An article has been circulating called, “Do Not Let Your Kids Watch 13 Reasons Why.” This article shows why the author doesn’t want kids watching the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.” But I disagree on almost all of her points of why kids shouldn’t watch it, or anyone really. This is why I think people SHOULD see this show. WARNING: Spoilers are below. If you haven’t seen the show and you want to see it first, don’t read this until you have.
“They did a good job of showing Hannah (the girl who committed suicide) and how she felt during the rape, but watching her body writhe with each “thrust” was completely unnecessary and not something we needed to watch in order to understand the gravity of the situation.”
The author disagrees with the “graphic” rape scene. First of all, let me say I have seen rape scenes far more graphic than the ones depicted in this TV series, and I know most kids have too. Kids see graphic stuff all the time on television. There are a lot of shows that show sex in various ways and kids younger and younger have access to them very easily. But the reason I think the rape scenes are important is because our culture dismisses rape. It acts as if it were somehow the women’s fault. Even in the series, the way others reacted to the rape- Justin playing off what his friend Bryce did because “he was there for me and we were brothers” and the school counselor intimating that it could have been Hannah’s fault because she didn’t SAY “No” or fight back…are all a reason why our culture is the way it is today. You can see rape on TV or you can hear about it but you don’t truly understand the horror and frightening experience unless it’s happened to you or someone close to you. I know people who were raped. I’ve experienced it through their stories. And I know that it doesn’t matter if you were drunk, high, tired, unconscious, wearing something ‘sexy’, not wearing anything, wearing your underwear, or all other manner of excuses people will come up with to justify the actions of others. Rape is rape. If it’s not consensual, it’s rape. Period. So many people just get away with this horrifying crime because no one reports it and when they do their lives are on a billboard for all the world to see. People talk, people laugh, people whisper, and rumors become more than just rumors.
What I do think the show did a good job at was showing how untouchable school athletes are. How the popular kids can get away with anything- even sexual assault. Because no one believes the kids who sit silently in the hallways, crying out for help, but everyone believes the kids who walk and talk like they own the school.
“Don’t you think we could have gotten the same feelings if we hadn’t watched the blade actually pierce and slice her skin?”
No, I don’t think you could have gotten the same feelings. I didn’t want to watch the suicide scene because I’ll admit stuff like that makes me squeamish. But at that point I felt I owed it to the fictional character to see this through. I had felt her pain as if it were my own, I identified with some of the things she’d gone through and I understood what made her get to the point where she felt she had no way out.
You see, I was the kid everyone made fun of in middle school. I was the kid who was talked about, laughed at. The kid people made bets on who could make friends with and then walked away, leaving me wondering what I could have possibly done wrong to make them hate me so much. I wondered if it were my hair style, the fact that I had glasses, my clothes, the car my parents drove. I wanted to fit in, I tried to force myself to fit in, but repeatedly I failed. Obviously, I made quite a different choice than Hannah did, but I understand the pain she was going through and why she felt no one cared about her.
Watching her commit suicide is important because it depicts a graphic reality that goes largely undiscussed in families and schools. Kids kill themselves because the feel unloved and unwanted, they feel unimportant. Suicide is the leading cause of death of people aged 10-24. Hannah killed herself because she thought no one cared. Everyone took advantage of her. I don’t think this show glorified that, I think it shows how much pain she was in and how no one seemed to understand or care to dig deeper and get to know her. You can’t get the same feelings if you don’t see it. Talking about it doesn’t make me squeamish, it doesn’t make me as emotional, but watching it does. Seeing her last moments brought that entire hopelessness that was her life into vivid reality for me. I think it would do this for anyone who watches it.
“…they made it feel like a big reveal, an event that you were waiting on.”
While I understand the author’s point in this case, I think it’s important that the buildup was towards the suicide because the point is that Hannah committed suicide because of everything everyone did to her. The buildup shows things getting worse and worse for Hannah to the point where she can’t take it anymore. From the time when all it was were pictures and lists being circulated around school to the time when she was sexually assaulted and felt like no one would help her. Kids who get to that point don’t do so lightly. It’s a series of events that happens and no one says or does anything to help. Even when the person is clearly crying out for help.
“Why would you want kids to think their lives will only have meaning after they die?”
I don’t think the author intended for kids to think their lives only have meaning after they die. I think this author misconstrued the message the TV show producer was trying to create. What the producers were trying to make clear is that it’s a horde of smaller actions that can inevitably lead to a large consequence, in this case the end of a girl’s life. I think it’s important that Hannah left the tapes because a lot of times kids don’t understand how their actions can affect others. Justin didn’t think the picture was that serious, Alex thought the list of “Best or Worst” was a joke, Marcus didn’t think that his disastrous ‘date’ with Hannah meant much, but to Hannah, all of it added up and meant a lot. Telling them each what happened allowed them to see that, and hopefully will allow other kids in different schools to understand how much impact their words and actions can have on someone else- someone who may be desperate for a small positive encounter.
Something else this author said bothered me. She said, “With books, if things get too intense you can easily skim ahead a bit and avoid certain content.”
Yes, you can skim ahead and skip uncomfortable content, but that’s missing the entire point of this show. The point is to make people uncomfortable. It’s to make people understand that actions have consequences. That reaching out to someone who’s struggling could mean the difference between life and death. That a small choice can lead to a major decision that impacts the lives of many people, not just one. In life, you can’t skim past the uncomfortable parts- you have to face them head on. You shouldn’t be able to skim over things that make you uncomfortable in this show either. If you’re uneasy while watching this, good. Did one of the characters remind you of yourself? Because I sure saw myself in that show.
By all means, if you have kids, please have a discussion with them. Don’t let them watch the show and then not talk to them about it. I agree with the author of the aforementioned article that it’s something that needs to be discussed with your teens if/when they see it. But it is definitely something that needs to be seen. It’s a discussion that needs to happen more often. Because maybe if suicide and rape were discussed more openly, it wouldn’t happen as often as it does. Maybe if they weren’t such ‘hush, hush’ topics, people would report a rape or talk about when they were feeling depressed instead of covering it up. That’s the only way these horrible acts are going to stop- if we stop making it such a taboo discussion and start being open with our families and friends about it.
Have you seen 13 Reasons Why? What did you think? Do you agree or disagree that it’s an important show?