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Series Review – Netflix “13 Reasons Why”April 18, 2017
As a parent of adolescents it can be difficult deciding what television shows, movies, or music are appropriate. We live in a world ripe with foul language, inappropriate content, and racy jokes that can be detrimental to our kid’s well being. After all, we ultimately want to protect our sons and daughters from this negativity, but we also want avoid sheltering them too much to prepare them for living in the real world. This conundrum has been plaguing parents for generations, but recently our family was facing this situation when our Eighth grader asked to watch 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. This popular series is based on the novel “13 Reasons” by Jay Asher.
At first, we thought it was another run of the mill comedy or action series, but as he started describing the premise of the show we began hearing the red flag word suicide over and over. That alone peaked our curiosity and when I noticed that it was rated TV-MA, we knew we had to look into this series before allowing our kids to view. The following article is a review of this series to offer you the perspective of a fellow parent.
13 Reasons Why: A Brief Summary
This series is reminiscent of the after school specials many of us watched as children. At the beginning of the series we are introduced to a high school reeling from the recent suicide of a girl named Hannah Baker. The students, staff, and parents are all trying to make sense of her death, especially since there appears to be no note left explaining why. Unbeknownst to her parents and a majority of the student body, Hannah left a collection of recordings on cassette tapes she wanted 13 people to hear.
On these tapes she told them why their actions caused her to commit suicide which we learn about through Clay, the current recipient of the tapes. As he listens to each of Hannah’s recordings, he gains a different perspective into her life and relationships. With each cassette, we are taken on a journey of high school through the eyes of a teenage girl. We are watching her make sense of being the new kid, making friends, dealing with rejection, bullying, finding love, and even the sensitive subject of rape.
One of the most surprising aspects to this method of storytelling is how on the surface Hannah looks relatively calm, but underneath we begin to see the trauma each person inflicts on her. We see her struggle to overcome cyberbullying, betrayal by friends, and even a stalker. Suddenly, we are witnessing the damage children inflict on a victim that often goes undetected by adults. As Clay listens to the tapes, he repeatedly uncovers his peers’ dirty laundry and their interactions with Hannah.
Ways Parents Can Use This Series for Good
We need to keep in mind that 44,193 Americans commit suicide each year. This can be broken down to about 121 deaths everyday. It is the 10th leading cause of death, outranking deadly motor vehicle accidents. While those statistics are frightening in their own right, we need to realize that for every successful suicide, there are 25 other attempted cases.
Talking about suicide is never easy, but this series attempts to take an indepth look at all of the events leading up to Hannah’s death. In her own words, she refers to “The Butterfly Effect” and we see each situation build on the previous one, slowly mounting to create her “hurricane” or lead to her death. This can be troublesome as a parent, because we don’t want to even consider the idea that a child would choose this permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Hannah’s story provides us a platform to begin an ongoing discussion about suicide, bullying, digital citizenship, sexuality, and relationships. It is a valuable wake up call, because it highlights the darker side of bullying in our schools and what we are doing to prevent suicide. While we might want to ignore these problems, we do need to acknowledge the very real threats facing many of our children.
Through the characters’ eyes we are able to glimpse at how teens process and deal with these dicey topics which can open the window to starting difficult conversations with our own children. The show displayed the need to ask hard questions and listen to our child’s responses. In the end, we need to question if we are encouraging their self confidence or providing adequate help if we problems do arise.
After viewing the series alone, we did choose to watch the show with our son. After each episode, we used it as a springboard to begin many important conversations. Will you be watching with your child? What are your thoughts about this series?
Suicide Awareness Voices for Education (SAVE) and Jed Foundation compiled a helpful list of Talking Points for 13 Reasons Why for parents teachers and other gatekeepers in talking with youth.