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: 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.