WARNING: This is not an endorsement and this post does include some spoilers.
Last week I watched “13 Reasons Why” on Netflix. Understand this was not something I was looking forward to watching. I had no desire to watch it, but I have heard some of the youth that I work with talk about the show. I have also caught snippets on the news or online criticizing or praising the show. Knowing what the show is about made me very cautious about watching. Let me explain.
In case you are unfamiliar with the “buzz” around this show, let me give you a basic explanation of why it is so controversial. The show is based on the book “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher. The show was released on Netflix in 2017 and the series version “Follows teenager Clay Jensen, in his quest to uncover the story behind his classmate and crush, Hannah, and her decision to end her life.” (IMDB) SPOILER ALERT: Clay is provoked to dig deeper due to a series of cassette tapes he receives from Hannah where she essential implicates the various people who drove her to end her life. Hence the controversy behind the series.
The Artistic Quality and Story Telling (still not encouraging you to watch)
Before I dive into my commentary on the content of the series, I have to give credit to the show creators. In high school, I took a few years of TV Broadcasting, Drama and in college dove into similar pursuits. Those courses made me an arm-chair critic of TV, movies and literature in general. The way this story is told is smart. The actors have done a credible job portraying the teen characters. It has been years since I was in high school but these people who Hannah indicts for her demise are the same people we each knew in the schools we attended. I saw it in my experience and I have witnessed it as an observer to the experiences of my sons.
The story telling is compelling and thought-provoking. This is not simply a mindless entertainment piece…and it should not be. As well as this is portrayed, it is raw and not for the faint of heart. I was not prepared for the things this series would bring up in me. If you have struggled with suicidal thoughts or severe depression…do not watch this alone. If you do watch it, have someone you can talk to. God’s grace has delivered me from depression and the suicidal thoughts of my youth. However, Thirteen Reasons Why, has made me reevaluate the people I indicted years ago in my grief and depression.
One thing the show does well, is show other points of view. Certain characters were wrong and their actions damaged character Hannah on a deep level that is not easily moved past, regardless of age. We get to see the points of view of others Hannah “accuses”. This provides an avenue for the watcher to reevaluate how they handle personal conflict. We see a genuine picture of social interaction, miscommunications, and the frequent cruelty of the social dynamics. (I am so glad my teen years were not fodder for Twitter, Facebook or any other social media.)
My personal summation is that this is a well done glimpse at the reality of teens and young adults in the modern age. It paints the picture well of online bullying and the hazards facing young people today. I would recommend this to a parent who feel out of touch with modern social dynamics – but watch with caution.
Tragedy Of Communication
During life’s tragedies we always want to know why. I will not insult your intelligence by enumerating the various tragedies. There are many, many things that make us question. This series addresses the need to understand. This series displays the casual approach to human emotion that has been made much worse by social media. There is a clear picture of teen angst, confusion and misconceptions.
Communication is underrated. Most of us think we communicate just fine. Perhaps in time we improve communication, but if it were so simple would we have all the hurt feelings and bickering we experience in life? If I am having a bad day and do not acknowledge my husband when he gets home, he thinks I am mad. My face looks angry, I am tense and he feels it is directed at him. Most of the time, I am not mad at him. Mad at his job, absolutely. Aggravated by too much to do in too little time…definitely. What he is receiving from my demeanor and tone say something totally different.
Communication epic fails are a huge part of “Thirteen Reasons Why”. The character, Hannah, is misread by her peers and misreads others. People assume and act on their assumptions to the detriment of several characters. The characters are caught up in their social images and if that leads to someone else’s demise they show little concern for others, lest it save their own skin. Perhaps Hannah blaming others for her ultimate decision to end her life is extreme; however, the story is presented in such a way that you are painfully aware of how self-centered people can be. Even in the aftermath of Hannah’s death they are content to do what it takes to save their own skins.
Please do not allow or encourage your teens or children to watch this until you have watched the series. I certainly would not want a young child to see this, but a mature teen could benefit from the message if they have a responsible adult to talk to them. That being said, this is a graphic portrayal of suicide, abuse, rape and many other issues that young people are facing today. More than allowing your teen to watch – you watch it and witness what is going on today. It was happening when I was in school over 20 years ago – my guess is “Thirteen Reasons Why” has probably downplayed things in reality.
The leading causes of death for teens are accidents, suicide and homicide. (PRB Data) Do you see that? Suicide and homicide are two of the top three leading causes of teen death. We live in a time were violence prevails and hope is often hidden behind political correctness and that which is socially acceptable. People suffer from anxiety and depression, we tell them to suck it up or tell them things get better after high school. We do not want to see how bad things are from their perspective. If I am hurt by your actions it is not about what you intended, it is about what I received. Do you know someone who seems to get the message mixed up? That could be a sign they are dealing with depression or anxiety.
There is HOPE and Help
I want to close by encouraging you to share Jesus Christ with others. Not tomorrow or next week – that message is needed immediately. You do not have to shove a Bible down someone’s throat to share the message of what Christ has done for you. The healing I have received gives hope to others – so I tell them about it. The peace I have received, the answered prayers all serve as part of my story that I share with others. I can share my story, my hope in Christ and invite them to partake too. I don’t have to be weird about it, but if I am weird, so what? There is a quote by Penn Jillett of Penn & Teller fame, ““How much do you have to HATE somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” This man is an advocate for atheism and he presents a strong challenge to those worried about ruffling feathers in the politically correct pool. I will redirect the context though, how much do you have to hate someone to believe in the hope of Jesus Christ and not tell them? The greatest hope for those struggling with suicidal thoughts and depression is Jesus Christ.
If you are reading this and you are in crisis here is contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.
You Are Not Alone
For years I struggled with suicidal thoughts. I remember having my mother take me to a crisis center when I was a teen. She thought I was attention seeking and I think the woman who assessed me agreed. I was never admitted. I was seeking. I remember through my teen years and as a young married adult – praying for death, having fantasies about dying. It’s grim and not something I choose to focus on. I have sat in my parent’s backyard as a teen with my Mother’s big honking gun in my hand wanting to end my life. I was afraid my sister would be the one to find me or that something would go wrong and I would be seriously injured. Later in life, I sat in a second story window and the only reason I did not jump was because frankly the fall would not have killed me. My fear of pain and judgement probably kept me alive for many years, as well as, my concern for who would find me. Suicidal thoughts were a long-term struggle. My concern for the impact of others stopped me from following through. When you spiral out of control, sometimes your thoughts do not process through to the aftermath of your decisions. I am very thankful I processed that far.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression…you are not alone. My faith has made me a new creation in Christ and I no longer deal with depression or any remote thought of suicide. Truthfully, I have not had those thoughts for many years. Talk with a Pastor, Counselor, friend, Sunday School teacher…talk to someone. PRAY with someone. 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
You Are Worthy
“Thirteen Reasons Why” teaches a variety of lessons if you are seeking to understand. It is not a pleasant thing to watch with its painfully, raw content. I watched it solely because I knew others that I lead where watching it. In that capacity I am glad I watched and can talk with them about how this show impacted them. I feel it necessary to tell you again, this could be dangerous to watch if you are struggling with depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts. If you have overcome such obstacles, it will likely stir up old wounds. My sleep was disturbed for a few days after watching this show and I marinated on past memories far more than I care to admit. I am thankful God has delivered me from anxiety and depression – he can do the same for you.
You are worth more than you know. Please if you need someone to pray with you – message me, I will pray for you. I love you!