13 Reasons Why is a new teen drama Netflix series. It’s all the buzz in the parenting and teen space. Since Netflixing ranks right up next to texting and Instagramming in my teens world, I wanted to be in the know about this series.
Our daughter is a mature 14 year old. While we live in the suburbs and I am sure by most standards she is pretty sheltered. She is active at school, decent grades, good group of friends. We are open with her on watching anything PG-13 on Netflix, and ask that she ask us before watching anything rated-R.
13 Reasons Why Netflix Series
When the whole discussion of 13 Reasons Why started popping up in parenting forums, I hadn’t heard of it. I’m not a huge reader, so hadn’t heard of the book (more on that below.) I usually keep up with the latest happenings on Netflix, but the last few weeks have been a whirlwind. After reading several comments, I knew I had to watch this series for myself. I asked my daughter if she had heard about the series, her comment “A few of my friends have watched it all, but Mom I don’t want to watch it.”
This Netflix series is kind of like the DRESS that was going around social a while back. You know the whole, is it black or is it blue? Except, instead of blue or black – the conversations with this series is “is this good or bad for teens to watch?”
Before It Was a Series, It Was a Book
If you aren’t familiar with the 13 Reasons Why Netflix series, here’s a little background:
13 Reasons Why Netflix series is based off the 13 Reasons Why book by Jay Asher, released in 2007. The book is a #1 New York Times bestseller and has sold over 2 million copies. I have yet to read the book, but have read comments that it’s not the same (surprise, is it ever?!) The author is totally fine with the book being different than the Netflix series, as he says the message remains the same (read the interview with Jay Asher at Bustle)
Let’s talk about the series.
Interesting fact: 13 Reasons was co-produced by actress and pop star Selena Gomez.
You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.
Hannah Baker and Clay Jensen
Clay Jensen and Hannah Baker are the main characters of the show. The show starts with a brief tale of Hannah Baker, a teen who has recently committed suicide. Hannah was bullied, she was mis-treated by boyfriends and friends and overall a distraught teen who had a series of unfortunate things happen to her.
Before committing suicide, Hannah recorded cassette tapes that tell her story and the 13 reasons why she committed suicide. The Netflix series has 13 episodes, each featuring Clay listening to a different side of the cassette tape – revealing more detail leading into why Hannah took her own life.
Small Hometown Called Crestmont
13 Reasons Why is set in a town called Crestmont. It’s not specified specifically where Crestmont is – but Crestmont feels like your small hometown. There is the local movie theater (not a big chain!) called Crestmont Theater that Hannah and Clay work at together. There is Monet’s Café, which is a local coffee house which is a prominent location in the story. The town feels small, as Clay rides his bike everywhere – and comically he has quite a number of run-in’s with friends and classmates. More so then I ever did in my small hometown! It’s almost a little too much – like who is Clay going to run into again (besides Tony.)
That said, something that I am sure I will repeat in saying in this post – the series feels real. The acting and script is intense. The subject matter is personal. From the grieving mom to the lesbian who is afraid to come out of the closet to fat shaming – this is so much more than a series about teen suicide. I feel like, since there are just SO many subjects covered that the viewer has most definitely experienced at least one, making the show relatable and personal.
Yes, I love a good teen drama series (hello Gossip Girls!) but this series even had my husband pulled in. (Though, I should say I am not sure he would admit that.) The music is amazing. Like, I’ve found myself googling artists to add to a Pandora station.
Secondly, this show reminded me how much being a teenager sucks. It sucked back then and it sucks even more now. The situations in the show gave me a pause, and has really helped me with in dealing with and giving our teenager little more grace and patience.
Should My Teen Watch 13 Reasons Why?
SUICIDE. RAPE. BULLYING. DRUGS. UNDERAGE DRINKING. STALKING. LIES. BETRAYAL. GRIEF. EMOTIONAL HEALTH. FAT SHAMING. ABUSE. PANIC ATTACKS.
First, if you are googling Should My Teen Watch 13 Reasons Why? – please just stop and watch the series for yourself. You need to be the parent and decide if this is a show that your child is prepared for. I have read some suggestions of making sure your child is over 17 due to the MA rating. Other parents say 15 years old – that said you know your child. The common consensus that I’m reading from parents is suggesting that those under the age of 13 years old not watch. Maturity is definitely something you need to take into account before your teenager watches.
Second, if you do decide your child is mature to handle the sensitive subject matter, be prepared to talk about all the things in this show.
The decision is up to YOU on if this is appropriate for your household.
Real Life Teen Issues
13 Reasons Why covers many real life issues and the way they are represented in this show may be too much for your child to watch. There are graphic scenes in several episodes. From rape to bullying to suicide – be prepared for each of these scenes in the show.
All that said, my personal opinion – if your child does watch, please – please – please use this as a conversation starter on all the things and subjects discussed in the show. These are topics that need to be discussed and just setting your teenager in front of the TV for 13 hours, watching the story of Clay and Hannah play out – expecting this show to educate your child is just not the right way to do this.
Real Life – Educating Our Children
I don’t want my daughter to not know things. I am a strong believer in education and communication on all subjects, especially sensitive ones like sex, permission, rape culture, bullying, cyber-bulling and suicide. That said – education and communication should come from us, her parents and not a fictional drama that was created to evoke emotion. Netflix has rated 13 Reasons Why TV-MA – meaning it may not be suitable for children under 17.
Will I Watch This With My Daughter?
My daughter has been defiant anytime I have brought this subject up in regards to watching this. She said her friends watched it, it was really sad – and she doesn’t care to watch anything about suicide. This shows is way more than about suicide. It’s about stupidity and the teen years. It’s about falling in love (okay, teen love) about bad choices and you guys, it reminded me so much of many things that happened in my teen years. This show is EMOTIVE. It will provoke ALL THE EMOTIONS.
I totally get why my daughter doesn’t want to watch this. I am not going to force her to or even bring up the subject again. I have told her, if the time ever comes and she wants to watch it – we will watch it together (I maybe on my phone this next time around, I don’t care to experience all the feels again.) I will be there to answer, talk and discuss all of these topics that I SO WISH I COULD SHELTER my daughter from.
I will suggest fast forwarding thru 2 scenes in particular – the rape and suicide. I just personally could not stomach either and there is enough material around the scenes that if you start and then forward, you will still understand the severity and extremeness of both situations.
While my daughter and I have discussed many of these topics, 13 Reasons Why just lays it out there to the CORE. It feels like it’s right in front of you, happening to a friend and that’s just a lot. I still get sick to my stomach thinking about certain aspects of this show. Seriously, it’s a LOT.
Teenage Death and What Have You
I’ve had many sad things happen to friends, especially in my teenage years. The small town I lived in suffered numerous deaths due to heroin overdose. I attended more funerals of friends than teenagers should. There were car wrecks, illnesses and suicides, as well. I don’t like thinking about that time of my life, but mostly because I was unprepared for the reality of it all.
My parents did NOT discuss the chaos and crazy our little hometown went thru. It wasn’t just my parents, it was my friends’ parents as well. Back then (hello 90’s) talking about these things was not the typical parenting style. And with most things that we have issue with in regards to our parents and how they parented, I strive to keep an open line to my daughter.
Bullying Has Changed
One thing that caught my attention was the bullying aspect. Thank you JESUS that I was not raised in the age of social media and instant communication. Email was a new thing and AOL was all the rage back in my day. Now, bullying is not just on the school bus – it’s not just within a small group of friends. This is just another subject brought up in 13 Reasons Why that makes me ill.
I do not want my daughter to go thru any pain. No parent wants their child to have to be burdened with these things. That said, life is cruel. As I have read over and over “this is graphic, but so is real life.” Our children only stay in our bubble for so long, and then they are forced to fly into the real world, with real things, and real issues – many that are depicted in the show. And if your child is not faced with these issues, chances are there friends or someone they know will be.
Open Communication With Your Teenager
If 13 Reasons Why does anything, whether you let your teenager watch it or not – let this just be a gentle suggestion from one parent to another… Open the lines of communication with your child. We shouldn’t be judging if this person or that let’s their kid watch. We need to be lifting each other up, supporting one another and creating dialogue around real-world discussions that need to be had with our children.
Suicide Prevention Resource
If you or someone you know is in need of support in regards to suicide, get help. Please share this with your teenager as well. Intervention can lead to prevention.
One of our creeds here on the blog, is non-judgement. If you are letting your child watch, or suggesting that they not – tell us why. Looking forward to hearing parenting perspectives from all sides (that are discussed civilly. Any outrageousness will be deleted.)
Here is some more food for thought in regards to this series. Here’s what others are saying:
- 13 Reasons Why’ depicts a graphic suicide; experts say there’s a problem with that – Chicago Tribune
Google Maps Caught 13 Reasons Why In The Act – Refinery 29
- 5 Things You Need to Know About “13 Reasons” – Pastor Kevin’s Blog
The “13 Reasons Why” Actors Had Therapy Dogs to Help with Emotional Scenes – Seventeen
‘13 Reasons Why’ Originally Had A Totally Different Ending – Huffington Post (spoiler alert!)