There has been much ado online lately about a new Netflix series called 13 Reasons Why. If you are unfamiliar with this show here is a brief recap – a junior in High School dies by suicide and leaves behind audio cassettes for the people in her life to listen to after she’s gone. There are 13 tapes, each telling a story of a different person in her life and the interactions they shared. Some of the scenes depict rape and the characters actual suicide.
Many people are upset over this show and say that this show glamorizes teen suicide. Some are even going so far as to try to get this show labeled with warnings to the viewers. I’ve seen countless blogs of people listing all the reasons why you should not watch this show.
There is only one reason why you should watch 13 Reasons Why –> hiding from the truth has never helped anyone.
And the sad, scary truth is this: our kids are already dealing with situations that are depicted in this show – in their real lives, every single day. Bullying, date rape and teen suicide happen in every city, in every state, every day.
There is no reason to “protect” your kids from the truth (in fact, doing this only protects the parents from uncomfortable conversations). Share the truth with them and then be available for them to turn to with their questions or fears. And don’t be surprised when they already know the truth, because they see it every day.
I’m 40 years old with a 15 year-old daughter. I watched this show myself first, because I wanted to see how they approached and portrayed the subject matter. Although I had to look away during the rape and suicide scenes at first, I forced myself to watch them, with horror in my eyes and tears running down my cheeks. I plan on watching this show with my daughter next. Because even though there are some things that are hard to see, and the resulting conversations will likely be uncomfortable, I feel like it is important-necessary even-for my child to watch this with me.
I can tell my daughter every day (and I do) that “I know what you’re going through, I was a teenager once too.” That’s true, but it isn’t. I was in the last generation to have a childhood void of technology – and that has made my growing up experience vastly different than my daughters. And as parents, we have to remember that when we talk about our teenage years, it is from a place called perspective. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to really remember the intensity of the emotions we felt when we were 15, before our brains were even fully developed. Sure, I remember being destroyed by break-ups and crying for days, I remember that those things happened, but I struggle to really remember the feelings I felt back then.
I think 13 Reasons Why addresses current, valid issues that are crucial for all adults to understand-even if you don’t have kids. Because even if you don’t have kids, these things are happening in your town, to your neighbors. While I do find the premise of the show a bit far-fetched (I do think it is a bit dramatic that the character leaves behind hours of audio tapes for her friends and family to have to listen to, but I understand that they did this so they could tell her story in-depth) I don’t think this show glamorizes teen suicide. There was nothing glamorous about the scene when Hannah cuts her wrists in the bathtub or the cries of her parents when they find her lifeless body. It was very real, and very disturbing. Disturbing because I know this is the truth that so many families live.
In an ideal world, parents of high school kids would sit down and watch this show with their children and then discuss it afterwards. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a ideal world and I know there are too many kids out there who don’t have an adult to turn to for guidance. That’s why I think this show should be shown to freshmen in every high school across the country, and I think teachers and counselors should be available to talk with students afterwards. At the very least, every person who works inside a school building should watch this. I can already hear parents in conservative school districts protesting a showing of this, and I think that is sad. When I was in high school they loaded us all onto a bus one day and drove us to the local movie theater where we watched Schindler’s List. Yes, it was hard to watch and yes it depicted atrocities, but they showed us because it was important. Because it was the truth. As difficult as it may be for some of us, we need to acknowledge and accept the truth of what todays teens face every day, and more importantly, we need to talk about it. Shows like this provide that opportunity. Because hiding from the truth has never helped anyone.