I did not say better, the epitome, or the archetypal answer) than most other campaigns to potentially (again, note the use of potentially) deter certain adolescent behaviors like bullying, cyberbullying, etc.

“Showing a sexy, alluring, graphic drama in which a teen gets posthumous revenge on all those who neglected and mistreated her is about what sells to teens, not about the responsible depiction of the second leading cause of death for youth 12–24.”

Now I’m feeling old because I didn’t catch the sex-appeal in the show. Now, as I’ve said, I’m open to discourse and in fact appreciated your first message. I would be interested in knowing what a “responsible depiction” of suicide, that also hooks adolescents so that they are not tuning out the messages, would look like?

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