My introduction to 13 Reasons Why (the Netflix series) happened innocently enough. A few weeks ago I was in the car coming home from dinner with my two teenage daughters when they mentioned how good the show was and encouraged me to watch.
I was a bit confused when they described it being about a girl who commits suicide and the 13 reasons why. I wasn’t understanding the concept of the audio tapes the main character leaves behind in the aftermath of her death. My immediate response was that I didn’t think I could watch something like that because it would be soooo extremely painful to see and not my form of entertainment.
The girls explained the premise of the tapes and how Hannah Baker (the main character) leaves one for each of her “friends” to listen to after her death. The cassettes explain how their actions play a part in Hannah’s decision to commit suicide. For those who don’t know about the 13 Reasons Why Netflix series or book yet, find more details in the book synopsis here.
I was alarmed, scared, worried, and concerned that my teen girls thought something like this could possibly be a “good” show to watch. So, I reluctantly took them up on their offer to watch the series together.
Below are my 13 reasons for – and against – watching, or not. As parents we should all be aware of this series and how it may be watched by our teens. I hope this will arm us all with a little bit of information to decide what is best for our families.
How it could be helpful:
Assists in Parent/Teen Communication
As a parent it’s often hard to discuss touchy subjects with our kids. If we need an ice breaker, this series gives us a LOT to talk about. Some of the issues covered that teens might face in middle and high school include: Popularity, Sexuality, Rape, Suicide, Bullying, Objectification, Loneliness, Friendships, Drinking, Drugs, Sex, Child Abuse, etc.
Knowledge is Power
If we think our children won’t watch because “we say so,” we aren’t remembering clearly what it’s like to be a teenager and how much smarter teens are today. When all their friends are talking about it and the device to watch it is in the palm of every teen’s hand, it would be surprising if they weren’t exposed in some form.
I cannot think of one thing that would shatter my life more than not knowing that one of my girls is feeling so lost, alone, helpless, desperate and … unloved enough to want to take her life. It would kill me. If this program helps my teens express anything that I’m missing, I’m in!
What we see:
There were scenes that made me physically uncomfortable. I had to turn away, close my eyes, and hide my face from the TV screen. I felt ill during a couple of scenes and was truly pained and nauseous when I looked over at my 16yo watching and imagining my 14yo watching these scenes without me (they had both already watched the series and my 16yo was re-watching again with me).
This was very disturbing. It happens twice and we get to see it on screen. It’s powerful and graphic in nature and the handling of how teens process and react during and after is eye opening. It’s very complicated: a best friend witnesses the rape and does nothing to stop it, a steady boyfriend lets his friend rape his girlfriend (because he is drunk?), a group of at least 10 kids know that a friend has been raped but say nothing, the girl who was raped doesn’t know it because she was passed out, another girl is raped by the same person and cannot stop him as he forces himself on her.
We read about it in the papers and see it on the news every day. Drugs are cheap, easy to find and purchase, and unfortunately often used by teens. 13 Reasons place in the world. The series has a mix of popular and mainstream or nerdy-type kids who are basketball stars, cheerleaders, spoiled rich kids, geeky kids, newspaper and photography editors, etc. They all are insecurWhy shows teens frequently using them. We see bongs, parents dealing drugs, kids buying pot, etc.
What happens in Vegas, right? Unfortunately, what happens at a teen party seems to have the same mantra. Drinking, drugs, sex, rape – it’s all there to see. And, no one seems to report any criminal behavior afterwards.
Friendships are Fleeting
Remember back in middle or high school when we were growing up? We can all remember the revolving friendship door and how we accumulated and lost friends on a daily basis – but maybe not the ridiculous reasons why. This series does a good job of showing just how shallow teen relationships can be.
All Teens are Insecure
Even the popular kids aren’t truly comfortable with their place in the world. The series has a mix of “popular” and mainstream or nerdy-type kids who are basketball stars, cheerleaders, spoiled rich kids, geeky kids, newspaper and photography editors, etc. They are all insecure about one thing or another. There are multiple layers – maybe it’s good for kids to understand that insecurity isn’t a label that only belongs to one type of kid.
Peer Pressure is Alive and Well
Let’s face it, we are all victims of peer pressure at some point in our lives. Teens are especially vulnerable to falling into this trap. The series routinely shows how easy it is for kids to follow others after just a little bit of “encouragement” from friends.
Kids, parents, counselors – they are all at fault in this series. Who is the main reason behind Hannah’s suicide? Could she have been saved if any one of these characters had acted sooner? Clay Jenson, the insecure teen who is in love with Hannah, and his friend, Tony, finally take action to help bring the rapist down and get justice. Maybe we will all find out in season two if their actions are successful.
What we hear:
Profanity, and LOTS of it
I criticize the writers for not trying to find any other word to use in teen dialog than the F-bomb. Enough already, we know how “cool” it is to use in high school, but really that often? Apparently it’s true – both middle school and high school use is pretty common these days.
What we know:
Season Two is Probably Coming
Yes, that’s right it doesn’t look like this series is going away anytime soon. And, why would it? The publicity it is getting (both positive and negative) is more than any other series in recent times. Here are some predictions for what we may see in season two:
The question is this: Do we want to be parents who look away and ignore, or be informed? At the very least, we should have a few facts to make the right decision. I don’t regret watching and have had many important conversations with my girls during — and after — viewing.
13 Reasons Why Resources: