Editor’s Note: This review by Josh Bellish of our Portland Dads Group is for the Netflix StreamTeam. If you or someone you know is in danger, please visit www.13reasonswhy.info to find out more about suicide prevention.
Hannah Baker (played by Katherine Langford), a high school junior, has committed suicide and left a series of 13 tapes to explain the reasons for her decision. Each tape is about a different person and the event(s) that influenced her choice. You watch flashbacks from Hannah’s perspective as well as current events as the character Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) listens to the tapes. You also watch the struggles each of the 13 people face in light of their involvement and the devastation the parents of Hannah suffer as they learn why their daughter killed herself.
The strong, profound public reaction to 13 Reasons Why, based on the 2007 novel by Jay Asher, comes from its character relatability and head-on approach to bullying, sexual assault and suicide. Several scenes will make viewers uncomfortable, and that is the whole point. 13 Reasons Why clearly wants us to take our heads out of the sand and show a series of events, some seemingly harmless, can empty someone of their desire to continue with life.
Keep several thing in mind when watching 13 Reasons Why:
- While each character’s actions influenced Hannah’s decision, some were not necessarily malicious acts. The 13 Reasons Why writers do a good job showing the “why” behind each event. You can’t help but feel bad for some of these kids and their own personal struggles.
- Even the worst offender, whose actions are unforgivable, has things going on in his life that — once you get past the feelings of disgust — you could empathize with.
- Hannah is also imperfect. Her own actions create some of her hardship and that bothered me at first. I asked myself how she could blame this person when she is also at fault. And that is exactly the point. Life is a series of events influenced by many people. She recognized some of the fault also fell on her at times but that doesn’t change how they can empty you.
Make sure that you also watch the accompanying Behind the Reasons episode with every showing. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, I would not recommend watching this show as it might be too graphic or contain triggers. I would also caution anyone under the age of 13 from watching this and recommend that anyone under 18 watch this with an adult.
As someone who struggled with many of the same issues dealt with in 13 Reasons Why, I would ask you to use this as an opportunity to reflect on your own every day interactions with people.
Think about how those seemingly harmless comments or jokes might not be so harmless under the right circumstances.
Ask yourself what message you send to your kids when you comment on someone’s looks.
Talk to your kids about sexual consent and what it truly looks like, such as not saying “no” is not the same thing as saying “yes.”
Ask your kids if they see any similarities between the events in this show and the things they see at school or online every day. Discuss that not all secrets should be kept. Provide a safe place free of judgement or blame for them to talk about how they are feeling.
Most important of all, learn to be kind to each other. If any character in 13 Reasons Why had done something different, had one person looked outside their own personal struggles to see Hannah’s, then she might not have done what she did. This truth is not just in a show, it happens to the people we see every day.
Netflix recently brought teens and parents together to discuss their relationship, something that also plays a role in 13 Reasons Why:
Disclosure: City Dads Group is part of the Netflix #SteamTeam. All opinions are the author’s.