So, I decided to stop doing a post about each episode and just finish the whole show and share my thoughts about the entire thing. I decided to do this because, as I mentioned in the last post, I was getting annoyed watching and therefore annoyed writing, and that doesn’t make for good reading. Here are some of my thoughts on how the rest of the series played out.
From an entertainment standpoint –
13 Reasons Why tells a very entertaining story. Remember, “entertaining” doesn’t mean funny or even something that’s easy or comfortable to watch. It’s an intriguing story. It leaves you wanting to watch the next episode and see what happens to these characters. You love them and you hate them. You’re embarrassed for them, and you feel their pain. It’s good TV, and it appeals to a wide audience.
From an education standpoint –
As a teacher, I’m sort of torn about this series. I don’t think it’s appropriate for high school kids to watch. Well, let me rephrase that, I don’t think it’s appropriate for high school kids to watch alone and without discussion. The show is incredibly graphic with its depictions of rape, sexual assault, and suicide. It’s so graphic and horribly uncomfortable to watch, and at first that made me upset, but after watching the “talk about it” 30 minute behind the show episode I get it. Rape, sexual assault, and suicide are not supposed to be easy things to watch. They shouldn’t be glossed over or sugarcoated. People should know that these choices and these types of behavior are not ok. Your actions affect more than just you. But beware, the actual suicide scene is so so so hard to watch. I turned it off. I covered the screen with my hands. It’s terrible.
From a parenting standpoint –
Even more terrible than watching the suicide itself was watching Hannah’s parents find her. I didn’t think I’d be able to keep watching. I turned it off (again.) I grieved for these fictional characters because I know there’s parents that have witnessed that. And that’s what terrifies me the most. This is a TV show, yes, but teens have completed suicide and their parents have found them. Watching that gives you just about the absolute worst feeling you can ever imagine. I found the adults in this series to be slightly unbelievable in their reactions and what they allowed or didn’t allow. I know my kids are small, but come on, I’d have NEVER been able to just leave my house without my parents knowing where I’m going, who I was with, what adults (if any) were going to be there, when I’d be home, etc. Maybe they were a bit overprotective, but I’d rather that than the alternative. With the exception of Clay’s dad, most of the adults in this series did not react in a way I could see myself or my friends or most of my peers reacting. Teenagers need independence, sure, but they’re also still kids. They’ll push boundaries, break rules, and rebel, but they need to know home is always a safe place. They need to know you will still hold them accountable…even if they fight you every step of the way.
From a mental health standpoint –
This is where I think the show is most important and why I won’t so quickly dismiss it. It’s getting people talking about mental health. So often people dismiss diseases like depression and anxiety because they’re invisible. You see someone with a cast, you know their bones are healing. You see someone with a mental illness, you could have no idea. Unless they open up to you about it, you could really never know. Taking care of yourself physically is important. No one should disagree with that. If you’re sick, you go to the doctor. You should try to eat well to keep your body healthy. It’s important. Taking care of your mental well being is equally as important. If you think you’re suffering from depression, anxiety, or any other type of mental illness please go and talk to someone. It’s not a sign of weakness if you can’t deal with it on your own. It takes a super strong person to be able to say, “I can’t do this. I need help.” The weak way to deal with it? Self harm. The strong way to deal with it? Getting help. And, if someone comes up to you and wants to talk, please listen – even if it makes you uncomfortable. Even if you don’t know what to say. Listen. Just listen. Listen, and then alert whoever needs to be told. If someone tells you something “in confidence” but you’re truly concerned for them – it’s ok to share the information with someone you think could help. Take everything they say seriously as well, and believe what they’re telling you. Just because you haven’t experienced it, doesn’t mean it’s not real.
So, should you watch 13 Reasons Why? Sure, but be prepared to talk about it. Be prepared to be uncomfortable. And watch it before your kids do, and then watch it with them and discuss it. Keep the lines of communication open, so shows like this don’t have to become reality.