Hello parents, teachers, adults…its me, The Red Pen. Live and in Stereo! If you are reading this, then congratulations….welcome to your tape.
I waited tables at this local Mexican place called Hacienda. After a difficult shift, one of the hosts went home and kissed his child and wife goodbye. He then went outside and hung himself with his belt from a tree. He was discovered by his wife the next morning. We were all in shock and disbelief. The night of his suicide, he quadruple sat me and I went off on him. It had been a very long day and if you have ever waited tables you know how stressed out and tired one can get. I was on my fourth double in a row and it never occurred to me that he may have his own troubles. What if my words were the last thing he remembered when he took his life that night? I know now I did not cause him to take his own life. Unbeknownst to all of us he had many troubles. However, rarely a day goes by that I wish I could have treated him differently. These feelings have resurfaced again after finishing 13 Reasons Why, on Netflix.
After seeing the show, I began to read articles and Facebook posts from parents about how “the show should be banned!” They express that, “it glorifies suicide! It shows teens drinking, teens having sex, rape, violence, drug abuse, and bullying!” Basically everything our children are already dealing with and exposed to on regular basis.
Here are my thoughts:
REVEALS A PHILOSOPHIC & SOCIAL DILEMMA. What, if anything, is our responsibility to each other? Some of the conversations I have had with my students about the series revealed some pretty heavy but well-articulated thoughts. One girl was telling me that she “is now trying to make more of an effort to be nice to people because you never know what baggage they may be carrying.” This is an 8th grader who understands that what they do and say impacts others. Isn’t this what we want from our children? We want them to understand they don’t live in a vacuum and that their actions have consequences…sometimes permanent consequences.
EVER HEAR OF HAMLET, MACBETH, OR ANTIGONE?! 13 Reasons is a modern day tragedy. Very Shakespearean, very Greek. Not in the written dialogue but in the framework and archetypes that it uses, from the star crossed lovers of Clay and Hannah, to the tapes that reveal how each person had a hand in her suicide. These things are essential to the revenge plays of Shakespearean times. We have a tradition of writing about tragic figures and events in our time period. It also reveals a lot about who we are as humans. There is not much difference then what you would read in some of the works that we now call classics! Not that this series stands the test of time but it could be used for parallel lessons in Shakespeare, mostly his tragedies.
IN MY OPINION, IT DOES NOT GLORIFY SUICIDE! I watched that scene. The rape scene was far worse! However, I had to turn my head. It was messy! It was violent! THERE WAS NOTHING GLORIOUS ABOUT IT. My students all said the same thing. Hannah Baker’s suicide was not necessary. It served no purpose. To glorify something, means to praise or worship something. That scene was nowhere near glorification. If anything, it was truthful to how violent suicide is.
RAISING AWARENESS! Issues of teen suicide, rape culture, mental health, bullying, they are all being discussed by young people. This is a good thing. We need more of this type of discussion. It seems as though parents and school districts are trying to hide behind children so they don’t have to have difficult conversations. I know, I know, I don’t have children of my own. But I do have to deal with the 120 of yours, every year, that are dying for an adult to discuss the tough issues with them.
NO DISCUSSION OF MENTAL HEALTH! I totally agree. There is no discussion about signs of mental health, depression, suicidal tendencies. Nor should there be until after words. I don’t ever recall someone in the audience stopping in the middle of Macbeth to lecture about the signs of PTSD after he sees the bloody dagger. These are the conversations you have with your child or student after an episode or at the end of the series. The producers, writers, actors are all there to tell the story, not do the parenting for you!
Its a very good series! I think it should be required viewing in some situations and age groups. Most importantly, talk to your children/students about it. Trust me, you will be very interested in what they have to say. They will also learn from you and your experiences about it. Lets stop trying to hide the world away from kids who are already living in it.
What are your thoughts? Share with me in the comment section. Don’t forget to subscribe! Until next week….