Why Parents Should Watch ’13 Reasons Why’

I am a remarried father with an incredible wife and a blended family of five children. Mind you, those kids aren’t with us 100% of the time…but they all get along and we truly see ourselves as a family when we’re all together. This is important because the ages of the kids are 10, 12, 14, 18, and 20…so it’s always been a battle to relate to them as they grew up, but even more so now because they are all developing (or already have) individual and different personalities.

When 13 Reasons Why was announced as a series coming to Netflix, I didn’t think much of it. I knew that it was previously a book but that was about all I had heard about it. Let’s face it; as a 43 year old man I didn’t really think that I was the demographic that this show is aimed at.

But that’s where I was wrong.

As a parent with kids either entering their teens or just leaving their teens, this is EXACTLY the type of show that I need to be watching. This program really shows how kids are living their daily lives in 2017. The reality that I have in my head simply isn’t the case, and it’s important as a parent to be as aware as possible of what my kids are going through on a daily basis…even if it is only a dramatic telling and not reality.

I was picked on as a kid by bullies. Hell…I was picked on as a kid by my friends. While I don’t think I ever had suicidal thoughts, I did have other dark thoughts about how I wanted to respond to those bullies and “get back” at them. I went through some bad times as a teenager and did my best to hide them by being the overly animated extrovert that people knew me as. Needless to say, I know what it feels like to be so down and depressed and hating yourself that you don’t know how you’re going to get out of bed the next morning and go to school to face everyone.

And while this type of situation doesn’t happen to every kid in high school, I’ve witnessed my stepdaughters get picked on or ostracized by their own friends in elementary school and middle school. So to know that they could possibly be thinking along the lines of Hannah Baker terrifies me. Thankfully, this show helped me confront that possibility in a way that was disturbingly realistic without coming off as “preachy”.

This show doesn’t glorify suicide in any way. If you believe that, then you either haven’t actually seen all thirteen episodes or you didn’t really pay attention when you did watch them. Suicide is never a heroic or romantic act. Although some might watch 13RW and see Hannah in that way, there is nothing heroic in 13 Reasons Why. In fact, this show should be viewed as a tragedy. Hannah may be the star who tells the world why she committed suicide through a series of audio recordings, but the end result (and extremely disturbing suicide scene) isn’t seen as “heroic” or “the only way out”. It’s seen as a choice that ended up hurting a LOT of people unnecessarily…especially when there were people there ready, willing, and able to help pick Hannah up and help her get through these horrific days that she was going through. 

Suicide is not a common response to life’s challenges or adversity. The vast majority of people who experience bullying, the death of a friend, or any other adversity described in 13 Reasons Why do not die by suicide. In fact, most reach out, talk to others and seek help or find other productive ways of coping. They go on to lead healthy, normal lives.

The show also attempts to slap the faces of those who do the bullying, even if they don’t see themselves as bullies. Yes, some terrible things end up happening to Hannah and some of the supporting characters (ex: sexual assault, drug abuse, public humiliation) but at the end of the day if the people on these tapes simply took a minute to rethink their actions, maybe they could have saved a life.

This series isn’t glorifying Hannah’s choice to end her life; it’s emphasizing the need to not be the ones responsible for this type of situation happening to begin with. If Clay had only told Hannah about his feelings for her or if Justin hadn’t shown anybody that “crotch shot” photo of her or if Zach had only not taken Hannah’s rejection to date so hard and didn’t try to “get back” at her or if Sheri hadn’t lied about the accident or if Ryan hadn’t published her intimate poem without her consent…if ANY of those things hadn’t happened or if ANY of those characters had tried to make amends for doing something wrong, maybe Hannah wouldn’t have made the selfish decision to end her pain.

And let’s not kid ourselves…suicide is NOT the cool thing to do. It takes a selfish person to do this type of act as a way to (a) not have to deal with the bad shit that happens to them and (b) hurt those who hurt them to begin with. It really isn’t brave or anything to be looked favorably upon for any reason. And to me, at least, this series really emphasized that.

At the end of the day, all parents should watch this show to see what life is like for their teenage kids in 2017. I don’t know if I’d recommend watching it WITH your kids as some of the language and sexual content could make any family feel awkward (which would take away from the reason to watch the show in the first place).

Listen, 70% of parents worldwide wish they had more to talk about with teenagers. A recent Netflix study revealed a new place where you can find common ground: entertainment.

Canadian parents (82%) are already watching teen shows to feel closer to them and teens around the world (74%) are on board, saying that they’d be interested in talking to parents about the shows they watch. With the majority (89%) of Canadian parents agreeing entertainment would give them something to talk about, why not let a hard-hitting and impactful show like 13 Reasons Why be the catalyst for communication?

But if this program can encourage discussion and communication to take place between parents and teenagers, then that’s really the best result that can take place.

This series isn’t for everybody, but if you truly want to have a solid relationship with your teenager on a level that is more than what I grew up with back in the 70s and 80s, you really owe it to yourself to watch this and really try to walk away with a better understanding of how precious life is and how quickly one or two poor decisions can change everything…but so can one or two good decisions.

If you’re thinking of watching 13 Reasons Why with your teen and are looking for additional information, here are some resources to help navigate the conversation:

13 Reasons Why Talking Points

13 Reasons Why: Beyond The Reasons (an “after-show”)

If you are immediately concerned about a teen in your life, you can find a list of local market resources on the 13 Reasons Why Global Resource Website.

*****

If you have any thoughts of your own about 13 Reasons Why, please don’t hesitate to start up a conversation as I would love to hear from you. You can always hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and email.

I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team, but all opinions are my own.

I Was Bullied

With all of the attention being placed on anti-bullying campaigns lately, I thought I’d share some of my own thoughts on being bullied as a kid and whether or not they might be part of the background to my current self-loathing issues.

Young CBG - late 70s

I was always a nerdy, dorky kid.  I also moved around a lot before entering high school because my dad worked in a bank and was promoted to larger and larger branches every few years.  It’s similar to my current job, actually…if you’re good and are willing to travel, then there are a lot of possibilities out there for you.

Anyway…

8th grade CBG

Once the family finally settled in at what would eventually be called my hometown, I was just entering seventh grade and the all-too-awkward teen phase.  It wasn’t a pretty sight.

My bullying was never in the form of physical violence, but rather emotional abuse.  I was always picked on by a number of different people, but one in particular at one point drove me to the point where I considered killing him.

Seriously.

It’s extremely scary to look back and see how scared and angry I was…feeling helpless to do anything to change my situation.  Every day I’d see this punk…good looking, cocky, getting all the girls…and every day he’d make fun of me in front of my peers…people who were my friends and people who I wanted to be friends with.  He’d verbally abuse me in front of the other kids and laugh about it…not realizing the pain he was truly causing.

It really did get to the point where I found a knife and an empty cardboard box, at which point I took out my anger and frustration and violent thoughts out on it.

Thinking about that time now, I can see how it only added to the issues that seem to be plaguing me as an adult. How can I even think about having positive self-esteem when this period in my life haunts me.  I’m simply not the man that I always wanted to be and I think being bullied at school led into accepting my dad’s form of bullying (whether intentional or not) and, eventually, it led into being bullied by my ex-wife.

DJ-era CBG (late 90's)

So whatever happened to my bully?  Did I ever confront him?  The answers are “I don’t know” and “no”.  We actually ended up working in the same bar back in the early 90’s where I was his back-up DJ (my first gig) before eventually being promoted because he wasn’t good enough.  You’d think that would have helped my self-esteem out a bit, wouldn’t you.

We never became friends, but we became friendly after we left high school and worked together.  I don’t know if I can ever forgive him for the emotional scars he left, but I don’t think I hold any resentment or anger towards him.

I’m sure he’s a different person now anyway…probably has a loving wife and kids and a good job. I’m sure he’s got no idea just what he did to me and would probably be very apologetic for how he treated me.  At least that’s what I tell myself.  I have to in order to not hold any anger inside.

One simply has to let go.  Obviously, it’s easier said than done.

http://www.bullying.org/

http://www.antibullying.net/

http://www.bullyingcanada.ca/