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13 Reasons Why: A Critique (Part 1)

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I have been due to write about "13 Reasons Why" for a long, long time, but I haven't been because of the events happening in my life. Now that I'm settling into my new apartment (actually my room. It's a room I'm renting) and I've finally had the watch the WHOLE thing. Now, I can.

"13 Reasons Why" has received a LOT of cheers and jeers. Though in my opinion, it has received more jeers. As of late, I have been reading how blame is now on the show how young teens have been looking online on how to "kill themselves". Or how the show "glorifies" suicide. So here I was in my room watching the last 3 episodes and asking myself, "Where are people getting this from???" The show is about how a young girl came to end due to all the experiences she had with 12 of her classmates. There is a 13th person, but I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't seen the film yet.

The film though doesn't just talk about her life, but also the lives of the people who affected hers. The tapes disturbed to them had harsh truths of their actions and even to who they really were.Thoughout the series, you see the characters trying protect their own secrets from being exposed to their town. Although not ALL the characters were bullies or meant to become one, but it made sense why as they were. Some bullies were also bullies because of how the environment "worships" their talent instead of their morality.

This is mistake number one that EVERYONE, yes EVERYONE made on the show… It's rated MA. Hello??? Did ANYONE even bother reading the rating??? So as a recap, MA means "mature audiences" which means the show will feature, foul language, graphic violence, graphic sexual activity or any combination of the two."  It doesn't stand for "Mighty Awesome" tv show. We have technology now that EVERYONE has access too, so there is no excuse, absolutely no excuse people can't look up stuff like this. It's easy.

 

 

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TV Parental Guidelines such as this began back in 1996" to help protect kids and teens from shows that might have a negative impact on kids.  The things is when people or parents or even their young kids/teenagers heard of a show "13 Reason Why" they were probably thinking of this:

 Or these other classic teen movies…

 

(Most of all I have watched.)

Mistake, mistake, mistake. These days are not THOSE days of watching teen movies/tv shows. And "13 Reasons Why" is definitely NOT your typical teenage/angst film.  I get it… the actors LOOK like teenagers (they're more like early to mid twenties), but that doesn't MEAN it's a film teens should watch. Especially on movies that "talk" a LOT about deep topics. If not outright, it's depicted. Here are those topics:

Mental Health/Suicide

Sexual Assault/Rape

Bullying

Domestic Violence*

*Indirectly mentioned

These are some pretty DEEP topics—topics that MUST be discussed with kids and definitely, cannot be discussed alone. In spite of my difficult childhood, one of the things that ALWAYS brought us together were movies and tv shows. And my dad was ALWAYS with me watching these movies. Whenever there was movie with a sex scene, like say in "The Matrix" or "Underworld 2", he'd always say, "Sex is not for kids (even though I was a teen) or "If I catch you ever have a child out of wedlock, I'll throw you out of the house."

"Okay daddy." I'd always respond. Sometimes though he'd take what he saw on tv shows and movies too seriously. Like I remember when "Pocahontas" first came into theaters (I was about 9 at the time) and there was a scene where Pocahontas and John Smith were kissing so passionately, that after my sister, myself and my dad finished watching the movie, my dad as were walking out of the movie into the parking lot was fuming! " I can't believe they would show that to young kids! That movie is definitely NOT for kids!" I remember just being so embarrassed by my dad's reaction and the reaction of other adults seeing my dad fuming at a children's movie. What I'm saying is that there are times parents need to supervise what their kids are watching. The problem is parents don't these days. I remember working at a restaurant and seeing this parent trying to keep their child calm down. So the parent got out a their ipad and the kid, of course, was silent. It is not healthy for a child to have a tv screen of some sort always be put in their face all the time. Push them to read or draw or go outside and play…something. Help them to be aware of their surroundings (because I see that inclining a LOT now days among young kids, teens AND adults). My parent always pushed me to be proactive in my life and to be aware of my surroundings. My parents always worked, especially my mom, but she was never to tired to tell me to turn of the TV or even do it herself and tell me to do something with my time. As a kid, I hated it, but as an adult I understand now and I am grateful. So, don't worry parents, your kids will understand and appreciate why put your foot down one day. Anymore than you will have to look past the screaming, whining, moaning and other forms of tempter tantrums, one day they look past them too. The thing is kids won't always know what they're watching and will NOT understand (especially with the content out these days!). So you have to be there and in a sense be ready to provide commentary on the film. If you can't, do it after, but either way do it soon, because you don't know how what they saw or heard in a movie or tv show is going to stick in their minds. It might stick in a negative way or a positive one. Heck, like me when I was young, they may have not paid any mind to it. Though, you can't think expect you'll be lucky to have a kid who won't pay much mind to these things.

I say these things especially, because if feels like now days parents don't take responsibility for anything (and could explain why some kids don't take any responsibility for their actions either). I remember not too long ago, parents were blaming Cookie Monster as to why their kids eat too many cookies/junk foods. I was like to myself, "Are you freaking kidding me??? You're blaming a muppet???" Uh, who has money to give their kids candy and all that stuff? Parents. "Who prepares the meals??? Parents. Look I'm in my 30s and I still love eating cookies (in fact my dad STILL calls me Cookie Monster)! But I love eating fruits, veges, and other forms of nutritious meals. And who introduced me such health eats? My parents.Who declined me from eating cookies and sweets when I ate too much of them? My parents.Who'd get in trouble for getting cookies when their parents told NOT to buy anymore sweets and ended up getting in BIG trouble for NOT listening to their parent's directions? Me.

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Sorry I digressed. Anywho, when I worked at a bookstore, I remember ringing up books that this mother and daughter had. And one of them was "13 Reason Why". Now as being someone who at the time who had three more episodes of  this show to watch, could relate with deep topics as mentioned in the movie, and IS an educator, could I ALLOW this child to read a book with content they are NOT ready for? Hell no. What I did say to the mother was although the film was good and the book may be just as good, that it provided contents too deep for child to understand. Topics on mental health/suicide and sexual assault were mentioned a LOT in the tv series. It's a show that parents should watch and discuss with their child, but if they needed help on understanding the topics themselves they should go to NAMI and/or RAINN for more information.

"Thank you for telling me." The mother said, "I'll just put that aside."  She then turned to her daughter, "How could you get that book? Wasn't that the book your school emailed to all the parents saying kids should't get, because it was making your classmates very sad???" I could have sworn, (from the side of my eye) the daughter was glaring at me, but I don't want kids to feel sad after reading a book, because books especially for teens should make them happy and not well…depressed. Yeah, the novel, that the tv show was based off was banned from schools, because of it's impact kids. Damn. That's pretty deep. But I gotta admit, the actors on the show were really good. Though, I can't blame kids for being depressed. Hell, I am suffering with chronic anxiety and depression because I have experienced sexual assault, I do live with mental health issues, and I have grown up in a domestic abusive household. So, I can't blame kids for feeling depressed just seeing what these characters are on the show are going through. And let me tell you this is where schools and a parents should be stepping in, because although jr. high school and high schoolers are just teenagers, they are up and coming adults and they are starting to become more and more aware of the world and the world around them. They are not little kids anymore.

(Another hint how the show was deep. The words over the characters. You can kinda tell it was going to get serious. Read them.)

Though I will admit something. The production responsible for the tv show or perhaps Netflix itself, should have put disclaimers in the first few episodes on the content depicted and perhaps at the end referred resources on how to discuss and/or how to be aware of such situations. So far (especially the numerous complaints it had) on last two to three episodes this it what it had:

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Glad they caught it, but they were a bit late.

Me personally, especially as an adult, I liked this show. I thought this a better depiction of mental health and sexual assault than most tv shows and movies do. I feel like most movies and tv shows just like just add those such topics just for entertainment purposes. I am not saying that this wasn't either, but it was more real which I think why kids (I know they are teens, but I call 'em kids any way) liked it. I also like how not only showed the main character's life before her passing, but it showed how human and vulnerable she was and I think it's important that people see that. I feel that when other people hear of those who live with mental illness and/or have survived suicide, they see them as victims of their own pain, but there's much more to it. I liked how the film captured the events and the thoughts of Hannah. She was a very deep person as I or anyone else living with mental illness would understand. The film also did show how hurting people, regardless how small their hurts are (e.g. insecurity/shame), hurt other people which something we tend to forget.

Anyways, I hope there will be a season two and I look forward to know the events that await the 13 people and how her parents find out more on what led to her death.

For more information on "13 Reasons Why", mental health, sexual assault, domestic abuse and TV parental guide lines, click on the links below:

13 Reasons Why

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

The TV Parental Guidelines