If you don’t know by now there is a show (based on a book) called 13 Reasons Why. If you haven't heard of or watched the show you can watch the preview by clicking the video below.
The show deals with themes of depression, rape, drugs, drinking, and the big theme of suicide. There is a lot of debate about the shows themes and who should watch the show. Some people are even suggesting that the show glorifies suicide and that teens are going to get the idea that suicide is a way to get revenge on people who have hurt them. Some people are going even further saying that the show is so graphic that kids will use it as a manual on how to commit suicide.
After a few weeks of seeing these arguments I decided why not give my thoughts on the show and its themes.
Who is the show about?
If you ask a person to describe the show they will most likely say that it is a show about a girl named Hannah Baker. Hannah leaves cassette tapes with thirteen reasons why she ended her life to all the people who pushed her to suicide. While this isn’t nescessarily wrong it does miss the point of the show.
A better description, more true to the story, is this: 13 Reasons Why is a story about Clay Jensen. Clay receives a box of cassette tapes left by his crush Hannah Baker. Clay soon realizes that the tapes are about what caused Hannah to end her life. Was there any thing he could have done to change the outcome?
The first description tells a story of Hannah. It tells that she was forced into something and seemingly wants revenge. When you describe it that way the show does seem dark and glorifying of a horrible act. However, when you watch the show it’s not about Hannah. The show is about Clay. The show is about a high school kid who is struggling with the idea that he could have done something he should have been a better friend, opened up more, seen some of the signs.
The argument is really about who in the show you identify with, who is the main character that you are supposed to relate to? The answer should be Clay.
Who should watch the show?
Another argument people are having about the show is who should watch it. Who is the show for? Should sixth grader watch the show or is it only for adults? Well, the show does have an age rating. In fact Netflix has made a point to put warnings at the beginning of the harshest episodes.
That being said I think the show is for anyone and everyone (with in reason). The story alone is amazing. It draws you in and you are on the edge of your seat waiting for the conclusion but hoping it never ends. However, it is very easy to see how the show’s tone and pace could be an emotional trigger for someone going through the issues brought up. I am a generally happy person, but joining Clay and placing myself in his shoes was like a rollercoaster.
So, who should watch the show? Anyone who is mature enough. If you feel you are too young or too vulnerable to watch the show then don’t. Or there is another option, watch it with a trusted person in your life. The show isn’t just about watching but it is about a conversation. The themes and the struggles should be talked about. It should be brought up in schools, in families, in friend groups. The people who are willing to have a conversation and hopefully learn a lesson are the people who should watch the show.
What happens after the show?
After watching the show you might ask what next….
1. Talk about the show. Talk about the themes. Conversations and other peoples perspectives are how we can learn and grow as people. The show is a great catalyst to talk about tough topics. The issues in the show are not easily brought up in the day to day. So use the opportunity to question and gain perspective.
2. Begin to change. Live a life of worth. Live life in a way that makes you positive you wouldn't be on Hannah’s tapes. Begin to develop friendships with people who need friends. Be a person who can give hope to others. Main point of number two is don't be a bully be a friend.
3. Remember to have hope. Life has worth and meaning. The pain and depression are real. There is no denying that the issues of the show are unbearable. You have to remember that you are loved and you are special. Your life has meaning don’t throw it away.
Your life matters. You are special. You are loved. You have purpose.
Have you watched the show? Have you read the book? What were your thoughts and opinions about 13 Reasons Why?
If you would rather read the book or just want to see the differences from the book and the show you can follow these links to buy them from amazon:
Paper Back: Thirteen Reasons Why
Hard Cover: Thirteen Reasons Why 10th Anniversary Edition
E-book: Thirteen Reasons Why
Audio Book: Thirteen Reasons Why