If you have teenagers, then there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the newest show on Netflix that everyone their age is talking about. And if you haven’t, you’re definitely sure too soon.
The show is called 13 Reasons Why. It’s comprised of 13 episodes about the suicide of a teenage girl named Hannah Baker, played by Australian actress Katherine Langford. The show follows the aftermath of her death, where she leaves behind a series of tapes to some of her classmates, explaining why she made the decision to take her own life. Based on the book by Jay Asher and produced by Selena Gomez, 13 Reasons Why grapples with the difficult subject of suicide and all its implications.
But is it too much?
The show contains very graphic scenes and glamourized material. Many have concerns that this type of material leaves a negative impression on young people who are susceptible to suicidal thoughts. A youth mental health group from Australia called Headspace has recently released a statement voicing their (as well as parents’ and schools’) concerns with the content of the show and the negative influence that it can have on viewers. Head of the organization, Dr. Steven Leicester, explains that “There is a responsibility for broadcasters to know what they are showing and the impact that certain content can have on an audience – and on a young audience in particular”. This notion is further supported by Dan Reidenburg, Executive Director for Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, who told ABC News that “There is a great concern that I have … that young people are going to over-identify with Hannah in the series and we actually may see more suicides as a result of this television series”.
On the other hand, the amount of traction that the show has gained has raised an incredible amount of awareness on the matter, and in turn awareness on the seriousness of teenage bullying and mental health. In Netflix’s “Beyond the Reasons”, producer Selena Gomez explains that “We wanted to do it in a way where it was honest, and we wanted to make something that can, hopefully, help people, because suicide should never, ever be an option”. Furthermore, a critic named Daniel Feinberg told ABC News that, “The show is about how if we don’t treat each other better, if we don’t have conversations, if we don’t communicate, horrible things happen”.
From speaking to a number of my peers, I have gathered that there is an overall appreciation for the powerful message that the creators intended. Teenage bullying and mental illness are real issues—especially in the age of social media—that need to be properly addressed and not just thrown under the rug. Everyone should feel as if they have help and a safe space to turn to.
So how do parents of teen’s feel about the show?
“As a mom of a teenager, this hits home for me,” confesses UrbanMoms writer, Sonya Davidson. “It’s real. Opening a line of communication isn’t easy these days especially because parents are too busy already. A series like this can help open discussion in a family to talk about subjects that are not easy to discuss. Teens are watching this on their own…and parents are starting to watch it on their own too.”
Does the series worry her?
“It’s a well thought out series that doesn’t mask or sugar coat. Uncomfortable? Yes. But as parents, we can’t be passive and assume that just because our kids aren’t talking to us about it, these things aren’t happening. No one should ever think ‘That would never happen to my kid'”.
“Our motto in our family is that we can talk about anything and we, as mom and dad, will tell you the truth about what we know. But there is definitely stuff that happens today that we didn’t experience so we are learning together. I think that’s very important for us.”
Both opinions for and against the show have been actively stated through social media outlets, such as Twitter. There is a wide range of feelings, from how dangerous the show can be to how it has touched people in a very positive way:
it’s insane how many people have watched 13 reasons why and how such an important message is spreading so far and so fast
— faye (@fayecaswell) April 19, 2017
JUST BECAUSE 13 REASONS WHY IS THIS HUGE FAD RN DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU NEED TO WATCH IT, ESPECIALLY IF IT WILL BE TRIGGERING OR BAD FOR YOU
— ☻ (@positiveplants) April 19, 2017
can you all please stop saying that everyone should watch 13 reasons why? NOT everyone CAN watch it, NOT everyone SHOULD watch it.
— °•e•erie•° (@IhumeWild) April 19, 2017
@13ReasonsWhy was the toughest show I’ve ever watched but I can’t express enough how important and necessary it is.
— Montana Modderman (@MontanaEileen) April 19, 2017
Overall, suicide is a sensitive topic to discuss and even tougher to depict properly, but I think that the creators of the show have done a fine job of creating a conversation. But, there is indeed very graphic, and potentially impressionable scenes, that parent/guardians should be aware of before allowing their child to participate.
(Image via YouTube)