Jay Asher’s young adult novel Thirteen Reasons Why was published in 2011 and recently produced into a thirteen part series on Netflix. The series has been getting a tremendous amount of attention and controversy for the explicit scenes and issues raised throughout the series.
This series is a must see for teens, parents, and educators because we cannot look away from the issues presented throughout the show. There are some aspects of the show that were limited and stereotypical, but brings to the forefront suicide, rape, sexual assault, underage drinking and drug use. Hopefully, this series can be a catalyst and conversation starter for uncomfortable topics because as the protagonist Clay Jenson remarks, “It has to get better. The way we treat each other and look out for each other. It has to get better some how.”
So here are 13 reasons why people should watch the show:
- Books & Movies are Windows, Mirrors, and Doors. Literature, as Grace Lin describes in her TED Talk Mirrors and Windows of Your Child’s Bookshelf (2016), “can show you the world and also show you a reflection of yourself.” We want students to connect with books in a way that they see the potential and possibility for making the world a better place. Books not only are reflections of ourselves as Lin points out, but should also allow readers to see things from other points of view, to build empathize, question injustice, and create new opportunities that depict strength, adversity, and the responsibility to speak out against wrongdoing. Thus, our mission as teachers is to ban boring and use present tools to engage students, raise rigor, and help young people negotiate this world of text in all its diverse forms.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24. More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined as reported by the Jason Foundation, a nonprofit organization for the awareness and prevention of youth suicide.
- One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime as reported by RAINN. Violence against women is everyone’s issue and people need to be taught at a young age. As mentioned in the Asher’s text, “Here’s a tip. If you touch a girl, even as joke, and she pushes you off, leave… her… alone. Don’t touch her. Anywhere! Just stop. Your touch does nothing but sicken her.”
- You are not alone. As much as the character Hannah Baker thought she was alone and as much as all the other characters felt they couldn’t trust the adults or each other to tell someone how they felt, I am going to take a quote from Jennifer Niven’s Holding Up the Universe (2016) to elaborate here: “Dear friend, You are not a freak. You are wanted. You are necessary. You are the only you there is. Don’t be afraid to leave the castle. It’s a great big world out there. Love, a fellow reader”
- There are consequences to our actions. Each character makes a decision that impacts another person in mostly negative ways. Poor choices are made and more than one person gets hurt because of underage drinking, drug use, and lying.
- Start a Kindness Movement. In the book it states, “No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.” In the first episode of the show it is referred to as “the butterfly effect,” the impact a person has on another and the bullying and meanness that is typical of any teen book or series can be reversed if we start a kindness movement and decide to be genuinely nice to one another.
- Cyberbullying and Public Shaming Have to Stop. So, if a guy sleeps around with many women he is perceived as cool, but if a girl acts on her sexual impulses she is seen, labelled, and ostracized as a “Slut.” Rumors, lies, and social media turn Hannah into an object and thing that both men and women took advantage to leverage their own popularity or lie to protect their identity. We can combat cyberbullying and public shaming with empathy and compassion.
- Are we too sports obsessed? In the last episode of the 13 Reasons Why series, there is a scene when one of the girls is being deposed and she talks about the popularity of the jocks in the school, how they are able to get away with everything. She describes both the students and teachers being fans who celebrate the jocks even when they are bullies and rapists who think they are above the law. There is more the high school than sports. But sports shouldn’t be the driving force of school or success in school.
- Building Empathy is as important as building literacy skills. Compassion and caring are learned behaviors. Schools and communities can work together to help promote caring among one another and treat others the way we want to be treated.
- Bystanders vs. Upstanders. Encourage people to speak up and speak out when injustice is present. Even if it means going against the norm, people to speak up and call out bullies and injustice should be celebrated and not feel alienated to do so.
- The gun control debate. Three characters have access to guns in the text and one character’s interaction with the gun has critical consequences. These scenes in the text raise critical conversations about access to guns and the safety of others.
- Underage drinking and drug use doesn’t look cool. The high school parties portrayed in the text showed underage drinking and drug use among teens that lead to negative consequences for all. Drugs alter one’s state and influence one’s perception. As a result of drug and alcohol use in the text, one person is killed in an accident, two young woman are raped, and peer pressure is exacerbated.
- Professionals can help. Although the book portrays parents, teachers, and counselors in a negative light. There are professionals that can help, who care, and who want to help young people who might be feeling depressed, sad, alone, and suicidal. You are not alone. Speak up and seek help if you or you know someone who shows signs of depression or suicidal thoughts.
What are your reasons why or why not watch 13 Reasons Why? Leave your comments below.