Why You Should Watch ’13 Reasons Why’ With Your Teen
If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
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It’s the most tweeted about show of 2017 (Variety) — and while 13 Reasons Why receives critical acclaim, there’s plenty more than just 13 reasons you should be watching this show with your teens.
The recently released Netflix show tells the fictional story of a high-schooler Hannah Baker’s suicide through a series of cassette taped recordings she’s left behind. Produced by Selena Gomez, the series is based on the novel of the same name written by Jay Asher.
In addition to critical praise, there’s been some critical backlash against the show as well. The main plot line involves the series of tapes made by Hannah that name the 13 reasons why she commits suicide, and effectually puts the blame on others, including herself.
“The tendency to imagine you can kill yourself as a way to get back at people feels like an adolescent fantasy,” Dr. Victor Schwartz, medical director of the JED Foundation, told NBC News. “It underlies so much of the narrative arch of the story.”
There’s concern that it romanticizes suicide, but after a weekend binge-watch, I don’t agree. It is no more romantic and/or tragic than Romeo & Juliet, which is part of every 9th grader’s English/Lit curriculum. The casting is really well done (as a survivor of high school in the 90s, I loved seeing Wilson Cruz -of ‘My So-Called Life,’ in the role of the Baker family’s lawyer), the writing is honest and blunt, and the story moves fast.
However, your teen may have better literacy skills than you for 13 Reasons Why when it comes to navigating the nuances of modern teenage social dynamics — which play out in the series in the halls of Liberty High, at parties, at the local coffeeshop, and over the kids’ phones.
The content is mature, but not at all unrealistic. There’s strong language, violence, images of sexual assault, themes of bullying, stalking, sexual identity, parental denial, substance abuse, and a disengaged school administration that make up the content in 13 Reasons Why. One scene toward the end of the series, opens a door to a possible Season 2 storyline that indicates Liberty High will be the setting for a school shooting. As well, Hannah’s suicide scene is very, very graphic.
All of these themes might be the most difficult issues to raise with your child. If anything, 13 Reasons Why has proved itself to be a conversation-starter. So if you’ve seen it come up on your ‘recently watched’ queue on Netflix, you should watch it as well, and use the series as a way to talk to your teen about how far kindness can go, that real people in real life really care, and that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.