I recently had the great privilege of watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. Initially, I had no particular interest in checking it out because it seemed to be aimed at teenagers. While I have two teenagers of my own, we don’t really enjoy the same shows. I was at my best friend’s wedding in California, and over dinner she mentioned it and recommended I watch it. She and I have similar taste in television shows, so I figured, what the heck?
Fast forward a few days and three hospital visits (I didn’t mention that I was sick as a dog at the wedding). My doctor loaded me with infection-killing drugs and pain killers and gave me specific instructions to rest for the next four to five days. I wanted to get better, so I listened. Besides, I had a new show to check out on Netflix.
I quickly realized that 13 Reasons Why isn’t just for teenagers, it is for everybody—every mother, father, child, teacher, counselor, neighbor, and human. After some investigation, I found out that that 13 Reasons Why the show is based on the debut novel by Jay Asher. In my opinion, this is a story that should be read or viewed by students starting from middle school on. It teaches us that bullying occurs on so many different levels, that the most seemingly harmless statements or events could have lifelong and potentially damaging results. If parents watched it with their children, perhaps lines of communication could be opened from a new place.
The series takes place in a setting that plops us directly into the lives of individuals who had an active or inactive role in the events leading to a young girl’s suicide. It highlights how impressionable teens are and how afraid they are of standing out and being ridiculed themselves. It is a good thing that our schools implore students to speak up when they see bullying happen, whether or not they take part in the act. Our children should never have to suffer at each other’s hands. What I loved about the show is that it portrays the moral and emotional price we all pay by being “innocent” bystanders.
Of course, this show won’t change everyone, the ending proves that. But I believe it is an invaluable tool to head in the right direction. My hope is that it may help a parent see that their own child needs help, or that someone who works in a school will see the impact of social isolation and bullying from the victim’s point of view.