I recently watched the new Netflix mini series, 13 Reasons Why. and I am a overcome with so many emotions. Here are the reasons why you should watch 13 Reasons Why.
I am very excited to be a member of the Netflix Stream Team! That’s right – I am a lucky girl – Netflix provides me with their amazing streaming services and I get to tell my kids “sorry, I can’t help you right now, I am working”, while watching The Crown!! #STREAMTEAM
Let me start out by telling you what 13 Reasons Why is about. Then I will answer the question, “Should my kids watch 13 Reasons Why”? and, even more importantly, discuss “Why you should watch 13 Reasons Why” (with a little help from a friend):
“Based on the best-selling books by Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why follows teenager Clay Jensen as he returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who tragically committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life.”
Heavy topic, right? Well, that is an understatement. As a member of the Netflix Stream Team, I was granted early access to the show. I had no idea what it was about, I didn’t even read the description before I began watching it. From the first episode, I was drawn to the story, the characters, the acting and most importantly, the significance of the topic.
You see, I have 3 teenage sons and the am overwhelmed by the pressures of social media and the impact that it can make on these kids. You hear about bullying and cyber bullying and all of the pressures kids endure today. Sure, there were pressures when we were growing up, but everything now just happens so fast and is so much more widespread.
I started writing a review of 13 Reasons Why, and to be honest, I was struggling with writing it. Then I saw a discussion on Facebook from one of my high school friends from years ago, Lisa Weisner. I haven’t seen Lisa in years and we haven’t had more than the occasional Happy Birthday post or “like” on each others life events. However, I always noticed the beautiful and warm relationship that Lisa has with her kids. She just always seems like such a great mom!
Back to the discussion from Lisa. She brought up the fact that she watched 13 Reason’s Why and it started a discussion on should my kids watch it or shouldn’t they. Of course, no one can answer this question definitively. (sorry)
Lisa’s responses on Facebook struck a cord with me. She responded to the show very much the same as I did and I loved her responses back to her friends and family.That’s when I decided to ask Lisa if she would be interested in writing up a piece on 13 Reason’s Why, from the perspective of a mom, friend and old high school buddy. I hope you enjoy her perspective as much as I did.
Should your kids watch 13 Reason Why?
I will say that personally, I think it is something that depending on your kids ages, every teen and parent should watch. 13 Reasons why is rated TV – MA, meaning that it may be inappropriate for people under the age of 17.
In my opinion, I think it is appropriate for high schoolers and up – there are some very graphic scenes and it is a very serious topic, but every child is different and you, as a parent, should watch it first and decide what is right for your child.
Why You Should Watch 13 Reason’s Why
By: Lisa Weisner
(warning: Spoilers below!)
I was asked to write my thoughts on the Netflix series, “13 Reason’s Why” and help answer the question “Should I watch 13 Reasons why?”
I think it is important to first establish the perspective in which I watched this program and there are 3 main factors. First, I watched as a woman, that as a teenager felt disconnected, misunderstood and not really sure I ever found my own place in high school. I had friends, actually mostly acquaintances, most of whom never really knew who I was as a person or the struggles I had.
Second, I watched as a mother. I have twin 18 year old boys that I believe I have a close and open relationship with to talk about the difficult things in life, know their friends and participated in as many aspects of their lives as I could but you can’t be everywhere or know everything.
Finally, I watched as a fan of pop culture and television. I am probably more critical of the production aspects of a show than the average viewer. It takes a lot for me to stand up and take notice, this show had me doing the equivalent of Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch.
The premise of the show is that a teenage girl commits suicide and leaves behind 13 tapes that tell the story of how she got to such a point of desperation that she felt there was no other alternative but to take her own life. The amount of time taken to create the tapes and the execution of the post-mortem plan is extremely elaborate and probably not realistic, I don’t think that should distract from the overall message. I am not a therapist or psychologist, I don’t want to debate whether or not people think this show simplifies how to help someone that is suicidal, because I am sure it is flawed from that standpoint.
What I think is important is that it opens the discussion. It does not shy away from the uncomfortable topics, and depicts them in such a graphic way that I was actually squirming in my seat. This program should be required viewing for every student, parent, educator and administrator. It gives you an in, a starting point to confront your child about these subjects, to examine your own actions in relation to how you deal with those around you.
Can every child be saved? Can a simple act of kindness save a person that is so far gone that they see suicide as the only solution? Probably not, but what if it can help someone that is struggling to just find their place, is it worth the discussion?
One of the main themes of this program that had me cheering, was accountability for your own actions. Most of the people on tapes had no idea how their choices affected others. How a small gesture might have made a world of difference to someone that feels isolated or alone.
In the complicated world of high school, most kids are struggling to maintain their own survival and not even aware of the struggles of those around them. You see everyone else’s lives through rose-colored glasses not aware that beneath the surface they may also be treading water to stay afloat.
Teenagers are some of the most brilliant actors and actresses pretending to parents, teacher and even friends that everything is fine, even good. Few kids are secure enough within themselves to realize that asking for and then going for help is okay and then what if their attempts to reach out are minimized by well meaning adults?
Too often parents tell kids that they are “fine” or what they are experiencing is part of growing up, instead of listening to and validating the concerns of the child. The reality is that we didn’t have to grow up in this world, it is more cruel than anything we could have ever imagined.
The fact that the main character in “13 Reasons Why” records her story on cassette tapes speaks to me and my generation. I had boxes of tapes, remember sitting with a radio show playing desperately trying to catch a specific song so I could listen to it again. Mix tapes are how we showed people we cared about them, it was time consuming and required a lot of thought but it was a simplistic time.
I can’t imagine what it is like to grow up with every little possible indiscretion or mistake being recorded and distributed. There is no way to defend against a campaign of hatred, bullies have an anonymous platform to distribute their venom.
Back in the my day, people passed notes or the gossip spread verbally and it was bad. The mean girls of schools could control the information and ruin reputations but that is nothing compared to having compromising photos, access to Photoshop, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram. Now the kids are being bullied by kids from other schools, across the country and it never disappears. If you already feel isolated and alone, how can you possibly feel strong enough to battle the world wide web?
The show plays with the timeline, jumps from the present of one character making his way through the tapes and then to the past as he listens to what happened to his friend on each tape. I think this show does an incredible job of making you feel like a voyeur.
It is not always comfortable and for that, I commend the filmmakers. The depiction of the rapes, yes there are two, had me struggling to keep my eyes on the screen. Not because they showed so much but because they put us in the place of the main character and what she was experiencing.
During the rape of the main character, when you see the life drain from her eyes and the camera lingers on her face, it stays almost too long. I kept thinking, we all know what is happening, why haven’t they moved on? The reality is that it was probably intentional, the discomfort looking at her head hit the cement, vacantly staring off just waiting for it to end.
In addition, her suicide is not pleasant either. It could have happened off camera, they could have chosen a less graphic method. Instead, she slits her wrists, cries out in pain and then sits in a full bathtub bleeding out. Is it accurate? I have no idea, I hope I never do know. Does it glamorize suicide? I hardly think so. It was brutal and watching her mother find her and the desperation of her parents to save her had me holding my breath.
I understand there is criticism of this program. I get that people want to hold it to some crazy standard but we must remember that it is first and foremost a television show. It was not made for PBS or TLC, created as a learning tool. Doesn’t mean we can’t use it as a springboard, open the discussions at home, in our classrooms or even between friends.
We may not be able to save everyone, but if one person feels hopeful and that there is more to life then whatever difficult situation they are in, it is worth it. Personally, I feel empowered to reach out to people that might need a kind word, someone to spend time with or just a smile.
I feel responsible for the energy I put out in the world and hope that I have influenced my children to feel the same way. Instead of condemning something because it can’t fix everything, let’s embrace it for opening the discussion to healing. You don’t need anymore reasons, just watch.
From the editor: I think one thing we can all agree on is that parenting is tough. Beyond the topic of 13 Reasons Why, it is incredibly important to have that open line of communication with our kids.
Entertainment, and Netflix in particular, can help be the gateway to start the conversations between parents and teens. Sit down, grab some popcorn and watch a show that you both can relate to and then, spend some time to talk about it.
Be it suicide, sex, drugs, drinking, bullying or, better yet, just talking about something that you both enjoy. It doesn’t even matter if you actually enjoy the show or not, just think of it as a bridge connecting you with your kids. Use this helpful guide to help you find some shows to get you started.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
Lisa Weisner lives in the suburbs of Chicago and is the mother of twin boys that are finishing their freshman year of college. After staying home with them for the past 18 years, she is ready to embark on all the new adventures life has to offer.
Disclosure – This post is part of a sponsorship partnership with Netflix – all opinions are 100% my own.