A Deeper Look at 13 Reasons Why

A Deeper Look at 13 Reasons Why

I recently read a blog entitled; Warning: Do Not Let Your Kids Watch 13 Reasons Why.  Although my kids are 19 plus, I work with kids so I read it and found it worthy of sharing.  I said that I had not heard about this book or the series but it was worth Parent's doing some research if they had tweens/teens.  Being that the topic was pretty heavy, I decided to watch the series for myself.  Well, after taking the weekend to watch 13 Reasons Why, I can definitely say that I do not recommend this program for youth.  Although I understand what they were trying to do, I must say, this show was a real mess.  Before I begin, let me start by saying that I have personally atttended two funerals and known four total that have committed suicide.  Three were between the ages of 18 - 25, the other over 40 so I don't take this topic lightly in any way.  Now, lets take a deeper look at 13 Reasons Why?

Hannah Baker is a High School Sophomore who has supposedly been bullied, harassed and assaulted which all led to her decision to take her own life and leave the perpetrators 13 tapes telling them how they contributed to her death.  At the onset, it sounds good, however, is it really that cut and dry?  Let's take a look at our main character  Hannah.  It is true that Hannah had some terrible things take place in her life but what bothers me is how the majority of them transpired.  If we look a little deeper, I think you'll find that many of the situations Hannah found herself in could have been completely avoided, in fact, she herself makes this very statement multiple times throughout the series.  She tells us how she knows she should just stay away or not become involved.  Many of issues that Hannah dealt with were the result of a multitude of poor choices.  Hannah was a smart girl, yet she repeatedly chose to go after people that she knew were trouble even after being warned.  When she had oportunity to seek a better crowd, she chose not to.  Like I said, Hannah was smart and she wasn't afraid to stick up for herself nor was she afraid to give others her opinion of them.  So why did she find herself in so many situations?  Why did she repeatedly seek to fit in with this group of popular kids knowing what the results would be?  There were plenty of other kids in that school but she needed to be in the "In Crowd."

What about these tapes?  Hannah records 13 messages which everyone named must listen or have they're crime exposed.  The point of this was to expose bullying and harassment, however, in doing so, Hannah became a bully and harasser herself.  Because of Hannah's actions or lack of, two kids thought about suicide, one actually shot himself, another boy died and a girl dealt with a rape through alocohol and drugs.  The manpulating nature of this character is something that warrants a discussion. 

Hannah tells us that people said mean things to her.  Reality, a boy that truly liked her, she ignored and repeatedly called him "helmet" because he road a bike.  After repeatedly being dumped by the cool guys, she decides to make out with this nice nerd boy and then flips out on him, yelling and cursing at him to leave her alone, which is how he ends up on her tape.  She tells us that after yelling at him and humiliating him, he should have come back for her.  Hannah repeatedly goes to parties and gets drunk and gets in trouble with the same people.  She tells us that there was no one who stuck up for her.  Reality, she witnesses her once good friend being raped while half passed out drunk and never says a word to her or anyone else until she puts it on her tape to cast blame.  The same night she gets a ride with a girl who runs into s stop sign knocking it down.  The driver of the car leaves Hannah and takes off because she doesn't want to get in trouble.  As a result of the stop sign being down, a car accident happens and kills one of the kids from the party.  Do you think that would prompt Hannah to come forward and say what really happened?  But it comes out on those tapes again as more blame, blame that she takes no part in.  Next on Hannah's list of bad choices she volunteers to make a deposit for her parents business and loses the money because she got distracted by a boys phone call.  To clear her head, she walks all the way to the other side of town at night only to end up at the house of the boy that raped her friend.  She finds the troubled group having another drunken party so what does she do, she takes off her clothes and gets in the hot tub with everyone.  After all the couples leave to go have sex, she finds herself left alone in the hot tub with the rapist.  Can you guess what happens next?  No. 13 on the coveted list is the school counselor that also failed her.  When she tells him in a round about way that she was raped, he tells her, by law, he must report it but she refuses to give him a name.  He explains to her that if she doesn't report it, her only option is to put it behind her, she then leaves his office and waits for him to come after her but like the other boy, he never does thus her decision to commit suicide.

I understand what they were trying to do with this series, however, I strongly disagree with the way it was presented.  This story had far to many layers to make a blanket statement.  The main character had to many personal issues going on that were not the result of others yet, she brought innocent people into her troubled world.  In fact, her own parents pointed us to the fact that she had problems at her previous school.  This story never addressed her repeated poor choices that she blamed others for rather than taking responsibility.  It never addressed why she had such a need to Keep running back to this group knowing how toxic it was.  It never addressed the bullying that she inflicted on other kids which led to one of them attempting suicide himself.  Lastly, it never addressed her need to manipulate the lives of these people.  

There was much more to this story than a girl simply being bullied.  There are so many kids today that find themselves the victims of daily harassment by cruel people who's sole intent is to make their lives miserable.  Through no fault of their own, they are made a target.  Unfortunately, this was simply not the case with this story.  If you choose to allow your teens to watch this series, my hope is that you'll take the time to talk to them about  the importance of choices.  Every decision we make has consequences, good and bad.  The mark of mature individual is the ability to take resposibiliity for the choices that we make.


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