It’s probably appeared in your newsfeed. It’s sitting at the top of your Netflix homepage. Maybe you’ve even seen it? Everyone is talking about. Everyone has their opinion, so let me share mine.
13 Reasons Why. I had seen it appear at the top of my Netflix page a few times. I probably read the blurb and scrolled on to something else. Slowly I saw posts on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat starting to appear about. A whole range of people, from Mummy bloggers, to youth pastors were watching it, talking about it and encouraging others to do the same. So last week, when we had a stopover at Wellington airport, I got my phone out, plugged my headphones in and pressed play. I was both hooked and heart broken from the very first episode.
13 Reasons Why is a Netflix series about a 17 year old girl, Hannah Baker, who commits suicide. She leaves a series of tapes, explaining the reasons why she decided to end her life. The series covers topics such as bullying, peer pressure, abuse, rape, and suicide. It’s raw, graphic, and disturbing. There are many mixed opinions of the show. Some say that it glorifies suicide and puts ideas into teenagers’ heads. Others say that it brings to light topics that should be talked about, that are usually swept under the rug. It’s controversial because it talks about something that no-one wants to hear.
Let’s just chat for a minute about the series. I personally think it’s been pretty well thought out and put together. It gives a very real insight into what goes on behind closed doors and how what you do can affect others. It sends messages to teenagers (and adults) in a way that they understand. 13 Reasons Why is a really good watch but it definitely rattles your bones. I think its a great tool for young people, but definitely is to be watched with parental discretion/supervision. I believe it can provoke some much needed conversations. Do I think that 13 Reasons Why glamourises suicide and is about Hannah getting revenge? Yes and no. It’s a Hollywood production, but the message behind it is very necessary.
The unfortunate reality of this day and age is that most of you know someone that has committed suicide or know someone that has had a person close to them commit suicide. New Zealand has the HIGHEST rate of teen suicide in the developed world. This is something that needs to be talked about. This is something that must change.
I, like many many others was bullied in high school. It started off with a boy thinking it was funny to point out to another that he thought I had a moustache. I was horrified and upset, so my mother took me straight to the beautician to sort it out. ‘Problem fixed!’ I thought to myself. Little did I know, it was just the beginning. The names didn’t stop, they got worse. Instead of being called Brittney, I was called Mo. I vividly remember an arts week where there was an open mic session at morning tea. One boy decided to sing a song about how when he grew up, he wanted to have a moustache like me, naming me in front of what was almost the entire school. I had a girl slap me because I said hello to her. I got balls thrown at me in the hallway. I got water dumped on my head in class. I was alienated and left with not one friend. I ended up leaving that school because I was so miserable. Now I’m not telling you all this in a sad attempt at forming my own pity party. I don’t think my experience was that different to a lot of others. Most people can say that they’ve experienced bullying of some kind and its not ok.
In your teen years you search to find your place. You try to conform to what is ‘cool’, to what is ‘hip’, to what is ‘lit’ or whatever word is in at the time. Every time someone make a dig at you, it’s a dig at your heart, and a dig at what makes you, you. Words really do hurt. I remember things people said to me when I was 13, 10 years ago. I remember exactly how it was said, where it was said and especially how it made me feel. “Did you borrow Santa Claus’ boots to wear to school today?” One boy asked me. One of the big things that really hit a chord with me in 13 Reasons Why was all the little things that caused Hannah to feel so low. It was a simple comment from someone who she thought was a friend. It was someone ignoring her, instead of standing up for her. It’s cool to make fun of people, isn’t it? People feel better about themselves when they put others down. We think that if we make out like we are better, then it makes us better, when actually it makes us worse. The cool kids make fun of other people, then others agree in order to feel accepted, and protect their image. What is often meant as a harmless insult, plays again and again in the head of a hurt person. It wounds their heart, and leaves them feeling hopeless and alone, like no-one cares. These teenagers are so desperate to feel accepted, but instead they’re pushed aside and rejected. This is one of the reasons that so many of our precious young people are deciding that life would be better if they didn’t exist. In the bubble that is high school, it can feel like life will always be the same. But high school ends, the emotions subside, and life goes on. There are so many wonderful things to look forward to and live through.
I moved schools and moved on with my life. I didn’t let the bad feelings keep me down, but I can see how easily it is for others to dwell on them. I’m so fortunate that I have parents that loved me and supported me. I made new friends who knew it wasn’t ok to make fun of others. They were kind and caring and accepted all people as they were. I’m so fortunate that I had a strong faith and firm foundation. There are so many others that aren’t so fortunate. What can we do to help?
One of the big takeaways from 13 Reasons Why is that we need to treat each other better. We need to speak kindly. We need to stand up for others that we see that are being mistreated. We need to love others and invest in them. This isn’t just a message for teens either, but a very important message for adults. It comes down to the golden rule, treat others as you wish to be treated. Be kind and generous and loving. Today, why not take the time to give someone an extra smile? Tell them that you appreciate them, that you like their outfit, that you think they’re lovely. Invite them out for coffee or offer them a hand. It could just save their life.
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great.” -Luke 6:35