Are You Watching “13 Reasons Why”?

First, I’m halfway through the series “13 Reasons Why” and this post will contain no spoilers. I started binge watching it with my daughter, and if there was ever a series made for binging, it’s this one.

Here’s the premise:

Teenager Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box lying on his porch. Inside, he discovers seven double-sided cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and unrequited love, who tragically committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah unfolds an emotional audio diary, detailing the thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Her instructions are clear: each person who receives a package is one of the reasons why she killed herself, and after each person has completed listening to the tapes, they must pass the package on to the next person. If anyone decides to break the chain, a separate set of tapes will be released to the public. Each tape is addressed to a select person in her school and details their involvement in her inevitable suicide.

Binging, or not, the show so far has generated a ton of conversation between me and my daughter, as well as a few concerns. The tapes become the focus and given that a large part of each episode consists of flashbacks it’s easy to lose track that Hannah Baker is no longer alive. It also, imo, gives the message that Hannah is participating in her revenge (altho, I’m not sure revenge is the right word) when, in reality, she is not. So… while this is Hannah’s story it is no longer her life.

And that’s probably my major concern. That, somehow, Hannah is witnessing (and in a way participating) in the aftermath of her suicide. That, somehow, she is gaining satisfaction. She is not.

One of the things the series does do well is creating flawed characters. No one is perfect, not even Hannah, and while the “sins” revealed in the tapes vary in severity we do see how they build on each other. We also see how if one “sin” was removed the outcome could have been different.

There is a ton of controversy surrounding this show. One of the main ones is how the adults are portrayed, especially the school counselors. Since I’m only halfway through the series, I’m not going to weigh in on that yet. I do find it odd that not one teenager confided in an adult. I get why those on the tapes keep silent, but with rampant use of social media (which the show employs quite effectively) I have trouble believing that kids on the peripheral who received the viral texts, Instagrams, FB messages, etc. wouldn’t say something. The complete lock down, while necessary to tell the story, isn’t believable. And the gossip/rumors would surely leak out. It gives new meaning to the phrase radio silent.

All in all, I can’t stop watching the series. It’s riveting. Then again, my children are older so I’m not sure where I’d stand on “13 Reasons Why” if they were still in high school, and if they were struggling.

Agree with the series, or not. Like it, or not. The kids are watching this. My best advice, for whatever it’s worth, is… parents need to watch, too. There’s a ton of discussion to be had, and even with my being only halfway through the series it’s easy to see how a single intervention could have helped change Hannah’s course.

If you’re watching, share your thoughts. No spoilers, please!



2 comments on “Are You Watching “13 Reasons Why”?

  1. pikecreekgirl808

    I never thought of it this way: “That, somehow, Hannah is witnessing (and in a way participating) in the aftermath of her suicide. That, somehow, she is gaining satisfaction. She is not.”

    The criticisms that I’ve seen of the series have circled around the fact that the show doesn’t do enough (anything?) to show kids that they can get help. That suicide isn’t the answer. Looking at it from that POV, I never agreed with the criticism 1.) because that wasn’t the point and 2.) because for once a program was designed for teens (definitely not Elementary and maybe not young Middle Schoolers) to watch with or along side mom/dad/guardians. That it opened up a dialogue between trusted adult (whoever that may be) and teen. I wish this had existed when I was in 8th-9th grade when I was at my lowest. Not because I think it would have encouraged me to commit suicide (another criticism) but because it’s designed to be watched and discussed with a parent/trusted adult–I might have made it through quicker had I had this as a tool. (I made it through regardless, because of trusted adults, but none-the-less)

    But your criticism of Hannah witnessing/participating… that’s one I hadn’t considered and should. That makes it a little more scary and makes the series one that must be watched/discussed with trusted adults. To help comprehend that she didn’t/doesn’t get to participate in the aftermath of her suicide–that suicide is final.

    I like the series for it’s character development and subject matter–it hits close to home in a lot of respects– but it’s also something that anyone who works with teenagers should watch and consider it’s affects.

    • pandora

      I just finished the series. I might have to watch it again. It’s really worth everyone’s time.

      I agree that parents (or a trusted adult) should watch with kids. There’s so much to discuss here.

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