I don’t usually write reviews about movies or shows as I know tastes can vary so much. However, I think this series has important information that needs to be discussed instead of continuing to be pushed in the shadows. The Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” is a very well written and powerful story about the suicide of a teenage girl named Hannah Baker.
If you haven’t watched it I’m not giving too much away and will try not to. I will hit on some of the topics but I would challenge any of you not to feel something tugging on your heart when you watch it. Honestly, I think any of us at any age can find something that we remember or relate to in this series.
A bit of background on myself so you understand where I am coming from. In junior high a girl I knew died of suspected suicide at a party. I knew her better a year or so prior but we fell into different crowds. In high school my junior year, my boyfriend’s best friend (both older and out of high school) killed himself. About 10 years later that same family, which I had grown closer to, lost their only other son when he too decided to take his life. My senior year of high school one of the nicest guys killed himself 2 months before we graduated. We had classes together and it was so difficult to figure out why. I myself have walked to that edge.
So here are my reasons why this show should be watched:
- You get to see the whole picture. With suicide it is always complicated. There is not just ONE thing or reason that a person decides this is their best or only option. It is usually a list of things that have built up over time. Some of them look like small things but they all become so heavy. In this series, you get Hannah’s story and the timeline of all those little things that keep building up, weighing on her until she can’t see how to move on without them. If you only heard one of those reasons or one of those people reflected on their relationship or interaction with Hannah (except for one really bad on #12) most of them do see them as smaller or seemingly “normal” teenage things. However, the way this is written and played out it is hard to not have empathy for Hannah even if you don’t agree with her choice. Plus, you also get to see the rest of the picture from the other side of what this did to those that did love her after she made her choice. The things she didn’t know and what she didn’t see.
- Parents are reminded of what it is like to be that age. I’m a parents and it took me back to being a teenager. As we get older we forget how much peer pressure and rumors can devastate us in the world that is junior high or high school. It is easy for us to tell our kids that it is temporary or to just ignore it. However, it is not that easy because that is their world and there is no escaping from it. That is where they breathe and live. Unlike when we were in school that world did at least have some limits or containment. Now with social media and cell phones that world spills over into all their other parts of their worlds. Just because they leave school doesn’t mean those people leave them alone or don’t continue to affect the other areas of their life.
- The actors/actresses did a great job playing their roles. They were not the all-out villains where you wanted to hate every one of them or blame them either. As a parents you can reflect and think, “Not my child” in some situations but realize that our kids could get swept up in situations where they might do things they wouldn’t want to tell us about. I mean, did we really tell our parents everything we did? Many of those kids were not horrible kids but were teenagers with drama trying to figure things out. However, they were busy covering things up or even bullying others out of fear because they were scared. Peer pressures are real and as parents we have to be open to our kids are not perfect. I would say it makes me want to pay attention more and listen more to what my kids are or are not saying.
- To start conversations. Maybe our kids will talk to us if we watch it with them. There are MULTIPLE topics in this series that are opened up, not just suicide. I have always thought it was sad that it shouldn’t take an event for a conversation to start, because then it is too late. Really after something happens sometimes people don’t even know where, how or what to say because it is too emotional. Also talking about suicide DOES NOT lead to suicide but actually can help prevent it. Knowledge is power and you have no idea how much it can spread.
- Sexual assault / rape is real and needs to quit being talked about behind closed doors. It doesn’t just happen in colleges, by some boogieman, to adults and so forth. There is so much misinformation and mishandling out there that our kids, parents and society as a whole handles this wrong a lot of the time. Everyone shies away from using the words as if they are forbidden. Call it what it is. When a person does not consent, does not ACTIVELY agree or at ANY TIME decides to stop and the other person ignores it that, it is sexual assault or rape. It doesn’t matter if they are dating, married or strangers. You cannot consent if you are passed out or so under the influence that you have no idea of what is going on. There is no argument about this. It doesn’t matter how popular, athletic, rich, famous, old and so forth the offender is; it’s still rape.
- Victim shaming happens and it is not right. Admittedly we are all guilty of this. We hear a rumor about a girl and automatically assume the worst and blame her for it. Why did she go to the party? Why did she drink so much? What did she wear? Why did she go in the room? What did she think what going to happen? Seriously… What about him?! What was he doing? Why did pursue her when she was that intoxicated? Did she consent? Did he care if she did? Why didn’t he listen? What did he think was going to happen? What did he do afterwards? It’s funny that these are not usually questions that are heard when people talk about a rape. Hell we even talk about the past guys she may have been with, critic things that she has said or says and find ways to continue to blame her. They guy ends up being the victim and the she is the reason. This even happens when no sex has happened. A picture flies around the school and everyone assumes something about Hannah. Only one girl is heard asking the guy why he would even send it around. Everyone else jumped on the bandwagon of what Hannah did wrong. They guy is a stud and she is ruined or branded. (Granted I know that gender doesn’t matter victims can be male).
- People will band together and cover-up things to hide their own shame or due to peer pressure. It is interesting that a group of people all find out each other’s part in what destroys this girl but they band together to keep it to themselves. Some of them have nothing in common other than they are named as a reason. All but one kid is allowed in this “circle” the other bully that kid because well they feel they can. You can tell some of them are even very disturbed by a few of the other things that have happened but to save themselves their own embarrassment they would rather let horrible things continue to go unchecked than speak-up. I don’t think this is unrealistic at all. People can be very selfish and especially at that age scared of what others might think. I know when I was younger that teens rarely were who they presented to be to their parents and teachers. There was a code of not talking about certain things. That code should have limits and this series shows someone who can’t live with those limits.
- Bullying needs to be addressed at the school. I am realistic and know that it is going to happen to a degree. However, I find it hard that the school can be so blind that they cannot see how much is going on for some of the kids. There is one boy that is repeatedly bullied and I know some of the teachers are fully aware. I believe it is not fully addressed because a lot of the time it is the star athletes that are the bullies. I mean what would happen at the game if they couldn’t play… ? The schools have their priorities all messed up and the bullies get that reinforced because of the little to no action. Top dog down to the ones that get stepped on. Who do we think are the ones that cause the most hurt in school? I wish I could say that some of these students who are the star athletes and popular would take the lead against bullying, but not enough of them do.
- Suicide happens and the schools need to acknowledge it. Locally at one of the high schools last month decided that due a recent suicide in the school, that in the English class they were not allowed to watch the 1960’s version of Romeo and Juliet. They had just gotten done with the book but the school felt the movie would be too much. So instead, high schoolers got to watch “Gnomeo and Juliet”. I’m sorry but what? It didn’t make them not know about suicide or bring that teen back. If anything I think it insulted that class of high schoolers. Again talking about suicide doesn’t cause it but understanding where to get help can actually prevent it. Also understanding the aftermath or reality about it can help as well. If a person isn’t suicidal they don’t get the idea all the sudden from a movie or discussion. But a suicidal person may feel better or relief if they aren’t alone or understood by a conversation.
- It helps to understand suicide a little better. The quote “they didn’t want to end their life, they just wanted to end their pain” is a very real quote. I believe that most people want to live a good life. It’s when all the buildup and weight gets too much that they can’t see or feel life that a person decides they are already dead. It’s wrong because if they are feeling the weight and pain then they are alive. Hannah pushed people away. However, she talked about how much she wanted them to come after her. We all want someone to care just enough to make us feel that important. The timing may not have worked out for her to see it because there were people who loved her but she didn’t see it. What is so profound is it wasn’t one person that broke her but one person at the right time may have stopped her death.
- It goes beyond the suicide to the aftermath. We get to see Hannah’s parents struggle after her suicide. This is something that Hannah couldn’t see nor truly understand. The search that loved ones have for the “why” and “what did we miss?” I’ve seen it and experienced but never as a parent. I cannot even fully imagine it. Everyone wants someone to blame. A simple clear answer that is easy to grasp. When the reality is there is no simple answer and it is so difficult for those left behind to deal with. Clay hears Hannah explain after she is dead her reasons and is haunted by her. You also see how it is tearing others apart in their own guilt over time. Suicide doesn’t solve anything. No one felt better after she was gone. In some ways, the same things that were positive in the end could have been more effectively accomplished with Hannah alive. There would have been less hurt in the long run. However, it would have taken more strength on Hannah’s part.
- This series hopefully drives education on social issues. I hope that it makes people look for more information on mental health (depression), sexual assault/rape, suicide, bullying issues, peer pressure and more. If it opens people’s eyes to some of the realities of the world and helps them be more aware and less head in the sand then it is a win. Education can be lifesaving whereas ignorance is what helps suffocate and kill. So I hope people go to the right websites and professionals for the correct information.
- It makes you reflect on how we all treat people in general. It is easy to get caught up in being judgmental or just cold. This series drives home that we never really know what is going on in someone’s life. They may look fine or that everything in their life is perfect, but we will never really know. So a smile, kind word or acknowledgment can make a huge impact.
I am blessed to have married a wonderful man who isn’t afraid to love me. I was that girl that was called a slut in high school when there was no reason to be called one. Hell, I was called one basically at church because I “developed” a nice figure. People can say enough things about you to the point you begin to believe them, even though they are not true. My ex-boyfriend was blamed for his friend’s death. You see, people need someone to blame and it was said that if he wasn’t his friend then maybe he would have not have had a negative influence in his life. I watched my boyfriend at the time internally change and become “bad” by many of their definitions. My cries for help were ignored for him. He never fully recovered but did get a bit better years later.
We all need to be careful with our words. Judging people based on little information is very unfair. None of us like it when it happens to us or those we love. My hope is that we teach our children and live our lives in a better way. No, I’m not perfect and need to work on this myself. That is why shows like this need to be out there to remind us.