Thirteen Reasons to Kill Yourself

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–they’re staring.”

“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…

BUT

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?

REALLY, 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.

Seriously.

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.

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8 thoughts on “Thirteen Reasons to Kill Yourself

  1. silenceofmind

    Watching made for television programing can be like watching an Obama campaign speech.

    When one character does something wrong on purpose, his or her friend responds, “That’s not who you are!”

    Togetherness is also a great theme with strong-minded individuals seeming to always be the ones who lead the group into deep doo-doo.

    And instead of telling a nosy someone to mind their own business, “It’s complicated,” is the new instant wisdom phrase.

    Man also seems determined to kill Mother Earth with some eeeeeevil corporation leading the way as it tries desperately to throw the holy government hero under the bus.

    And don’t get me started on all the gay crap that makes otherwise good shows, unwatchable.

    Quoting Creedence Clearwater Revival, “It ain’t me!”

    The gay crap seems to coincide with a 30-50% drop in ratings for the season.

    Is me being totally disgusted by the thought of one man’s fecally encrusted ganglion turning another man’s anal orifice into hemoroidal mush, a sign of hateful homophobia?

    Or are some things just unbearably gross?

    And why the heck do the Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver family shows always seem to be led some good hearted and ever so wise mother witch?

    Time and TV seem to have passed me by…

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    1. mrsmcmommy Post author

      Yep, in this series, there is the obligatory same-sex couple…

      And not one, not two, not three, but at least FOUR gay teens in a cast of 15-20. 🙂

      But, I was taught in school that a good reviewer should look for something positive, if they can. Sooooo, it’s my duty to commend the writers (and the author of the original book) for the excellent study in bias-confirmation.

      I can see why the show is so popular.

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  2. silenceofmind

    When I first saw that show available on Netflix I read the blurb at the bottom of the cover photo to find out what it was all about.

    As I quickly moved along to find something less hallucinatory, I asked myself, “Yeah, like I want to watch a show on suicide. I’ll bet like 0.00005% of TV viewers want to watch something like that.”

    You say the show is popular.

    I say our culture is well into the Dark Ages.

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  3. sklyjd

    I can relate to your views here. Not so much about this Netflix movie as I have not seen it in Australia, but as a single old father with a 15-year-old teenage girl I have some experience of trying to figure out what is going on inside her head.

    If my experience is anything to go by most parents will receive limited information from their teenagers, and girls are worse than boys I have been told many times. It is a guessing game for most parents they will give as little or as much information to satisfy their own needs, they care little about parent’s responsibilities and feelings.

    I once extracted from my sad daughter that she had a friend who she talked with and had been contemplating suicide, but that was all the information she gave regarding this serious issue. I was made to feel I was encroaching on her life and it was none of my business. I have found her sobbing in her bedroom for about an hour and again would not divulge what it was about, a bit worrying, but this is how it is these days?

    Social media, gaming and access to any kind of videos seem to have created more of a serious or intense effect on their emotions than they should and this I believe can lead to some psychological problems on their attitude towards non-digital life.

    There is no right or wrong way, parents are having to second guess and adapt to these digitally orientated kids minds and I doubt many parents would have any real idea what is going through their teenage child’s computers and their heads, whether it be sexual, social or suicidal.

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    1. mrsmcmommy Post author

      Thanks for reading, sklyjd.

      I think my parents did a good job preparing me for the world. But, they didn’t do it by telling me that everything I felt and experienced was normal and important. I’m disturbed by the trend that validating feelings is what good parents do.

      Good parents tell their kids that the closed-off, disrespectful treatment of adults is normal?
      Good parents treat every drama like it’s a big deal?
      Good parents agree with however their teen interprets life events?

      I live by the policy the truth sets us free. Sometimes the truth is ugly or scary–but, if we’re prepared to seek it no matter where it goes, it will lead to freedom. My parents had the same truthful policy with me. That meant, if I was dealing with something serious, they demanded honesty about it. We’d talk through it. BUT, if I was crying because I didn’t like the clothes in my closet or I thought everyone was laughing at me, they wouldn’t indulge my fantasy. (They didn’t say, “It’s so haaaaard to be a teenager!” unless they were being sarcastic.) 🙂

      The truth is, clothing and the opinion of others really aren’t important. Why would we validate someone’s feelings, if their feelings are lying to them?

      Now, as an adult, I’m able to accept judgement that I deserve (to make improvements) and I can completely ignore everything else. I want my kids to have the same superpower. But I don’t believe they will get it from mindlessly consuming the music and movies with messages like the ones I described in this post.

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  4. Wally Fry

    My mother, who pretty much raised me alone, was raised in the ending days of the Great Depression, and was pragmatic and real to her very core. Maybe too much so, but that’s another story I suppose. She loved me dearly, but spent very little time validating my feelings about anything. She was, in fact, pretty hardcore. He sole and only mission in regards to me was to make me ready for the world, and endeavor she succeeded in quite nicely. The idea, even as an adolescent of getting wrapped up in this sort of angst never even showed up on my radar. I just don’t even get it. I am going back to my bunker now.

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  5. sklyjd

    An Interesting post mrsmcmommy and what you say is true.

    My observation is that the female teens of today are influenced by any mind numbing melodramatic dramas and celebrities, they share each other’s emotional problems exaggerated over social media while blubbering about “adults don’t understand them”. Whereas this is the problem, they will not talk and ask advice from oldies because all the answers they believe are found through Hollywood dramas, Google, Facebook, Twitter and text messaging their friends. They are the “know it all digital dependent generation”

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