Over the last week or so I have watched this Netflix series called 13 Reasons Why.
Originally I started watching it because I’d seen such a hype on Social Media and my FOMO got the better of me – I couldn’t help but try it. And then I got hooked.
Since then I binge watched the 6 episodes on Saturday night after the kids went to sleep so that I could finish it. I was up till 3am, bawling my eyes out and just generally feeling all the feels. Then I thought I’d get over it and move on. But I can’t. Not till I write about it.
What is 13 Reasons Why?
If you have no idea what it’s about, let me fill you in. There’s this girl called Hannah that commits suicide. You know this upfront – it’s not a spoiler. She then leaves 13 tapes with stories about 13 people that have affected her life and caused her to get to the point where she felt that it was necessary to end her life. It’s intense. It’s emotional. The last couple of episodes are so intense and so emotional that my eyelids have still not recovered from all the crying I did.
The thing is, I am not a sensitive viewer. The more twisted and dark it is, the more I seem to like it. Which, when I think about it, is a bit weird. But really, I don’t shy away from blood and guts – horror type stuff yes, but not violence. It doesn’t affect me. I mean, I watch Vikings and they do this thing called the blood eagle or something like that. If you’ve not heard or watched it, let me explain. It’s one of their more severe forms of punishment. So while someone is alive, they cut open their back, break open their ribs and then remove their lungs and throw them forward over onto their chest. Pretty graphic I know. But did that affect me? Nope. I know it was real at one point in history, but it doesn’t affect anything I do now on the daily, so it doesn’t even feature in my memory again. Unless I’m trying to make a point of course.
13 Reasons Why has affected me. Deeply. And I think the reason is that it’s not especially violent but it’s all totally and completely possible.
But there’s other reasons that it could potentially affect you too. My friend Maz chats more on that in her post on 13 Reasons Why Not here. I don’t have a history of depression nor have I seriously contemplated suicide. So I can’t tell you how watching this will affect you if you have. You should read her post for more insight on that. However I do agree with Maz in the sense that you should not be making every person you know watch it. This show, while trying to raise awareness against suicide, has in some way, made it slightly “cool”. Not necessarily if you’re a person that can see past the right here and the right now, but for teenagers who are incapable of seeing the consequences or feel like their current problems will never end, I see how it could. Where the impact of the show is seeing how broken her parents and friends are after her death, they may see that as a fitting punishment for those they leave behind. That’s not cool. I am totally NOT on board with that – obviously.
Right now, I here you saying, “Um, I thought you wanted us to watch this? You’re doing a good job of putting us off!“. And you might be right.
The thing is, I don’t want you watching this if you don’t think that you can cope. In the way that it might push you to do the same thing. Or you really have a problem with that kind of thing. And I mean like, really have a problem.
There will be spoilers in this, but I’ll try to not completely ruin it for you OK?
However, you’re not allowed to not watch it because it will make you feel uncomfortable. I’m sorry my friends but you’re supposed to feel uncomfortable. Suicide is an uncomfortable thing. So is rape, bullying, stalking, betrayal, loneliness and not being able to escape it.
SO WHY CINDY? Why must I watch it?
There’s a lot of reasons that you should. Maybe even 13 Reasons – sorry, I couldn’t resist. I’m not going to break them all up because I can’t compartmentalise all my thoughts, so you’re just going to find your own 13 reasons in here.
Here’s the thing. When I was at school we didn’t have social media. We had phones yes, but they couldn’t do much. We played snake in class and sent the odd messages to each other. But it was expensive – each sms cost a lot more than Whatsapp does now. You also waited a few hours before replying because your phone wasn’t in your hand all the time. It was simpler.
Things are so different now. And if you’re reading this blog, following along on our social media platforms or even just accidentally landing up here for the first time, it means that you too are pretty clued up on the internet and how it works. It’s not always a great place to be fair. So much bullying happens online. The teenagers of today are no longer able to switch off. I think one of the most profound things that I realised is that when we were kids, when we left school we left our bullies behind. Home was a safe haven. A refuge. But not anymore. With phones and social media, that stuff follows you. Into your safe spaces. It’s next to you at the dinner table. It’s eating at you before you go to sleep. Who knows what’s waiting for you by the time you get out the shower. It’s basically impossible to switch it off.
That’s going to affect you eventually. I mean, even my phone beeping gives me a bit of a sense of dread because it means that there’s something I’ve got to do or reply to. Imagine some of those beeps being disgusting messages or threats or some other form of bullying?!
As parents I feel like we need to be more aware of all that our children are going through now and how that may be totally different from when we were kids.
Speaking of parents, the one thing that totally got to me was that her relationship with her parents was a good one. They were hands on parents that often told her that they loved her, that she was clever or beautiful or whatever. They were encouraging and present. There was an isolated moment where she makes a mistake and they lose it a bit, but I think we would all have done the same under the same situation and as an isolated incident, I don’t think it’s an issue. Which means that sometimes we can do our very best but if we’re not aware of all the other factors that permeate into our children’s lives, it may not be enough.
But trying to get teenagers to talk about their lives is apparently like trying to draw blood from a stone. Or that’s what media wants you to believe. I’m pretty sure we can change that in our own homes by creating a safe space for them to chat. Being a parent that is open and available for them to talk to without fear of judgement. How you create that space and enforce discipline without judgement in certain situations is a post for another day. Mostly because how even?
Another thing that affected me was the rape situation. And the culture that we have around rape. How boys are taught and how girls are taught. How girls, who could easily have been in the same position, judge the other GIRL and almost blame them for what happened to them. How they stand up or cover up for the boy in this situation. It’s messed up man. Completely and totally freaking messed up. It just highlighted to me again how we need to be teaching our boys to be better. Not our girls to hide.
How did I identify with it all? It’s about teenagers right?
While watching this show, I hardly ever saw myself in Hannah. I mean I had an average high school experience. Fell in love, was crushed to the core and then I met Seth. While I really did think my life was over or not worth living when my first real relationship crumbled around me, I only ever flippantly considered ending it all. I knew it had to get better. Eventually.
No, the person I see myself in the most here is the mother.
Guys, this could be our daughter or son. Would we even know what’s happening before it does? It makes me sick thinking about it. I’ve been holding my kids a bit closer this weekend. Whispering into their ears about how much I love them. That they can talk to me about anything. Asking them random questions about their lives. I’m feeling this deep need to take a look into their souls and try and build that bridge before it’s all too late.
So yes. I think you should watch it.
Even if it is just fulfil the FOMO you may be having. But I hope it’s for more than that. I hope it’s so that you to can start thinking about the hard and difficult things life is going to throw at our children and how to handle it. I hope that you take away the need to work harder on the relationships that we have with our children, but also the ones that we have with friends, acquaintances and random strangers.
I hope that we all take away the fact that we need to be better.