The "13 Reasons Why" Phenomenon: Learning Tool To End Bullying or Glamourizing Teen Suicide?
You've seen it on Facebook News, Skimmed articles on Buzzfeed and Yahoo, Heard news reports and even heard Dr. Phil bash it: the Netflix Original Series, 13 Reasons Why based on Jay Asher's novel of the same name.
But is 13 Reasons a haunting series about the consequences of bullying or a glamorization of teen suicide? Viewers are divided.
Do you want my honest opinion? Do you really?
You do? Cool! - I watched the show starting the night that it premiered on Netflix and continued by watching 2-3 episodes a night until I got to the end. And it hooked me. I had to keep watching to see what the next tape would reveal. Personally, as I also read the book after I watched the series, I liked the show better than the book. It had way more meat to it. The book was like an empty shell.
But did the show make me want to commit suicide? I mean, I may not be a teenager anymore but 24 isn't that old. The answer? Hell no! To me, although yes, Hannah does commit suicide, the show wasn't really about suicide at all. It was about bullying.
Maybe I saw it that way because I was bullied in my early teen years, but for that reason, the show spoke to me. Let me be straight with you, I have never been suicidal in my life. Never. Not one single thought of ending it all. I fit onto the other end of the spectrum, I fear death in a find-me-Edward-Cullen-to-bite-me-and-make-me-immortal type of way. I'm not kidding. I'm literally terrified of death - to the point that if I even think the word death for too long I start hyperventilating and having a panic attack. But enough about me.
Here are a few reasons I think the "13 Reasons Why glamourizes teen suicide" notion is a bunch of b.s.:
1: The book first came out ten years ago. If it made it so glamorous to commit suicide as a teen, why has it been on and off the best-seller list for the past 10 years and nobody took issue with it before?
2: Anyone with half a brain could see that Hannah had issues long before any of the events listed on the tapes. The book and the show both hint at issues at her previous school and her family obviously was having issues too, so in a way most of the "reasons" she listed were nothing but excuses to blame someone else for her decision.
3. Tagging on point 2, none of the "reasons" Hannah gives (save for maybe tape 12 and even that isn't enough of a reason) are enough of a reason for me (remember me? fear of death girl?) for someone to kill themselves. Um, a guy said he felt you up to the guys at school? Another guy said you had the best ass in the class? You made out with a girl and some guy took a picture? A guy published a poem you wrote that he thought was great in his newspaper? Seriously? Even in my teen years, I would have laughed most of that crap off (or been flattered in the case of the poem).
4. If Hannah's parents (or the critical parents taking issue with the show) had paid a little more attention to their child and found out what was going on at school - maybe taking the teachers/school/parents of classmates to task when the crap was going on then their child wouldn't have thought the only solution was to commit suicide. I mean I'm not a parent, but come on. In this day and age parents aren't like how my grandmother raised me. They're not like the parents of my classmates when I was in elementary school. They're so preoccupied with their own crap - their search for a new man/woman in their life, drama at work, having time with their friends being priority #1, etc. that they really have no idea what is going on in their kid's life. And most of the time they don't care. And seriously, before you jump on me for that comment, I'm speaking from experience here. I've seen a lot of parents like that so I'm not making it up.
5. This isn't the only book with a teen suicide subject matter. In that case, you should probably go after Gayle Foreman's I Was Here and Albert Boris's Crash Into Me as well.
I'm not trying to trivialize or downplay depression or suicide in any way. I'm really not. Someone very close to my heart struggles with both of those issues and my heart breaks for that person constantly. Loving someone that is depressed or suicidal is hard. You feel helpless like you're powerless to do anything except try to be there for them in any way you can.
If you or someone you know battles depression or suicidal thoughts please, please consider seeking professional help or telling someone close to that person (a parent, teacher, loved one, etc) what's going on. They may be mad at you now, but it is the right thing to do. Through it all, remember that people do love you and would be devastated if you were no longer there and if it's someone you know is suffering make sure they know that every chance you get.
You never know what may make a world of difference in a person's life.