At one point, the main character skipped a shower, and for the rest of the episode, everybody he walked near would wrinkle their noses and fan the air.
It was supposed to be comedic relief, I think.
But THAT pretty much sums up what’s wrong with Netflix’s new series “Thirteen Reasons Why,” about a teen who committed suicide.
The entire plot is every teenager’s irrational fears, taken seriously:
“Yes–everyone knows you didn’t shower. They all think you stink!”
“Yes–that picture you don’t want anyone to see is a huge deal. Everyone is talking about it.”
“Yes–it’s their fault you feel so bad about yourself.”
AND, “Yes–if you kill yourself, then everyone will be sorry!”
A recent Rolling Stone Article asked the question, “Does ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ Glamorize Teen Suicide?”
And the answer is: unequivocally yes.
Hannah, the girl who took her own life, is also the narrator. So, the whole series is about her, despite the fact that a REAL suicide victim loses the opportunity to tell his/her side of the story. (That’s one of the ways the series glamorizes suicide; it spreads the lie that you’ll be famous–and finally understood better–once you’re gone.)
Anyway, over and over and over, Hannah says things like, you think I’m overreacting…
You think I get my titties in a twist over the smallest drama…
You think I’m focusing on tiny things…
Here’s why you’re wrong…
You didn’t feel the stares…
You’ve never been in my situation…
Keep in mind, we know from the very beginning that this girl was unstable and took her own life. But the creators still have a way of taking her perspective seriously. Whether intentionally or not, they seem to lend credibility to Hannah’s belief that her experiences were much different–much worse–than the “average,” everyday struggles that everyone else faces.
Here’s a direct quote, I transcribed from one of the episodes:
“You’re going to tell me this one is no big deal…but let me tell you about being lonely…I’m not talking ‘lonely in a crowd’ lonely. That’s everyone, every day. And it’s not ‘when will I find love’ lonely or ‘the popular kids are mean to me’ lonely. The popular kids are mean to everybody. It’s how they get popular… The kind of lonely I’m talking about is when you feel like you’ve got nothing left. Nothing and no one. “
In addition to agreeing with this irrational self-talk, this series tries to convince us that hardcore violence has reached an epidemic in American high schools, and most teenagers are (understandably) on the brink of suicide.
I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how this show needs to be required-viewing for parents, to open a dialog with their teens about what really happens in schools today.
But I just keep thinking–really?
Does this series accurately portray a typical high school experience? Or is it exactly like every other highly-dramatized teen fantasy, where adult actors pretend to be class-skipping, drug-using 15-year-olds?
Cheerleaders are drinking hard liquor out of their canteens at practice? REGULARLY?
Kids are throwing underage drinking parties, while their parents are out of town, and none of the adults have any idea? (I mean, hasn’t that been a plot point in every, single teen drama, since the 80’s? Do we really need this one to warn us?)
And–let’s talk about the fact that not one, but TWO girls were graphically raped within weeks of each other. (Both times were on the properties of good, loving, married parents, who simply missed the fact that at least 100 drunk teens had completely trashed their house and yard while every grown-up nearby had inexplicably “left town for a couple of days.”)
Let’s be honest, parents. If the average sophomore is buying his own booze and smoking weed and having reckless sex, just to cope with the damaging things he’s witnessing at that place we send him to study but, instead, he and his peers do nothing except congregate in the halls and swear and fight, then we’ve got a problem that a Netflix series isn’t going to solve.
Maybe we should stop leaving the country and letting our kids drive our cars or ride their bikes or walk all over town at all hours of the night, and start thinking about homeschooling.
The picture painted by “Thirteen Reasons Why” is that American highschools have literally become tiny Sodom’s and Gomorrah’s, with students lucky to make it out unharmed.
If that’s true, it’s child-abuse to send a teenager there.
But if, on the other hand, this show is a fictionalized story, meant to entertain, then we should stop giving it credit for telling some sort of eye-opening truth.
“Thirteen Reasons Why” is rated TV-MA, for mature audiences, because it’s utterly full of profanity and graphic sexual content. So, if you’re going to watch it with an older teenager, use caution.
In fact, unless you’re certain that your kid already participates in dangerous, illegal things, I’m not sure why you’d want to expose him to it on-screen at all. Why plant those mental images?
It brings up an interesting dilemma, doesn’t it? Because, while MOST teens aren’t attending wild parties where someone gets raped or killed, we must realize that most teens are consuming that stuff every, single day, in movies that normalize it…
Disguised as a great conversation-starter to solve a problem, I think it’s more likely that “Thirteen Reasons Why” actually contributes to the issues of desensitization and reprogramming of youth through violent media.
“High school is a death trap.”
“Suicide is understandable.”
“Rape is everywhere. Here, watch.”
“This is what suicide looks like. Here watch.”
“It’s normal…it’s everywhere…it’s probably happening to your teen…”
Maybe those things aren’t happening now. But they certainly will be, if we continue filling young minds with those messages.