Two weeks ago I pressed play on a Netflix show and unknowingly entered a whole world of controversy. From the name of the post, I am obviously talking about Thirteen Reasons Why.
Rooted with so much strength and ugliness is this heavy 13 episode series on Netflix that takes viewers into the life of a Middle-Class American suburban high school. I don’t think a time of life has ever held so many emotions than those years in high school. In short, a young teenage girl commits suicide. As if that sentence doesn’t strike pain into your heart enough, like it should, we are then faced with the reasons why it happened.
After binge watching the thirteen episodes, much like the other teenagers on the tapes, I finished feeling hollow. As an educator, as a high school graduate of a similar school, and as a soul that has been touched by suicide, I was flooded with emotions. After finishing the show and giving myself time to process, research and process again, I feel I have finally come into some rational opinion and I thought I would share it with the world.
When the majority of people sit down to watch a television show, they are looking for entertainment. However, within the past few years, we have seen a switch. Instead of films being only for entertainment, films are now transmitting news and information about topics that hit relevant issues in our lives. Instead of going to the movies to escape our world, we go to the movies to learn something about our world. In my opinion, this is good and bad. The good is that people are finally being faced with real things that are happening and being forced to open those conversations. This is eye opening and thus creating discussion that later leads to improvement. It’s something we can relate to…even if it is a little bit dramatized.
So what is the bad? In my opinion it’s the business. As much as I love the conversation starters of movies and media, I am panged with the forever-itching fact that it is “all to make money.” This brings insincerity to anything I watch. On top of the drama that is hitting us hard, we are then faced with this drawn out drama that could have been incredibly meaningful if just left at one movie/season of a show…instead of a sequel, prequel and five-years later-quel (ahem, Star Wars). The point is it’s too much when it starts to seem too drawn out.
But what’s the problem with this? How is this bad? I love all the Star Wars Movies!
When I sat down and pressed play on the first episode of Thirteen Reasons Why, I was instantly sucked into this awful horrible world that is this show. It was brutal to watch at times, incredibly disheartening at others, but most of all, it was realistic. It was realistic in the sense that watching it, I could think of times I had seen things like it in my school. It was realistic because I could see what choices the students were going to make and I KNOW students who have made those decisions. What hit the hardest was the fact that I know people who have tried/failed/succeeded at making Hannah’s decision. My eyes were sore from crying and my heart was broken from watching…until the last scene.
If Thirteen Reasons Why signs on to do a second season I will not watch it. This show was terrifying. It was heartbreaking. But it made a statement! A statement that it wanted to start the conversation about this HUGE issue we have in the states and I applaud that effort. Regardless of your opinions of how good or bad the show is it opened up a dialogue that I don’t think friends, parents, educators, politicians, etc. should shy away from. However, that should be it. That should be where the story ends and the viewers have to take what they can and change it for the better.
Making a second season, to me, ruins the idea that the producers want to inspire this change. They just want to make money. They want to make a second season so they can capitalize on viewer’s emotions. I have seen the negative effects of this just listening to people around me talk about the season already. Instead of hearing the discussion of hurt, the presence of this in our schools, and how awful it is that this show had to be created before we started talking about these issues, I am hearing things like, “what is going to happen in Season 2?” or “Hannah is too dramatic and Jeff is SO hot” and my least favorite, “(INSERT YOUR NAME HERE) welcome to your tape” (Laughs to follow). This is detrimental to so many teens and young adults who are experiencing these issues.
When the rhetoric is this, we are not looking for a solution we are making a mockery of the second leading cause of death in people 10-24 in the United States. And if that is the conversation that will be surrounding this show, I want no part of it.
Here’s the thing. Even though the story is fiction, the school, the students, and the actions that occurred within those tapes happen all the time. If that makes people laugh, if that makes people want to poke fun at the “tapes” then shame on them. Laughing, making memes, and diminishing those topics makes them taboo. It makes them fade back into the confines of a person’s head that is struggling with depression. It counteracts the purpose of making these forms of media.
This needs to stop.
Be aware. Be empathetic. Be understanding.
Be aware of your actions as your holding these conversations. Before you make a joke, think about the people in your surrounding…you never know another person’s experiences. Be empathetic when someone says that this show was triggering or that this show wasn’t a good thing. Everyone has their own reactions and reasoning, put yourself in another person’s shoes that has or hasn’t experienced suicide. And lastly, be understanding. Understand that people are hurting and that making a joke about something that is this sensitive is wrong. Do what is inherently right.
Telling someone “welcome to your tape” with laughter in your voice because your friend didn’t do you a favor, is not right. Stop acting like it is.
Do the right thing. Talk about the difficult issues. And spread the positivity…you never know who might need it.
Sending positive vibes and love to everyone!