My husband and I just finished watching 13 Reasons Why. If you haven’t seen it yet, or heard about it — do yourself a favor and look it up. Either read the book, or watch the show. Trust me, it’s worth it.
We’d heard all the hype about the 13-part show; all the brash, harsh criticism hitting the interwebs about the brutality of the final episode and its depiction of how Hannah commits suicide. (Trust me, knowing she commits suicide is not a spoiler.)
As a parent, I’ll be honest, I was very apprehensive about watching the show. Not only because I have 2 teenage stepchildren, but because I also have a stepson and my son about to become teenagers, and I have an 8 year old daughter, and a 2 1/2 year old son. I feel the shift in parental responsibilities and the desire to keep our kids safe from the kinds of harm only their peers can inflict.
There was also apprehension about it because I know people who have committed suicide. A close family friend, who was buried in debt and didn’t see away out shot himself. The very first boy I ever babysat was a victim of bullying here in my own hometown region. He was sixteen years old when he said to his mother he’d be right back, as she rounded up her two younger sons into their family vehicle before school. He promptly went into his parent’s bedroom and also shot himself.
Closer yet to home, my own stepdaughter’s mother committed suicide two years ago this summer. Though she lives in the UK, my stepdaughter’s agony didn’t go unnoticed or unfelt on this side of the pond. To this day, she may not even realize, but we worry about how we can best support her in the aftermath. We wanted to give her support, but also space. My husband and I often worry about how we handle things (Are we doing the right thing? Are we doing the best thing? Are we doing all we can? – the answer is often, “I have no idea.”). 13 Reasons has renewed our sense of awareness — and for sure mine — in how we approach our kids as they navigate these years. I don’t know if we’ll do everything right, but I certainly hope we do some of it right.
13 REASONS WHY – A REVIEW
While I understand the cries of those who felt 13 Reasons Why was insensitive in its brutal portrayal of Hannah’s downfall and eventual demise, I appreciated the candor and bluntness they offered. The writers, producers, and actors didn’t shy away from the ugliness of high school; the bullying, the sexism, the objectification, rape, and yes, her suicide.
From a writer’s perspective, the show was laid out meticulously — as I’m sure the book is. (Disclaimer: I have not yet read the book, but it is on my agenda.)
It was heart-wrenching to watch this bright, beautiful girl go from an intelligent and capable young woman, to someone who would eventually end her own life. What I liked about the story was the way they portrayed each reason – each step that was taken that stole just a little bit from Hannah. What made it resonate even more was the story being told mid-way, as Clay Jensen gets the tapes – Reason #11. He could have been the love of her life (and vice versa), but due to circumstances and how they unfolded, it wasn’t meant to be. This misfire was one of the most painful things to watch, because they were both so close to realizing just how much they meant to each other. We watch his struggles as he comes to his realizations and that, too, is heart breaking.
My favorite character (beyond the obvious Clay and Hannah), was definitely Tony. He had a wisdom and depth beyond his years and he was always struggling with the right thing to do. The rest of the supporting characters were all complete with their own depth and back story about what they were doing and why.
I’ve said it before, but I love stories that allow you to see a larger arc from different perspectives. That the people who do bad things aren’t always bad. Sometimes, they’re simply trying to do the best with what they have. That was certainly the case with some of the kids on the tape. Many had their own fears, insecurities, and misconceptions at play. Granted, others were just plain asses.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the haunting beauty of the show. It left a mark on me and it’s changed me — hopefully for the better. It’s given me pause as a mother to look at things differently and be watchful (and perhaps wary) of my children’s behaviors. Rather than taking them at face value, I hope I see deeper.
If you haven’t watched this show yet, I do indeed, highly recommend it. Yes, Hannah’s suicide in the final episode is brutal and ugly. But it wasn’t gratuitous. Its devastating message was sent loud and clear, though. Go in with eyes wide open and don’t be surprised if you don’t come out of the 13 hours a changed person.
Click here to watch it for yourself: 13 Reasons Why
THERE IS HELP
If you have thoughts of suicide, I want you to know, you’re not alone. Though it may feel like you are. It may sound cliche, but trust me–someone, somewhere will feel the deep impact of your loss. Mental health issues are not something to feel ashamed about, nor should you feel they can’t be treated. PTSD, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia… and many more can be successfully managed when given the tools for success. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, reach out for help by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255) anytime of the day or night if you are in the United States. It’s free and confidential.