I kept hearing controversy about a Netflix series entitled, “13 Reasons Why”. If there’s anything I love, it’s to jump into a controversy and pick a side. Isn’t this the era for having an opinion and pushing it four steps further and being belligerent and righteous about it and expecting praise and glory?
So here’s my take on the ultra controversial show about a girl who commits suicide and wants to leave much more than a note.
DISCLAIMER: I *just* finished the show. As in we saw the final episode tonight. I haven’t neatly organized my thoughts or managed opinions. This is just my immediate review.
I have more than a couple views on this. I have always prided myself on playing devil’s advocate. Maybe I was a lawyer in a previous life, but arguing is a natural gift for me. When I hear an overwhelming lean from a majority, I have an automatic inclination to try out the other side first. This show is no different. I’ve heard how up in arms teachers and school districts and therapists are over this show. I wonder how many have actually watched it…? To hear the premise, it is easy to jump to a conclusion, but that is ignorant. If you are going to throw an opinion at a wall, you must have a catapult from which to toss. You cannot form an opinion from Cliff’s Notes.
So I did the time. My husband and I both, admitted old fogies, watched the first season over the last week. It’s definitely emotional. It makes you feel. It makes you question and it makes you think. I’m pretty sure that was the goal. I’ve heard the creators wanted to give parents a reason to open up a dialogue with kids about the topic of suicide. Parents of middle teens are encouraged to watch the show with their kids, even. This is a great idea, but it also feeds into a little bit of what the show chides adults for. Following the script of adulthood rather than just actually committing to paying attention. It’s not about checking boxes and having the reasonable answers. It’s about hearing what your kid is saying to you, even if it’s ugly. Listen to them, give them credit for being an intelligent human being, validate the struggle that is high school, and just be there.
That being said, I feel split about it. I watched as a current parent of two children whom I believe, of course, will grow up to be super heroes or presidents or sheriffs. I also watched it completely identifying with some of that dreadful teen loneliness and despair and hopelessness.
One big term being tossed around with this show by professionals is “glorifying”. They claim the story glorifies suicide.
I disagree whole-heartedly.
What I left feeling may piss some people off, but it’s my opinion. What makes me frustrated about this show, if anything, is the wide spread feeling and acceptance of complacency. Not in reactions of characters to a supposed friend, but in the expectations of the main character. If you haven’t watched it, maybe don’t continue reading. There will likely be spoilers because as I’ve said before, I have watched it all and this whole post is my reaction to it. Naturally things will be given away. I will not babysit and give any type of “alert”. Common sense is a dying art.
So. More than once, this desperate character says she felt one thing, stated a feeling, and then expected the other person to do the opposite. She “wished” the other person had “understood” how she felt despite screaming the exact opposite at him.
This character had a lot of moments of going through with an action and then having a soul crushing reaction when the person didn’t read through the gloom and haze and WORDS and push at her. This is a very dangerous game. I don’t think people need to go around with a neon sign declaring their opinion, but you damn sure need to say what you need, or at least express you are unsure of what you need and then at least attempt to muddle through it.
Aside from the casting of what are clearly adults and college students passing for high school sophomores, juniors and seniors, this show did an outstanding job with the actors. The perceived drama that followed some of the story lines left me scratching my head and feeling totally out of touch with what this show implies is reality.
All in all I hope anyone curious about it just gives it a chance. The show is really well done and I was impressed with all of the performances. What I think needs to be talked about is not necessarily the topic of suicide, but all of the other issues. Why is it so hard to have a dialogue with a teenager? That absolutely goes both ways. Why is it so hard for teenagers to speak to their parents – preferably in complete sentences! If you haven’t said what you mean, how can you crucify someone for not coming through for you?
I failed to see the glorification of suicide in this show. What I did see was someone wanting to set the record straight when she felt she had no voice. She had the last word, and laid out what led her to such a desperate, horrible, unimaginable solution. I do not see how this would sway or convince people watching that suicide is a valid and enviable option for life’s troubles. If anything it should show that mumbling a nebulous thought under your breath is not enough to get help. You have to say the words. You have to beat adults over the head sometimes with your thoughts. You have to scream and fight to be heard, but if you can manage some form of that, it’s worth it.