I watched 13 Reasons Why the day it launched on Netflix.
I had no idea what I was getting into. I started watching because it was spring break here and my schedule was freed up a little. I immediately text my best friend after the first episode.
I normally wouldn’t watch stuff like this. I have a very low threshold for shows that have any form of sexual assault at all! I am vehemently opposed to this type of entertainment. As a self-proclaimed prude, I have no excuse or idea why I got roped into this show.
My exact words to my friend that day were “It’s like a murder mystery with a twist” because that is how it started. Innocent enough. Each episode after that got darker with more and more vulgar language, evil malicious intent, violence, and dishonesty. A few of the episodes had warnings at the beginning and so I stopped… briefly, but then I was just too curious to see how the show ended.
So then when those horrific scenes happened I tried to fast forward (or whatever you call it in these modern times), but then I would miss important voice over information. So I would just wince and close my eyes and quite frankly I would cry.
Netflix offers a bonus feature that includes interviews with directors and actors from the show called “Beyond the Reasons”. It’s obvious that their intentions for filming the way they did were to raise awareness and start some dialogue about these very serious issues. They said things like:
“we weren’t shying away from the ugliness”
“[that scene] was one of the most difficult to film. We didn’t look away from the sexual assaults in the show because to do otherwise is to minimize what those characters go through.”
“The goal was to try and represent everything as authentically and as truthful as possible”
“We had a number of people ask us along the way why we had Hannah kill herself in the way we did and why we showed it. We worked very hard not to be gratuitous, but we did want it to be painful to watch because we wanted it to be very clear that there is nothing in any way worthwhile about suicide.”
Okay, hold it right there. “We did want it to be painful to watch”. I didn’t actually see all of it because I chose to look away. The problem, in my opinion, is that there is a thing called desensitization and it is very real. The more you see something the more you are okay with it. It becomes less painful. That shock factor that the show gained is now the starting point for every other show to be more cutting edge; to be MORE authentic and truthful. Where do we draw the line?
Not to mention that while these kinds of graphic depictions are detestable and painful to many of us, the same images are only fuel for those with mental health problems.
I have said it before “When a story line includes a young child being molested that horrendous act can be implied without it having to be reenacted and displayed for all to see on the big screen and the same respect should be shown to women when it comes to rape”.
I’ll end with this excerpt from an email that I got from my child’s school yesterday. The subject line was “Message from Superintendent on Netflix Series”
… our students’ safety and well being are a top priority. We are concerned about the negative impact of a new Netflix series called 13 Reasons Why based on the book by Jay Asher. It tells the fictional story of a high school student who dies by suicide and leaves behind recordings to the people whom she blames for her dissatisfaction with life. There have been concerns about the series from suicide prevention experts about the potential risks posed by the sensationalized treatment of youth suicide.
Experts, including the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Behavioral Health and JED Foundation, do not recommend that vulnerable youth watch this series. While many teens and young adults are resilient and capable of differentiating between a TV drama and real life, engaging in thoughtful conversations with them about the show is vital.
There were plenty of helpful links, tips, and phone numbers included in the email as well. I appreciate the school taking a stand and addressing the issue.
In conclusion, I thought the show was a very accurate portrayal of high school and agree that we don’t need to turn a blind eye to these issues. On the other hand, I don’t think that more graphic, more realistic visual details equal more effective. My kids are too young for the show anyway, but if they weren’t I would say no. This is not the tool I would use to teach with. I’m siding with the superintendent on this one.