13 Reasons Why: Not Another Teen Drama

NB: As I was writing this post in my head, I had decided to put it somewhere else as I felt too vulnerable and exposed with the idea of putting it on this page with my normal content. As it transpired, I changed my mind as I still feel it’s somewhat of a parenting post even if it covers some controversial topics and some personal information.

[UPDATE: I have just watched the “Beyond The Reasons” special and I highly recommend everyone watch that too to really process what they intended.]

I hate spoilers. I prefer to go into something with a blank slate, so whilst I had glanced quite a few articles on 13 Reasons Why, I hadn’t read any. I just decided to watch.

First episode I was a bit like “Hmm.. this is just another teen drama..” and it was a good one so I didn’t mind but I wondered why the hype. Until I got further into the episode and realised what was happening. It was shining a light on those teenage issues which all seem meaningless at the time. Or maybe some of them don’t; depending on who you are or who you think you are or who you think you want to be. In any case, I was in and I was hooked and I assumed those articles were positive.

So after devouring the series (well, as much as you can when you have kids), I started reading some articles and realised they were mostly negative. I guess I should have expected that the topic and some of the graphic depictions would be controversial and I really understand why they do need a trigger warning. This article by Sheela Raja also highlights the fact that Netflix missed the mark on sharing the support networks that are on option.

Does the good outweigh the bad, though?

When it comes to teens, I guess it’s tricky and a fine line to tread but shouldn’t we put more faith in them and their cognitive abilities?

When I was 15, I was diagnosed with “a textbook case” of depression and prescribed an anti-depressant but I had promised my Mum I wouldn’t medicate. I had to find some other way to manage my pain and part of that was some analysis and accepting and understanding that what was happening at school made perfect sense of what I was thinking and feeling.

I was brought up to believe I could be anyone and do anything and I was an exotically attractive teen. So I came to high school with a real confidence that you’re not supposed to have in that grade. It was soon belittled and stomped out of me cruelly and harshly so that by that time when I reached 15, I had only a handful of kind people who would talk to me, another bunch who were impassive but a huge majority who spent their days making my life a daily hell. I was also an early developer, which is really all you need in high school to start being labeled and have a reputation built for you.

I prided myself on being strong and able to stick up for myself but it was horrendous and some of the micro-aggressions I experienced on a daily basis I hadn’t even processed until I started watching 13 Reasons Why.

In that way, I feel it’s invaluable. Whilst there are some very serious incidents and issues brought up, it’s those seemingly “little things” that can no longer be excused either.

Survivors and assault victims will need to make their own call on this one. This is one view on that. I do think teens are going to want to watch it and if it means some change, that change could make huge differences.

I agree with Sheela Raja’s advice to watch with your teen, episode by episode and take time to discuss everything with you taking the role of active Listener and trying not to give advice or form your own conclusions. I would also get someone to actively Listen to you as you work through the series so you can best support yourself and your teen and then have a light and connective activity to follow each viewing.

The thing is, at each level and stage of our lives we believe our problems are as big as they are going to get and that is our truth. So whilst there are some (and I really hope this number is decreasing) who think there are acceptable levels of behaviour that don’t quite constitute as “bullying”, “abuse”, “harassment” or “assault”, you have no idea what effect certain actions will have on one individual or what they’ve endured up until that point. So just stop. Call yourself out on this stuff and (as per my previous article) “Be The Change”. Teach your kids to have empathy, set a higher moral bar and keep all lines of communication open.

You may just save a life.

As always, I am here for Listening Time, to help you find support or anything else you need.

Just Ask,
Aunty Ask

If you or your child need support in Australia:

Kids’ Helpline – 1800551800
Lifeline – 131114
Beyond Blue – 1300224436
Suicide Line – 1300651251
Suicide Prevention Australia 0292621130

A number of Sexual Assault Resources here
If you need support in the USA (taken from linked article):

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.

Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 77054 for the National Dating Abuse Helpline.