I am pretty sure if you have been on social media in the last 10 days, and/or you have a Netflix subscription, you will have heard about a new series released at the start of April called 13 Reasons Why.
Thirteen Reasons Why, based on the best-selling books by Jay Asher, follows teenager Clay Jensen as he returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers a group of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and crush – who tragically committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah unfolds an emotional audio diary, detailing the thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, Thirteen Reasons Why weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect viewers. IMDB
13 Reasons :: Why parent notes for before you watch
Now – to be perfectly honest and upfront, I haven’t actually watched more than the first two episodes yet. I am not actually sure if I want to watch the entire series.
But I have done a lot of research, and read a lot of people talking about the show. So I want to share a little info so that everyone out there is aware of what this series is about, and who it is appropriate for – before beginning to watch. My suggestion – spend a little time on google before you press play (and most importantly, before you allow your child to press play.)
Research. Research. Then more Research.
Last week, my almost-13 year old came home from school saying there was a cool new show on Netflix that we should watch. Later that night, she showed me 13 Reasons Why in the menu but before we pressed play something warned me to do a little research. Maybe, I just wanted to keep some innocence in her life, and not watch a series about suicide and how terrible High School is. Given that we are only 9 weeks in to her High School experience at this stage, I figure a little while longer of her thinking it is always going to be a wonderful place to go every day was perfectly ok with me…
At that point, given that it had been released less than 24 hours, there wasn’t much info to find about the film adaptation on the internet since no one had actually watched it at that point, but lots about the original book by Jay Asher. The descriptions of the book and how it involved the rape of several characters were enough for me to say no to watching with Liana, and I left it at that…
Until this weekend when I continued to see more and more people post about the show with varying reports of loving it, or being confronted by it. Also – plenty of offhand comments from parents about their kids watching it (without parents)…
As Paul Tassi says in an article for Forbes “What caught me off guard the most about 13 Reasons Why was how being on Netflix allowed it to present more of an authentic, uncensored version of high school than anything we see on broadcast networks or cable. Here, kids say “fuck,” and they say it a lot. The bullying is harsh and often obscene. The show gets darker and darker as it goes, culminating in a pair of absolutely brutal rape scenes, and the heart-wrenching suicide of the lead character, which is not glossed over in the least.”
Please remember that just because 13 Reasons Why it is a series about teenagers at High School, it does not mean it is a show for teenagers to watch. There is a BIG difference (in life experience and mental capacity at a bare minimum) between a 13 year old, and a 18/19 year old. Yet all within that age range are ‘teenagers’. Then if you are stretching that lower end of the age range to 11-12 year olds as being almost-teenagers, then my opinion is that this show is highly inappropriate and far too confronting for them to be watching.
A few things to note while you are doing your research before watching 13 Reasons Why…
At the end of the day, it is of course up to each individual family to decide if they want their kids to watch this series, and if they want to watch it with them. My concern was (and still is – hence writing this post) that some families are unaware the graphic nature of this story. The result of that, getting a major shock after about Ep.4 once things heat up or having no idea what their kids have been watching in their bedrooms until they have watched it all.
One important note – even if you don’t allow your children to watch the series, chances are that lots of kids in the playground will have watched it by the time the school holidays are over. So – there may be plenty of discussion about over the next few months even if they haven’t watched. Some of the below links with discussion points can still be relevant to open up conversation with your teens (or pre teens) about the subject matter of the series, and in a much gentler way than actually watching…
Here is some info about the series, and links to find out more:
- The ratings and censorship system for Netflix is a little different (and a lot more lenient) to standard television. That said, for Australia, 13 Reasons Why falls somewhere in the middle of the MA15+ and R18+ range. Most comments from parents that I have seen online say 15-16+ years old as a minimum to watch, but of course it is up to each family to decide.
- ‘That rape scene’ lasts almost 10 minutes according to reports I have read. It is not just a glimpse, or a suggestion that something terrible happened. You see it all. The point (according to the writer) is to get uncomfortable.
- FYI – the above scene takes place in episode 12. But there is another in Ep.9, though not quite as graphic.
- You also see Hannah’s suicide take place. The how, the where and everything in between. It is extremely graphic and general consensus – impossibly difficult to watch.
- The opening credits of each episode show a graphic content warning as per above. But, if you blink you might miss it. If you are a teen watching on your own, you might ignore it.
- For parents – details of parts of the series and graphic detail that you may be concerned about listed episode by episode 13 Reasons Why – parental guide
- If you do let your older teens watch (either with or without you) – here are some conversations to have after watching 13 reasons why
- Read – a Parents guide for 13 Reasons Why
Please keep in mind – you don’t need to be a teenager to be deeply affected by this series. It can trigger memories of abuse or loss in people of any age, so if you feel you may be triggered by this – please do not watch.
If you need someone to talk to:
Below are some talking points drafted by SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) for talking to youth about suicide after watching 13 Reasons Why… (Click the image if you wish to download)