This post contains spoilers for the limited-series 13 Reasons Why.
WARNING: This article talks about rape and teenage suicide.
13 Reasons Why premiered March 31, 2017, on Netflix. Based on Jay Asher’s young adult book of the same title, the series has thirteen episodes plus a 30-minute companion show called 13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons.
It is the story of 16-year-old Hannah and the thirteen reasons why she killed herself. The story is a told in a series of cassette tapes, each side devoted to one of the people that Hannah feels contributed to her decision to commit suicide.
Critics think the show glamorizes suicide and has gratuitous rape scenes. Many believe you should not allow your children to watch the show.
I hate to break it to you, but unless you have your Netflix on complete lockdown, your kids are already watching 13 Reasons Why. And you should watch it too.
Teens are Watching 13 Reasons Why and so Should Parents
- The Characters are Not Stereotypes
The teens in 13 Reasons Why are not “the jock, the nerd, the princess, the loser, and the basket case” stereotypes of traditional teen movies. The characters have depth and complexity.
- The Show Helps Parents Understand Cyber-Bullying
Cyber-Bulling doesn’t compare to the bullying parents experienced as teens. The bullying doesn’t stop when a kid leaves school. It follows them home and invades all the places they once considered safe. And it is harder to stop because once something is out on social media, it never goes away.
- It Shows How Girls are Treated Differently than Boys
The boys brag (and lie) about how far they have gone with a girl, they make lists of which girls have the best and worst body parts, the grab girl’s behinds (or worse) at the encouragement of their friends, and they get angry and revengeful when girls reject their advances. Even the teenage girls take part in slut shaming other girls.
- Teenage Sexual Identity is Complicated
Teenage sexuality is fluid and may change several times before adulthood. 13 Reasons Why reminds us that it isn’t as easy as being straight or homosexual.
- Parents Need a Reminder that Teens Don’t Think Like Adults
Our brains’ frontal lobe does not fully develop until our mid-20’s which means teenagers are physically unable to problem-solve and reason the way we do as adults. Teen emotions also work differently, and parents need to remember that
- Underage Drinking Remains an Issue
Teens continue to engage in underage drinking. Mix that together with their undeveloped brains, and they can make life-altering bad choices.
- Teens Don’t Know What Rape Really Is
Rape isn’t a stranger jumping out of a dark alley and holding a knife to your throat. It is a boy thinking it is okay to have sex with a girl when she is passed out drunk. Or the kid that thinks every girl wants him, so he ignores their rejection. It is real-life boys like Brock Turner.
Let this fact sink in: 85% – 90% of sexual assaults reported by college women are committed by someone they know. AND only HALF of those college-age women will define the assault as a “rape.” (National Institute of Justice)
- Teens Don’t Understand How Rape Victims Act
All animals, including humans, react to traumatic situations in one of three ways: Fright, Flight, or Freeze. A rape victim may not scream or fight her attacker. Instead, she may completely shut down and be unable to move or speak.
- Teens Need to Learn About Consent
Consent isn’t when a person doesn’t fight back or scream no. Consent is saying the words “Yes, I want to have sex with you.” Consent can change, and “No” ALWAYS means “No.”
- Suicide Doesn’t Always Have Warning Signs
Off the top of your head, I bet you can name at least five common warning signs that someone is considering suicide. It isn’t always that simple. Teenagers can commit suicide without ever exhibiting a risk factor.
- The Actual Suicidal Act is Not Glamorous
Critics say the suicide scene in 13 Reasons Whyis gratuitous, but I applaud the producer’s decision. There is no such thing as a painless way to kill yourself. It is going to hurt, and it is going to be gross and messy.
- Suicide Causes Collateral Damage
In an Emmy-worthy performance as Hannah’s mom, Kate Walsh shows the absolute despair, grief, and isolation felt after a child commits suicide. Suicide impacts everyone around you – your parents, your siblings, your grandparents, your friends, your teachers, your entire community.
- They Don’t Live Happily Ever After
13 Reasons Why doesn’t have a happy ending. Many characters face the consequences of making life-changing poor choices. Others are ridden with guilt. And some are still unable to face what happened.
It Is Time to Watch 13 Reasons Why
Parents of teens, I hope I have convinced you to watch 13 Reasons Why and discuss these important issues with your teens.
The show is ONLY available on Netflix.
The book is available through this link to Amazon. I will receive a small commission for the purchase.